It’s no secret that women are sharply under-represented in the business world. In fact, only 17% of CEO positions in the U.S. are held by women. This disparity is indicative of an environment that is somewhat harsher for women to operate in. But that does not mean it can’t, or isn’t done. As a female founder of a startup, you can most definitely succeed. There are just a few things you should know as you embark on your entrepreneurial voyage.
You Will Be the Only Woman In The Room
There is simply a dearth of bona fide female role models in the entrepreneurial world to help uplift other women. Less than 5% of investors are women so, most likely, you will be on your own in a room full of men pitching your ideas and plans to seem them through. It will be harder to make men understand your vision and your approach, but you won’t let that hold you back. Ensure you take every opportunity to align yourself with other powerful women. Having the expertise of a female mentor will help you navigate the startup process tremendously.
Being Rare Is an Advantage
Now, while you may have difficulty proving yourself among a sea of male colleagues, you shouldn’t have a problem being heard. As it stands, you are a novelty as a woman in the driver’s seat. Use it to your advantage. The press has a massive influence on which businesses gain consumer’s attention, and they love stories about women in power. Step right into the limelight and let them know what you’re about.
You Will Have to Prove Leadership Ability
While more of us take a seat at the table every day, the business world still tends to be skeptical of women in positions of power. They will question your ability to handle even basic tasks like how to read a credit report. You know your worth, and you know you are more than capable of making your vision a reality because you are the expert in your field. Just know that there will be some folks along the way who want to test you and see what you’re made of.
People Will Be in Your Business
Any time a woman gains notoriety there are those who would like to tear her down. They’ll stick their nose into your love life, your family, your choice of wardrobe, how your present yourself, everything. Female founders encounter all kinds of scrutiny for daring to break gender stereotypes. People will try to draw you into conversation that doesn’t relate to business, like how your kids are. Don’t sweat it, keep carrying yourself with dignity and handle business.
People Want You Strong, But Not Too Strong
In today’s business world, men in positions of power can get away with personality quirks that women can’t. If a man is shy, people will just say he’s an introvert but he’s really smart. If a woman appears shy, people think she is timid or weak. If a man is aggressive, people will say he’s a strong leader and he’s “tough but fair”. When a woman is aggressive, well, some people will just call her nasty names.
Again, don’t sweat it. Practice remaining cool, calm and confident in all of your interactions. A lioness doesn’t lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.
Fundraising Will Be Harder
As I mentioned, there are very few female investors around which causes male-led businesses to get more attention. To give you an idea of how skewed it is, take a look below:
- In 2016, over $58 Billion was invested in startups led by males
- In 2016, about $1.5 Billion was invested in startups founded by females
Of course, there are a number of reasons for this massive disparity. For one, there simply aren’t as many female founders seeking funding as there are males. However, there seems to be some psychology to it as well.
A lot of research has been done which indicates that women tend to be judged based on performance, while men tend to be assessed for their potential. While this certainly isn’t equitable, it can be taken advantage of by achieving results—putting milestones on paper to show that you know how to handle yourself. Once you have concrete evidence to validate your business, the funding will come much easier.
To put it simply, as a woman in the entrepreneurial world, you are going to be tested. People are going to be skeptical of your ability to lead and execute and they will communicate with you differently than they do with your male counterparts. But you won’t let that hold you back. Go make your vision a reality and wear your achievements with pride.