The Growing Influence of Women Entrepreneurs
There are many challenges that women face in the modern workplace -- and that goes double for the boardroom or when trying to break through the ever-present ‘glass ceiling.’ These issues are never more of a challenge than when a woman decides she is going to go ‘off on her own’ as an entrepreneur. With locating reasonable financing, confronting gender bias and the paucity of appropriate mentors and the diminutive learning curve, a business owned and run by a woman can be a real struggle for survival.
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Because of these special challenges, some backward-looking people still insist that women aren’t cut out to become business owners in their own right. This kind of negative mindset increases, sadly, when the woman is a person of color or disabled -- or in any other way marginailized by lingering male prejudices. To break down these persistent barriers to success, women must be willing to understand and recognize the problems they face when beginning a woman-centric enterprise. With understanding comes the determination to not let such medieval concepts upset their plans and helps to bring more women into entrepreneurial endeavors.
Finding the money
Traditional lenders, such as banks and credit unions, are some of the worst offenders when it comes to gender prejudice. Studies show that such lending institutions continue to be resistant to loaning out seed money to women entrepreneurs, to the extent that their approval rating is as much as 20 percent less than it is for men who are starting their own companies. While women do have a healthy access to alternative lenders offering business loans, which somewhat levels the playing field, these other lenders, usually online, charge interest rates that are always higher than a regular bank. So this means a woman-owned business starts off with a heavier debt load.
One alternative that seems to be working in women’s favor, though, is the rise in crowdfunding initiatives. This is a completely gender-neutral venue for raising capital for new businesses.
The process of mentoring is a recognized necessity for most male entrepreneurs, and there are many channels through which a man can obtain another older and experienced man’s help in starting up a new business. The same cannot be said for women -- yet. Luckily, the numbers are going in an encouraging direction.
While traditional infrastructure, such as banks, is still male-dominated, other areas, especially in sales and marketing, are now becoming rapidly equalized between men and women, and a woman who is beginning her own business should look to the marketing and/or sales sector for an experienced and savvy mentor to help her steer her ship through the riptides and shoals of the startup ocean.
Male-centric behavior is the bane of all women who are nurturing their own startups. Sexual harassment, although now a topic that is being thoroughly aired in public, has not gone away -- nor have the attitudes that encourage it in men. A woman in business today must take a stand as an individual with self-worth and pride in her own personality and accomplishments, and never kowtow to any male-dominated social interactions. Men respect strength, and so the entrepreneuress must remain strong while shaping her own individual strengths and dealing with her own individual weaknesses. That is the only way that true business success can be achieved.
(By Adrienne Monson)