​​Women Entrepreneurship: A Pathway to Abundance

​​Women Entrepreneurship: A Pathway to Abundance

Data published by the U.S. Census Bureau, Dow Jones, Harvard Business Review, and other studies show that: women-owned businesses generate significantly higher revenues and create significantly more jobs than male-owned businesses.

Pedro LOPEZ SELA

Not everything has been bad as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Confinement, working at home, the cancellation of some jobs, and the closing of businesses awakened many the need to innovate and create honest ways to make a living. This led to the creation of new companies. This is tailored to the needs of both the entrepreneur and the consumers of products and services or to turn an existing business around.

One such example is the family business BuzzBallz/Southern Champion LLC, chaired by Merrilee Kick, a producer of prepared cocktails. During the pandemic, they had problems supplying raw materials, such as strawberries from Europe. Kick wasted no time adapting and began producing hand sanitizer that she later donated, but then  new products that "reinvent happy hour." Another is Carrie SiuButt, CEO of SimpleHealth, which offers online access to reproductive health consultations and medications. When the pandemic forced patients and doctors to be physically separated, SiuButt recognized the importance of tele-health. "The pandemic hit us, but tele-health is the place to be," she said.

This kind of forward-thinking, quick decision-making leadership makes it possible for women-owned businesses to thrive amid challenges, says Camille Burns, CEO of the Women Presidents' Organization (WPO). "It's the gift of the entrepreneurial mindset, being willing to experiment and adapt. I know many women entrepreneurs who started and ended 2021 in very different places. Many members have grown and done very well during the pandemic. They are reaching new markets and expanding their businesses despite all these challenges," she says.

Thus, self-employment became the only opportunity, especially for women, to earn an income. With ingenuity and hard work, and some as the sole breadwinners for their families, they have overcome many difficulties. Even though the creation and development of an enterprise are not always easy, many women, characterized by an active and positive spirit, decided to take the risk of challenging the market and the system, assuming the inconveniences and failures as lessons learned.

It is this type of woman who, with courage, has been able to face not only the terrible crisis that we have experienced in recent months but also the business environment dominated by men for several years. They are then in front of different challenges, generally different from those experienced by their male counterparts.

To gain more clarity on the difficulties women face compared to men when starting a venture, Business News Daily - a website dedicated to startup-specific information - surveyed female CEOs to determine what challenges women entrepreneurs face and some suggestions for dealing with them. Here are the results:

The first challenge is challenging societal expectations. Usually, when a woman has to talk business, especially with male executives, she adopts a stereotypically "masculine" attitude that makes her appear competitive, aggressive, and, if possible, even "tough" in her dealings. However, the female executives surveyed agree that there is nothing like being true to each woman's personality to overcome these preconceived expectations.

A second challenge is an access to financing, which remains somewhat difficult for women-owned businesses. In some countries, banks and other financial institutions do not consider middle-class women entrepreneurs as suitable applicants for their start-ups. They are therefore unsure who will repay the loan.

Bonnie Crater, president and CEO of Full Circle Insights, a portal specializing in marketing solutions, notes that venture capitalists tend to invest in startups run by people from their own "tribe." For example, a Stanford alumni investor will prioritize companies created by Stanford alumni.  Therefore, she suggests that women seeking investors for their companies should generate confidence through a great team and a business plan.

For her part, Felena Hanson, founder of the Hera Hub coworking space for women entrepreneurs, said that another way to overcome this problem is to get more women investors to support each other and ask for exactly what they need, even if that means asking for more than they want.

Gloria Kolb, CEO, and co-founder of Elidah - a company that seeks to empower women to take control of their health - says that male investors tend to assume that women entrepreneurs operate the same as men and inflate their numbers and therefore get funding at lower levels than requested; women need to understand this dynamic and focus their pitches accordingly.

A third challenge is to be taken seriously. This challenge stems from the fact that most female CEOs are dominated by men in any industry or workplace, who are often unwilling to acknowledge women's leadership roles. Alison Gutterman, CEO and president of Jelmar, a cleaning products company, had that experience at the start of her business, leading her to express that "as a businesswoman in a male-dominated industry, earning respect has been a struggle." With the firm conviction to create her reputation as an entrepreneur in her own right, she had to learn to build her confidence and overcome her negative self-concept.

