Gender equality is important. Communities where opportunities for women are on par with men have fewer child deaths, fewer conflicts, and better public services and health, data show. There are also strong economic incentives to close the gender gap as research shows that where women-owned businesses thrive, the community wins. The country’s GDP grows and the global economy benefits. In places where women’s entrepreneurship is restricted or limited, the opposite happens — individuals, communities, countries and the global economy miss out on unrealized economic gains. Female entrepreneurs have also had a big impact on the economy, employing almost nine million people and generating more than $1.6 trillion in revenue.
Challenges women-owned businesses face
Despite these impressively positive numbers, women-owned businesses are still in the minority, and the hurdles faced by women who have embraced entrepreneurship are vast and often very different from those experienced by their male counterparts. They include:
Defying social expectations: Most female business owners who have attended networking events can relate to this scenario: You walk into a crowded seminar and can count the number of women there on one hand. When women entrepreneurs talk business with primarily male executives, it can be unnerving. In this sort of situation, women may feel as though they need to adopt a stereotypically “male” attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive and sometimes harsh. But successful female CEOs believe that remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived expectations.
Building a support network: A robust support network is essential for entrepreneurial success, so it’s no surprise that 48% of female founders report that a lack of available advisors and mentors limits their professional growth. With the majority of the high-level business world still being dominated by men, it can be hard to blaze your own path and facilitate the introductions and connections into some of the more elite business networks. As most of business today still rings true with the philosophy that ‘it’s not what you know; it’s who you know,’ this can be a huge factor in the ultimate success of women-owned businesses.
Coping with the fear of failure: Failure is a very real possibility in any business venture, but should not be viewed as a negative or an excuse for relinquishing your goals as a female entrepreneur. Women need to work through the moments of self-doubt that every business owner faces and not wait for perfection before starting their business or taking a big promotion. The road to success is paved with losses, mishaps and mistakes, but it can still take you where you want to go as long as you don’t lose sight of your ultimate destination. So when you hear ‘no’ again and again, when your plans don’t turn out, or if you make a costly decision, see that as a teaching moment and rise above.
Practical ways to support women-owned businesses
Give a review for your favorite women-owned businesses: Head over to Google, Yelp, Facebook and leave a positive review on women-owned businesses and share all the reasons why others should support the business as well. Leave detailed reasons why you are leaving five stars. It may just be your review that makes the purchasing decision for others contemplating that business
Host a gathering of women entrepreneurs: Whether you host a small coffee chat on a virtual platform or, safely, a more business-centered luncheon or a casual gathering, seek to bring women together with the intention of connecting, collaborating and supporting each other.
Make purchases from women-owned businesses: For each holiday season, vow to purchase gifts from female entrepreneurs and women owned small businesses. Choosing your gifts with the intention of helping and supporting women will inspire others to do the same.
Join a women’s entrepreneur organization: Hundreds of networking organizations support women-owned businesses. Many are funded exclusively by membership dues, and joining them supports their mission.