I had a conversation this morning with a young woman working on a thesis about women in business, and, at the end of our discussion, she noted that there is still a great discrepancy between the number of women versus men choosing to become entrepreneurs. She then asked me why I thought that was and what advice I had, if any, to share with women hesitating to open their own companies. This is the answer I gave her.
Women are creatures of duty. We are constantly making sure that things are being taken care of, whether that means meeting responsibilities we shoulder in the workplace, taking care of children at home, or being attentive partners to our spouses. This means that we often tend to put our own needs last, that we put off personal fulfillment in the here and now thinking we will get to it in the long term, and ultimately, that our ideas remain just that--ideas and nothing more. In other words, the ways in which women are most valuable to others are the very reasons that hold women back from deciding to become entrepreneurs--because we don't want to risk giving up the stability of a needed paycheck, or because we don't want to chance missing a moment when a child might need us, or because we just don't want to risk disappointing anyone, including ourselves. And, as women, we understand innately that choosing to put ourselves and our ideas first may mean failing someone or something in our lives as a result.
However, as women, we also tend to have very strong value systems. We are clear on what has meaning to us, have straightforward convictions on what we want the world around us to look like, and are fully committed to doing what it takes to deliver on any promise we make or goal we set. These are the marks of the best entrepreneurs--whether men or women.
So if you have an idea and are hesitating on becoming an entrepreneur, here are the reasons why I stopped dreaming and started doing.
1. Entrepreneurship lets me live my values.
As one person, it is hard to change the world. But as a business owner, within my walls, I determine what I want the world to look like--and while it may not change the lives of the entire population, it does change the lives of the 19 employees who work for me. It also changes the lives of the 5,000 customers who buy from my company because they can count on us, and ultimately affects the well-being of all the hundreds of thousands of end consumers who trust my company's products.
2. Entrepreneurship lets me get paid for what I do already.
As a woman, I am always coming up with ways to make things better, more efficient, and more rewarding. Whether it's figuring out how to make a gourmet meal in record time, getting the most for my money in day-to-day transactions, or devising a way to rally others to do something I think would be worthwhile, I have ideas and energy in abundance. Being an entrepreneur lets me do what I love and get compensated for it--in both dollars and satisfaction.
3. Entrepreneurship lets me leave a legacy.
I don't necessarily mean the kind where I become famous and my name is a household word, but a deep and meaningful type of legacy. By creating and leading my company, I have been able to prove that a company can be profitable without cheating customers, shortchanging employees, or cutting corners on product quality. I have been able to prove that I can live well while helping others do the same. I have been able to set an example for my child that every choice creates opportunities and consequences. I have been able to live within my truth--which is that, if you have an idea and are willing to work for it, you can make it a reality.
These are the reasons women should take the leap and become entrepreneurs. Because as a woman, becoming an entrepreneur is less of a risk than one might think. Rather, it is a way to utilize all of our natural strengths and make them work on a much greater scale, far beyond our immediate situation.