The next hurdle is overcoming the devalued view of women entrepreneurs, which leads her to devalue her worth as both a woman and an entrepreneur. Molly MacDonald, founder, and CEO of The Mobile Locker Co. a company that provides personal storage for events told Business News Daily that she has always found it difficult to convey her value as a leader: "Using the first person singular to talk about successes feels like I'm bragging, and I can't shake the idea that if someone knows I'm the only one in control, the value of what we do will go down."

Shalonda Downing, founder of Virtual Work Team, a recruitment consultancy, advises women to recognize the value of their creative ideas and value their knowledge.  Sharon Rowlands, CEO of Web.com Group and ReachLocal, a provider of online marketing services, agreed that confidence is the key to success, even when faced with a boardroom full of men.

Another situation women face is building support networks. Felena Hanson opined, "Given that most of the high-level business world is still dominated by men, it can be difficult to break through and facilitate introductions and connections in some of the more elite business networks."

Finding the right support network is not always easy. In the U.S., there is the possibility of women-focused networking events-such as the WIN Conference, eWomenNetwork, and Bizwomen events-as well as online forums and groups created specifically for women in business, such as Ellevate Network. This should be replicated everywhere to support women entrepreneurs in building their support networks.

If getting entrepreneurship off the ground is difficult enough, it is even more so when balancing business and family life. Women are expected to spend more time with family members and are discouraged from traveling extensively to exploit business opportunities. Finding ways to make time for both is key to achieving that work-life balance, says Hilary Genga, founder, and CEO of swimwear manufacturer Trunkettes, while for Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations, finding this balance meant leaving a corporate job and starting her own consulting business before her first child was born.

Finally, the Business News Daily study says the most interesting challenge a woman can face is the fear of failure. Kristi Piehl, founder, and CEO of Media Minefield advises women not to let their insecurities stop them from dreaming big and encourages them to overcome the moments of doubt that every entrepreneur faces and not wait for perfection before starting their business.

Motivators say that failure should not be seen as negative or an excuse to give up on goals.  "When you hear 'no' repeatedly when your plans don't go well, or if you make a costly decision ... consider it a teaching moment," said Addie Swartz, CEO of reaching, which matches businesses with women returning to work after a hiatus. The important thing, she says, is to stay the course, "take in all the information; filter out the noise and the naysayers; learn from your mistakes and try not to make them again. But whatever you do, don't give up."

The fact that women have faced the pandemic in the face of a male-dominated business environment and become successful entrepreneurs is not just by chance or by force of survival.

While countless studies on business start-ups in developed markets conclude that men start more businesses than women, other research suggests that women are better entrepreneurs than men. One, published by the think tank Centre of Entrepreneurs, with support from Barclays Bank, states it this way: "Women entrepreneurs are more likely to work towards controlled, profitable growth, with relatively little interest in simply positioning themselves for a lucrative exit. They often prefer to reinvest business profits rather than invest in capital to scale sustainably," explains Sarah Fink, head of research at the Centre of Entrepreneurs.

The Centre of Entrepreneurs suggests at least five reasons why women are better entrepreneurs than men with all reservations.

The first is that women are better at taking calculated risks. Eighty-seven percent of the women in the study consider themselves financial risk-takers, compared with 73 percent of men; and 80 percent of women say they are likely to see opportunities where others see risks, compared with 67 percent of men. Of course, this does not imply that women accept risk in the first instance but they moderate their approach with a realistic assessment of the dangers a decision may face.

The second factor is that women are less prone to overconfidence. For example, only 42% of the female entrepreneurs in the study said that their business was currently thriving, which does not imply that women are doing worse than men, but rather that they do not overconfident and perform better.

Another reason the study reveals that women are better entrepreneurs is that they are more ambitious. According to the research, more than two-thirds of women currently in management positions say they are interested in starting their own business in the next three years and, among those who already have an established business, 47% of women are willing to start another business in the next three years, compared to only 18% of men.

The next reason is that women are more likely to have a long-term vision. The research suggests that women are more likely to reinvest company profits to generate steady, profitable growth. At the same time, men are more likely to seek faster growth, possibly fueled by capital investment and a quicker exit.

Finally, the study establishes that women succeed despite facing more barriers than their male counterparts: they have to work harder than men to get their businesses off the ground, a quarter of women say they lack the networks needed to build their businesses, and there is a personal factor reflected in nearly one in five women claiming to lack technical skills. However, these problems do not stand in the way of women's success: in stark contrast to normal pay structures, the female entrepreneurs in the Centre of Entrepreneurs study take home twice as much salary as men.

