Study: Female Founders Fear They're Less Capable Than Men
BY Marla Tabaka
It's a fact: Fewer women around the world start businesses than their male counterparts. Here are three big issues standing in their way.
Do women feel less capable of running a business than men? You may not like to think so, but according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women's Report released just last week, women not only lack confidence but they are generally more afraid of failure than their male counterparts. In addition, women appear to show reluctance to scale their businesses or to enter new and less tested markets.
The 2012 GEM report surveyed 198,000 people in 69 countries and in all but seven of the countries surveyed women represent a minority of the nation's entrepreneurs, with the exceptions being Panama, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, Nigeria, Mexico and Uganda. Why? The study cites a number of issues, including difficulty in obtaining higher level resources such as equity capital or corporate procurement contracts, as well as status expectations and gendered roles. But what's really interesting is that in every region studied women have a greater fear of failure than men.
Surprised? Don't be. In my experience of 10 years in the coaching industry I have witnessed many reasons for the fear-based limitations that amazing women masterfully impose upon themselves. Here are a few that stand out, along with a few insights and suggestions. Do any of these issues ring true to you?
Women go it alone.
Women are more likely than men to operate without employees. From my perspective there are two reasons that women are reluctant to bring on team members: lack of funding and self-imposed expectations that they should be capable of doing it all.
The fact is that a number of funding options specifically targeting women entrepreneurs have emerged around the world. In the United States, these include a variety of angel funds focused on women-led businesses. And certainly, new crowdfunding platforms will open a wealth of opportunity for male and female entrepreneurs. But women are less likely to build business models that are scalable, thereby making them less attractive to investors.
How can your business run without you? If you wish to gain attention from prospective investors take a giant step back and restructure your business model so that you are at the top of the pyramid rather than in the middle doing it all. This means that you'll have to drop the belief that you need to be the perfect mom, wife, entrepreneur, friend, and daughter. Outside professional guidance is a great investment to help you to get over this hurdle. And don't worry, you will still be amazing.
Women engage in necessity-based entrepreneurship.
Women often launch businesses out of a necessity for additional income after starting family. They chose to leave the workforce to remain close to their children (and because of the cost of childcare) and a business seems like an accessible solution to the decrease in household income. Sadly, it backfires far too often, leading to increased stress and debt, rather than increased cash flow.
These businesses often fail because they are under-funded and poorly planned. Before making the decision to launch your business weigh the financial and emotional risks. Considering that many of these ventures end up taxing the savings and investments accounts, childcare may not seem as financially daunting. However, if returning to work is not an option make sure to create a well thought-out plan and invest in research and business coaching or consulting before opening your doors.
Women don't seek out mentors.
According to the study, decades of research has emphasized that having role models is motivating and educational in entrepreneurship. Affiliations with entrepreneurs can provide inspiration, a source of advice, and valuable connections to others within the entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Yet, in no economy were women more likely than men to know many other entrepreneurs. In other words, more men than women have a strong network of entrepreneurs and, in my opinion, this is directly linked to success levels.
Women are great networkers and build relationships at a deep and meaningful level. But I spend a lot of time helping my female clients disengage from the limited thinking that keeps them from asking for help. Mentors of the opposite sex can balance the energy, including creativity, strategic thinking, and ability to grow networks and leverage other people's money. A male role model brings a new perspective to the table for women. And guys, this advice isn't just for women. All entrepreneurs should seek mentors of the opposite sex to learn from a different viewpoint.
Once you find your mentor be up front by asking if he would speak with you on a regular basis and don't waste his time. In other words, understand the value that your mentor brings to the table and ask questions based on that value. Most of all, become committed to taking action on his advice as appropriate. Don't be shy about asking as most successful people want to help other business-minded people succeed.
If you're stuck because you don't know how to scale your business or don't believe you're capable of achieving your dream, join me on September 20th at my live event for women. You'll learn how to eradicate that negative thinking and leave with a plan for professional and personal growth!
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka