My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.

Women Leaders

As a Woman Business Owner, You May Find It Hard to Confidently Take on the Role of CEO

Here are five tips for getting comfortable wearing the CEO hat.
As a Woman Business Owner, You May Find It Hard to Confidently Take on the Role of CEO
Image credit: Daniel Ingold | Getty Images
Guest Writer
CEO and Founder of ClearEdge Marketing
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, the idea of starting my own business at age 33 was already part of my DNA. Confidently stepping into the role of CEO was where the real challenge began.

Related: 10 Pieces of Advice I Wish Every Woman Could Hear

Until 12 years ago, I had spent my career in traditional corporate environments, working my way up the ranks. Before I started my firm ClearEdge Marketing, I was faced with a life-changing choice: Move to Atlanta, far away from friends and family to keep my job, or stay in Chicago and take a different path. The potential for the role I currently held was immense. I was one of the youngest on the executive team, managing marketing for a $1-billion division of a more than $3-billion company. Yet, I knew in my gut it was time to try something new (and stay put where I had created a life and could be close to family), which ultimately led to starting my own company. With a few of my incredible former colleagues by my side, I took the plunge as a new business owner and CEO.

That's when impostor syndrome struck.

I quickly learned that being a female leader comes with a unique set of hurdles. Sure, there were the financial pressures, operational challenges and long hours every entrepreneur faces. But, as a woman, I was dealing with something entirely different: I was having a tough time seeing myself as a CEO. I had held leadership positions before, but none where I was the chief executive, solely responsible for the success or failure of a business and other people's livelihoods.

I faced impostor syndrome, second-guessing myself and wondering if I were truly cut out to be at the top. People would make comments to me early on like, "Oh how cute, you have your own company." It got to me. In talking to other women CEOs, I learned that impostor syndrome is strikingly common among female business owners, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Related: Embrace the Chaos: Navigating the C-Suite as a Working Mom

You can't be what you can't see.

Part of the issue is representation. Simply put, there are more men than women in leadership roles, and women are much less likely to "see" other women at the top. A 2018 study from The New York Times, its Glass Ceiling Index, reveals some unsettling numbers about the representation of high ranking women. For example, there are more Fortune 500 chief executives named James than there are chief executives who are women.

Pervasive double standards also come into play. Man or woman, you need to be assertive and dominant to be seen as a leader. Women have long been penalized for this behavior, though, making it that much more difficult to wear the CEO hat.

Related: I'm a Millennial Mom and a Successful Entrepreneur. Stop Asking Me How I Manage It All.

Five things you can start doing now to wear the CEO hat more confidently:

1. Consciously make the decision to stop second-guessing. Tell yourself, "You are enough." As women, we need to remind ourselves that the skills we bring to the table got us this far. My dad would always tell me to look in the mirror and make sure I loved the person looking back; to always believe in myself.

2. Ask for help and expand your network. Because the VC and startup ecosystem is typically dominated by men, most women don't have the same wide networks for introductions and counsel as men do. Women leaders have the power to change that by making time daily to network, just as we do for exercising or checking email. Men are more likely to ask things of other people, and women need to get more comfortable doing the same.

3. "Fake it until you become it." In Harvard University professor Amy Cuddy's TED talk on nonverbal communication, she explains how the role of body language affects confidence levels. I regularly take my "power pose," hands on hips, head held high, to physically project I am meant to lead and force my mind to believe it. Next time you're feeling inadequate as CEO, strike a power pose and tell yourself, "I belong here."

Related: The Woman CEO Who Changed My Life -- and the Lessons She Taught Me About Business Success

4. Try not to compare yourself to others. The old adage "keeping up with the Joneses" isn't just a metaphor for consumerism. It applies to us as female CEOs as well. It's easy to get wrapped up in how much more successful other entrepreneurs are, or how much easier their path to the top was than yours. Instead, choose to be inspired by others who've made great strides and focus on your strengths.

5. Recognize the power you have to shape future generations. I believe that one of the most important responsibilities of female CEOs is to help the next generation of women leaders. This in itself helps me to wear the CEO hat more confidently because I know what I'm doing is far more important than just leading a business. When an up-and-coming female leader needs advice, I'm thrilled to offer my insights. When someone needs me to make an introduction, I happily tap into the wide network I've built. Knowing you have the influence to inspire other female leaders is even further proof that you're meant to be a CEO.

Although I don't know or work with them directly, women like Melinda Gates, Sara Blakely, Wendy Kopp and Katrina Lake are changing the image of what a CEO looks like. Through more representation -- young women actually seeing other women rise the ranks -- strong networking and even more female VCs and investors, the momentum will continue to shift toward more women in these roles. As this becomes more ingrained, we'll begin to feel less like impostors and more confidently wear the CEO hat.

More From Women Entrepreneur

Women Leaders

What the Newly Elected Women in Congress Can Teach Us About Leadership

These four congresswomen are among those redefining what it means to be a woman with power.
Inspire Me Series

How to Keep Going When All the Signs Say 'Quit'

Luba founder/designer Hannah Payne shares how she launched her fashion line for a second time after life required her to put it on hold.
Leadership

Jada Pinkett Smith on the Persistence and Passion That Drives Her as an Entrepreneur

The actress and businesswoman shares her insights about success, creative collaborations and self-care
Self Doubt

NLP: What It Is and How Female Entrepreneurs Can Use It to Erase Self-Doubt and Other Obstacles

It's called neuro-linguistic programming and it can help you 'reframe' the mental barriers that keep you down.

More from Entrepreneur

Dustin's experience and expertise can help you monetize your message, build a marketing strategy and connect with influencers.
Book Your Session

In as little as seven months, the Entrepreneur Authors program will turn your ideas and expertise into a professionally presented book.
Apply Now

Are paying too much for business insurance? Do you have critical gaps in your coverage? Trust Entrepreneur to help you find out.
Get Your Quote Now

Latest on Entrepreneur