As a recent honoree at the Inc. 500 awards and conference, I couldn't help but observe that most of the winners were men. This is no surprise as the Inc. 500 award recipients match the same demographics as most American business with 74% of all businesses being owned by men. However, what really stood out was the difference in support systems that the male honorees had over the female winners.
Pardon my generalities but most of the men who I was privileged to meet were accompanied by their wives. And it wasn't just their companionship that was the reason for their spouses joining in on the fun, it was that these men's wives provided a great deal of support for their husband's business and personal lives and were in great part the reason for their success. These businessmen had someone to do the laundry, take care of the yard, schedule appointments with the doctor, pick up the dry cleaning, prepare meals, make sure the house was clean, throw parties to impress clients, deal with sticky customer service issues, help with hiring and termination of key personnel and the list goes on and on. (One Inc. 500 CEO, who is male, even has a personal assistant to run his home, since he is not married, in keeping with conventional roles.) The whole circumstance draws back to the days when the corporate executive and his wife was part of a package - a two-for-one deal, so to speak.
Please don't misunderstand my list of benefits enjoyed by so many male entrepreneurs. I don't begrudge their lives - quite to the contrary, I envy them. Frankly, I want a wife that can support me and be a pillar of strength. But the truth of the matter is that men and women are different in so many respects and that axiom is even truer for the female entrepreneur. Speaking for myself as well as many of my fellow female entrepreneurs - we are typically married but our husbands are not active in our businesses and it is a rare exception that they are actively supporting our homes.
Female entrepreneurs solely carry the responsibilities of their businesses while rarely having a confidante with whom to share. They make their own decisions and take their own risks and pick up the pieces of their failures, by themselves. Even worse, most of the female entrepreneurs that I know are notorious for paying themselves substantially less than their male counterparts meaning they often don't reap the rewards of their success and are known to share more generously with their employees than themselves.
The women I know often wash their own socks, fix their own dinners and maintain their households. The really lucky ones have good assistants that will run the occasional errand, but for the most part these brave women are on their own. They are highly admired in their industries but are often considered a loner, which begs the question of creation. Did being an independent solo act come first or did the business venture turn them into a free agent? Men are often intimidated by the fierce independence of these women but will gladly partner on deals together because of their tenacity and highly competent characteristics. But the attributes that make these women attractive as businesspeople often keep men from forming personal friendships with the female entrepreneur.
And just so you know, I am not part of the women's movement - I am too young and have only benefited from the groundwork that was done prior to my arrival in the business world. I am certainly not a feminist and barely know what the word means. I am just a female entrepreneur successfully running a company, working as smart as I can to make the most possible out of my business for my clients and my staff. But like my fellow female cohorts, I am doing it without the coveted support system of the men and hoping that someday all things will be equal.