Other studies reach similar conclusions. For example, the Boston Consulting Group published in the report, "Why Women-Owned Startups Are a Better Bet," that women-founded companies earn more than twice as much per dollar invested as those founded by men. Data published by the U.S. Census Bureau, Dow Jones, Harvard Business Review, and ten other private and public studies show that: women-owned businesses generate significantly higher revenues and create significantly more jobs than male-owned businesses. Women are more effective in management positions, significantly improve company performance, and have a much greater appetite for growth and success than their male counterparts.

The French National Research Agency funded a study of 350 microfinance institutions in 70 countries, which found that women have lower portfolio risk, fewer write-offs, and fewer loan loss provisions, with a repayment rate of 97% to 98%. At the same time, men tend to over-promise and under-deliver, posing a much greater risk to investors and creditors.

Similarly, Hive's "State of the Workplace Report," published at the World Economic Forum, shows that women are 10% more productive than men and get more work done in less time. An independent study by the Ponemon Institute found that women work harder and longer than men. And the Journal of Entrepreneurship and Organization Management demonstrated in a study that women entrepreneurs are more autonomous, more positive, more aggressive, have better common sense, think more critically, and have a greater determination to succeed than men.

And yet, despite all this, studies show that women have less access to finance, banks are biased against lending to them, they have less access to the network, and, in some countries, they do not receive the same resources for their businesses as men.

Depending on the country, the data may vary. Still, in general, it has been shown that, in certain businesses, women entrepreneurs are doing very well and have even outperformed their male counterparts. They are successful not only in law, science, medicine, aeronautics, space exploration, and even in the police and military services, and even in business and industry. Moreover, they have shown that they are no less than men's inefficiency, hard work, or intelligence, provided they are given the right scope.

The research argues that women entrepreneurs possess certain specific characteristics that promote their creativity and generate new ideas and ways of doing things; they have a unique tendency to build and maintain long-term relationships and a greater capacity for communication, organization, and networking than their male counterparts. In addition, their approach to calculated risks reduces the danger of failure for their organizations, and they contribute to improving a country's economic growth and stability.

When a woman becomes an entrepreneur, she can provide a livelihood for at least 10 other women and inspire others to start businesses, which multiplies job creation. In addition, when women succeed in a field, the next generation of women is more likely to emulate their success.

There is still much to be done to increase the number of women entrepreneurs for the benefit of themselves and more women and their respective countries. But they will not advance as quickly on their own as if other entities step in to support them.

Let's think: what would happen if civil society organizations joined with government agencies at any level of government (municipal, state, or federal) to review laws and administrative practices that allow for the empowerment of women entrepreneurs? And how much could be achieved in that support if specialized and committed consultants advise women's new business strategies, considering their needs, interests, and aspirations?

On the other hand, what are industries doing to support women's independence and motivate them to start their businesses? Is there a way to identify the entrepreneurial talents of a working woman to support her development? Although, it is said that the uncultivated talents of young women can be identified, trained, and exploited for various types of industries Is anyone doing anything about it?

On the other hand, if companies invest in women entrepreneurs whose products complement their own, they can partner in product development so that women entrepreneurs gain access to market intelligence, design, testing, and strategy resources that they would not be able to hire on their own.

Women who lead businesses and micro enterprises cannot be thought of in isolation from the economic and social context in which they operate. Social values, such as the undervaluation of women's economic role, gender-based stereotypes, women's limited access to certain types of vocational training, policies, and legislation, have a considerable impact on the creation, survival, and growth of productive enterprises led by women.

Pedro is known for his ability to simplify complexity, identify inefficiencies, connect dots, and imagine ideas that drive meaningful outcomes. He is an internationally recognized thought leader, seasoned entrepreneur, battle-tested coach, and sought-after keynote speaker on business strategy, growth, technology, and innovation. Find out more about Pedro here.
Women & LeadershipAbundanceLeadershipDiversityEntrepreneurs & Intrapreneurs

Pedro LOPEZ SELA

Pedro helps individuals & organisations thrive. He simplifies complexity, identifies inefficiencies, connects dots & imagines ideas that drive meaningful outcomes.