Many of the 52 female entrepreneurs I interviewed for my latest book,  ‘Female Entrepreneurs – The Secrets of Their Success,’ talked about leveraging the natural advantages that women have when building a business.  These included:

Ability to multi-task

Whether true or false, it has long been said that women can multitask in a way that men can only wish for. That hypothesis tested positive in our 52 interviews – with many of our female entrepreneurs running a start-up, raising a family and managing pro bono work as well. 

Ours is a qualitative validation that women can successfully manage multiple roles at any one time – although we are reasonably sure that many men will also resonate with these traits.

Leverage the power of part-time, flexible workforces

 Part-time and flexible working was a hot topic for many of our female entrepreneurs, with many leaving corporate environments to create a working life that works both professionally and personally. Many of our female entrepreneurs went on to employ other women – creating competitive advantage by leveraging a highly talented workforce who are keen to work but feel disenfranchised by the less flexible corporate world. Isn’t it time that corporations embraced more of these highly talented, highly productive people, by making their working environments more flexible? 

Taking people with them by keeping their ego in check 

Many of our interviewees talked about creating a working environment where people are encouraged to work ‘collaboratively, collegially and courteously’. To achieve this, they took people with them by keeping their egos in check – sharing power, valuing their employees and encouraging people to speak up. As one interviewee said: ‘A leader who tries to control everything and take all the decisions will soon be alone or left with the flotsam and jetsam who can’t find alternative employment’.

Knowing when to stop 

Juggling multiple roles may be a blessing in disguise. Being the primary family carer requires female entrepreneurs to switch off from work at the end of each day to focus on their family – thus creating a healthier work-life balance. That said, society needs to do more to encourage everyone, including men, to have a good work-life balance, as well as help women juggle multiple roles when working in less flexible corporate working environments.  

Many of our interviewees believe that a mixture of the two is needed, at least until the playing field is levelled. If society wants to leverage the huge female talent pool, it needs to ‘lean out’ by challenging the traditional male-orientated ways of working. Corporations need to make work for all women, including young mothers, a tenable choice, as well as the ability to rise to the top a credible and aspirational option. That said, women also need to help drive the change by ‘leaning in’ – driving their own success by taking responsibility for their careers, decisions and actions. 

Our 52 female entrepreneurs also talked about the natural challenges that women face when building a business. These include:   

It’s a male dominated world 

 Many of our female entrepreneurs commented on business still being a male-dominated world. As Caroline Criado Perez asserts in her book ‘Invisible Women’, one that has been subconsciously designed by men for men and has been slow to embrace more feminine characteristics. Women are at a disadvantage, as they have to learn and play by male values and rules – with industry being slow and reluctant to make the workplace work for all genders. Unless the corporate world addresses this male cultural bias, they will continue to lose out on one of the country’s largest talent pools.

Lack of funding

The comparative numbers between male- and female-led start-ups is stark. 91% of venture capital money continues to fund businesses founded solely by men, with only 1% invested in businesses founded solely by women. The reason is that most investors are men. Research shows that there is a lack of senior females on U.K. investment teams (13% of the total), with almost half of investment teams (48%) having no women at all. The result is male investors treating female entrepreneurs more sceptically when pitching and preferring to invest in more male-orientated business ideas that resonate with them. Being a woman pitching for money in those arenas takes courage and patience. Many successful, more female-orientated ideas are being left to fall by the wayside. The growth of female VC investors who are more likely to understand and invest in ideas created by females is a huge step forward. But clearly there is still much to do.

Lack of funding less brazen salesmanship and time for networking

The comparative numbers between male- and female-led start-ups is stark. 91% of venture capital money continues to fund businesses founded solely by men, with only 1% invested in businesses founded solely by women. The reason is that most investors are men. Research shows that there is a lack of senior females on U.K. investment teams (13% of the total), with almost half of investment teams (48%) having no women at all. The result is male investors treating female entrepreneurs more sceptically when pitching and preferring to invest in more male-orientated business ideas that resonate with them. Being a woman pitching for money in those arenas takes courage and patience. Many successful, more female-orientated ideas are being left to fall by the wayside. The growth of female VC investors who are more likely to understand and invest in ideas created by females is a huge step forward. But clearly there is still much to do. 

Greater reticence to be famous or celebrate success

Many of our interviewees talked about the female tendency not to talk about or celebrate their success – in contrast to their male counterparts. They are concerned that they might not be an attractive female leader if they behave in a celebratory way and in turn come over to others as self-satisfied or boastful. Reshma Saujani’s book ‘Brave Not Perfect’ asserts that women are brought up differently to men by being encouraged to be ‘perfect rather than brave’. She exhorts women to fear less, fail more and live bolder.

In summary 

We implore society to recognise and embrace the huge value that female entrepreneurs bring and help make entrepreneurship a more level playing field for women by encouraging: 

  • Women to be taken as seriously as men in business, by celebrating rather than judging successful working women who are juggling career and family. 
  • Men to help women more, as in the words of Professor Gillian Robinson: ‘It is difficult to see how women will ever have the same opportunities in the labour market if equality at home is not achieved’.
  • Women to help other women more, by encouraging and supporting them as they rise up their career path. 
  • Women to ‘lean in’ to help drive the change, as well as society to ‘lean out’ by challenging the traditional male-orientated ways of working to create a more flexible, female-friendly working environment. 

 The Author

Ruth Saunders uses her 30 years of experience as a strategy consultant at McKinsey, marketer at P&G, advertising planner at Saatchi & Saatchi and market researcher at Mars Inc, to help clients be ‘On Point’. She is a marketing and branding consultant, trainer, speaker and coach – and author of “Marketing in the Boardroom: Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Board.”

 

 

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies and our Privacy Policy more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close