According to World Economic Forum’s (WEF) latest Global Gender Gap Report, a systemic lack of access to capital, credit, land, or financial products prevent women from starting a company. This only adds to another perpetual factor impeding female entrepreneurship – lack of care infrastructures. The WEF concludes that women spend at least twice as much time on care and voluntary work in every country where data is available. Global markets are missing out on a substantial economic and social growth potential. It is striking to know that, in the UK alone, up to $350 billion of economic value could have been created if female entrepreneurs started and developed new businesses at the same rate as men.
Robyn Matarazzo, CEO and founder of Illumination PR, comments, “Despite women feeling more overworked and anxious over the last 12 months of the pandemic and twice as likely to sacrifice their career to be caregivers, female-founded starts-ups have doubled, and the Fortune 500 has more female CEOs than ever before.” She believes that this shows that women are key to post-pandemic recovery, which were crucial for businesses before the pandemic. Matarazzo continues, “With children now remotely learning from home, women have shown they not only thrive in caregiving, but also in teaching their children and time management.” Consequently, with so many losing their jobs, women have stepped up even higher in today’s climate to create longevity in the workplace by creating their businesses, teaching themselves to survive and support their families at the most trying time in the world.
Erin Williams, founder of INFLUENCED and The Modern Day Living Magazine, agrees, suggesting, “there are still so many female entrepreneurs out there now that we don’t hear about due to their lack of confidence and fear.” She continues, “for me, being a female entrepreneur means being a leader, a creator, looking straight ahead and not worrying about what people are saying around me because nowadays we have so many amazing female business owners out there that just go for it, create and risk.” Consequently, Williams believes more and more women are becoming entrepreneurs and business owners because we, as women, can see a space for success and growth in many different industries.
That said, there are systemic obstacles to starting a business for female entrepreneurs. However, the bleak picture does not improve for women even after taking the plunge and starting a business, says Dr Selin Kudret, an Assistant Professor at Kingston Business School. Evidence from various economies and samples consistently shows that gender remains a significant predictor – inequitably skewed against women – for access to financial and social capital, and hence positions of power, regardless of the competence and self-efficacy levels of the women entrepreneurs. Studies also clearly demonstrate that the prescribed gender roles and related gender stereotype-based threat to women perpetuate the disadvantages experienced by female entrepreneurs. These factors amount to, what Kudret calls, gender tax, and we observe its inevitable reflections on the scale and success of businesses established and led by female entrepreneurs because enterprises founded by men are more likely to reach greater scales than those of their female counterparts.
Kudret makes several evidence-based suggestions to overturn the gender tax on female entrepreneurship – and other areas where women’s merit-based economic productivity and participation are undermined by gender disparity in societies. We must first bring implicit gender biases to individuals’ conscious awareness so that individuals, and hence societies, develop equitable gender expectations, she continues. As entrepreneurship usually starts in families, awareness against gender stereotypes and inequalities should be developed from a very young age through social and curricular learning. Another suggestion is to initiate formal, objective, and merit-based business structures where leadership qualifications relevant to the business are emphasized so that people are actively reminded to ignore the factors irrelevant to the company – including gender. Her third suggestion is to develop education programs to be taught from early ages to increase entrepreneurship and leadership abilities and, importantly, identity. These programs contribute to the development of self-efficacy and entrepreneurial identity; both are crucial to help women develop psychological and social capital to start and lead their businesses and navigate obstacles on the way, according to Kim Perell, Co-Founder and CEO of 100.co. This AI-powered consumer brand group is disrupting the Consumer Packaged Goods market. She has five pro tips on successful female entrepreneurship, derived from her impressive career to date.
Have a Clear Vision – Successful entrepreneurs have a crystal-clear vision of what they want to achieve. They can see the world not how it is today, but how it could be, and work relentlessly to achieve it. So have a clear vision of what they want to achieve; a North Star to maintain focus when you face setbacks, distractions, or roadblocks. Perell believes vision helps keep you on track to achieve your short- and long-term goals; without a clear vision, you do not know what goals to set or what actions to take; and by setting a clear vision, entrepreneurs can hire and motivate a team, inspire potential investors, and attract new clients.
Identify a Big Market Opportunity & Apply Your Passion – As an early-stage investor, Perell looked at companies where she could add value and bring her expertise. “I have over 20 years of experience using technology to increase the chances of a company’s success, so for me, that is an area I know and am passionate about and will continue to build on”. She advises looking for big markets that are ripe for disruption and don’t shy away from embracing new technology; from the eye of an investor, it can become a real turnoff when people value their company too high without any data to back it up. So, ask yourself, “what is the actual addressable market and what percentage does the company think they can capture over time?”
Take Calculated Risks – Entrepreneurship always involves a high amount of risk. Since you can’t predict or prepare for all outcomes, you have to learn to make informed decisions using incomplete information. It is critical that female entrepreneurs do the same, suggests Perell. She stresses that launching a business takes patience. No matter how good a founder you are, you need to be prepared for at least a minimum of five years to get an exit. It takes time to build great companies – there is no overnight success. As a result, it is essential to understand your company’s financials. Make sure to have cash on hand, outline growth projections, solidify your path to profitability, spot and manage monthly burn rates, and lastly, stay on top of how much capital will be need in the future and when. You will never be 100% confident, so make your most calculated bet.
Be Confident in Yourself and Your Idea – Perell believes fear can take over and make you second guess your ideas, particularly for women in a room full of men, but push forward anyway! She follows Colin Powell’s ’40-70 Rule’: You only need 40% to 70% of the information to decide. You need enough information to make an informed decision but not so much that you risk seizing the opportunity. Collect 40 to 70 percent of available facts and data, then go with your gut! Great companies take time to build, advises Perell, so do not let the roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship or the opinions of others steal your energy or dreams. “Resilience is a muscle, so start training for setbacks now. One thing I do to build my resilience muscle is practice getting rejected,” says Perell. She even practices being told “no” to remind herself that rejection is far scarier in your mind than it is.
Focus on Results – Perell advises ‘DWYSYWD,’ Do what you say you will do. Focus on building a good business with sound financials and a good team. Once you do that, doors will open. That said, it is easy to get lost in the ideas, but an entrepreneur needs to focus on the results. So Perell suggests setting big goals for you and your team and celebrating when you achieve them. “I am always working towards the next big milestone on the way to achieving my vision,” she says. The most significant single determining factor of your success will be the people you surround yourself with. This includes your team, your advisors, your board, and your partners. So make it a point to spend time and cultivate relationships with people who challenge, motivate, inspire, and support you, as well as give you essential feedback. And lastly, look for mentorships and opportunities to learn and interact with peers and executives.
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