Starting a business as a young person can be intimidating--are you really qualified? Won't potential partners and customers judge you for your youth? Add being a woman in a heavily male-dominated field like tech into the mix, and the prospect can be downright scary.
But with the economy still not exactly churning out good jobs for young people, entrepreneurship is worth a second look despite it's terrors, according to Theme Dragon co-founder and CEO Lindsay Nelson.
"My class graduated into the worst recession since the great depression after spending our lives pursuing an education that we were told would pay off in the form of a job. This life situation immediately pushed me toward entrepreneurship. With so few job opportunities, it became clear that I was going to have to create my own," she told Angelique O'Rourke in an interview for blog Bplans recently.
In the course of an interesting discussion jam-packed with advice from the young founder, including tips on successfully bootstrapping and recommendations for some of her favorite tools for entrepreneurs, she offers young women like herself some advice on how to face their well-founded anxieties about the additional challenges that female founders still face.
1. Do it despite your fear
Given the statistics on things like VC funding for women (and the horror stories around sexist behavior founders sometimes face) your worries aren't totally insane. But just because you have a basis for you anxiety, doesn't mean you should let it rule your decision-making. Get fired up by focusing not just on your own entrepreneurial dreams but also the impact your choice could have on women coming up behind you and how much you could contribute to the quality of a startup's work.
"If you have an interest in fields that are traditionally less female saturated like engineering, don't be afraid to pursue them. Gender diversity in these (and all fields) will only help them become more successful," she tells O'Rourke.
2. Examine yourself
Becoming the boss presents not just opportunities but also responsibilities. Use your status as a founder to be the kind of business leader you hope to see in the world. That can entail some serious soul-searching.
"In two studies, both from Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In and from a Harvard Business School study, when it came to judging women's work less favorably, the women involved in the study were just as biased as the men," O'Rourke writes, summarizing Nelson's comments. "That is a bitter pill, but it's also an opportunity to think about the ways that you might be judging the women around you, or subtly valuing your male co-workers' contributions more than your own, or that of female coworkers. A cultural shift can also require an internal shift."
3. Guard your hope
You may encounter bias and almost certainly will run into general entrepreneurial hard times. Keep going despite these challenges, Nelson urges young female founders. "Women shouldn't have to cater to un-evolved expectations of them. Forward progress means that society must change its perspective on women instead," Nelson insists, adding "it will take time to get there, but I know that gender bias can be rewritten." In the meantime, don't let these issues hold you back.
Experienced female founders, what's your best advice for young women just getting into entrepreneurship?