More and more women are entering the world of entrepreneurship, with 49% of businesses in the U.S. started by women in 2021, up from 28% in 2019, based on the number of women forming a legal business entity. That’s a huge jump! But starting a business is one thing, while making it successful is another. Whether you’re a woman entrepreneur or aspire to be one, understanding common challenges and how they might impact your success can help you plan, pivot, and speak up for change.
Six common challenges of women entrepreneurs:
Among the most common are:
1. Lack of access to funding and capital
Interestingly, only 17% of investment capital went to startups with at least one woman founder in 2019. While it’s difficult to find evidence of the reasons for this, the numbers can only indicate that it’s due to gender bias. No evidence exists that women business leaders are less effective than other business leaders, obviously.
Often, women are disregarded by lenders and investors, thought not to be influential leaders, and not taken seriously. In fact, 66% of women entrepreneurs report difficulty in obtaining funding for their businesses.
Capital is often required to start a business and almost always required at a certain point to achieve a significant level of growth. Lack of access to such capital can prevent women from starting businesses or growing their businesses to any level beyond a lifestyle business.
The point is that women have to work harder when trying to secure funding. It can be difficult to convince lenders and investors to have confidence in their ideas and abilities.
2. Overcoming social expectations
You may have had the experience of entering a networking event and finding that the women in the room are few in number. The fact is that men have long dominated business and entrepreneurship, so when a woman enters, the key is she won’t be intimidated.
It’s integral to know that respect is more important than being liked, so do your best, taking on a leadership role. Have the confidence to enter conversations and showcase your knowledge and ideas. Women, unfortunately, often have to struggle to be taken seriously before they can build valuable business relationships. In other words, they have to work harder to gain respect.
Again, women must work harder as entrepreneurs, selling themselves and their abilities even more than selling their products or services.
3. Balancing work and family life
Women often face more responsibilities at home than their partners, making it difficult to balance home and work life. Often, they are unable to devote the time required to build their businesses due to those extra responsibilities.
This often leads to feeling like you are failing in at least one area of life. You may feel unable to devote as much time as necessary to family or business, losing the confidence needed to be a successful entrepreneur.
4. Lack of support networks
Support networks for entrepreneurs are essential, with resources usually available at business incubators, small business development centers, or other local support organizations. Again, when trying to form connections at these organizations, women find themselves in the minority and struggle to build the network they need.
These networks provide mentorship and access to advisors and investors, so without such support, it can be difficult to grow a business. You may find you are “going it alone,” which makes it very difficult to increase the scale of the business.
5. Stress: More challenges for women entrepreneurs
Facing common challenges of being a woman in entrepreneurship, particularly having to work hard to gain respect, is just plain hard. Struggling in that way daily can lead to stress, which then becomes another thing that you have to manage.
Stress, if not managed, can lead to burnout, which affects the ability to manage a company effectively. Too much stress can even lead to physical issues, which affect all aspects of life, regardless of gender.
6. Fear of failure
It’s easy to start to doubt yourself. The last thing you want to do is fail, and that’s a big fear for a lot of women – Which makes sense given women are judged harsher than men when they do fail.
While you want to prove the stereotypes wrong, you can begin to fear failure. Fear can paralyze and even create the urge to throw in the towel. Fearing failure can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy, hindering your ability to lead effectively.
So, if it’s so challenging, why do it?
When faced with all these challenges, why bother? You need to keep going because you have a vision, and that needs to drive you forward. Entrepreneurship is a very rewarding pursuit, and as you get closer to reaching your vision, you will feel a sense of accomplishment like any other. You must remember that you’re building something of value that benefits employees, the community, and you.
If you’re just starting the entrepreneurial journey, know that it will be a difficult road, but you must retain your confidence in your abilities. Don’t be intimidated, and don’t be afraid to surprise all those who doubt your skills, ideas, and wisdom. In fact, look forward to it! That surprise can quickly turn into respect.
Also, don’t forget to show yourself some love. You can’t become the last thing on your list of to-dos. Keep your mind and body healthy to be the best you can be.
Takeaway on challenges women entrepreneurs often face
It’s a hard truth that gender stereotypes still exist, which creates many challenges for women entrepreneurs. Yes, you’ll have to work hard to overcome that bias, but with that work comes rewards that make it worthwhile. Just remember that you have something to offer. You have value. Don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way.
Whether you’re dealing with investors, colleagues, or customers, put forth your best self, share your value, and wow them with your abilities. If you keep pushing forward, in the long run, you’ll have the respect of many, but most importantly, you’ll respect yourself and be proud of what you’ve built, especially given the challenges along the way. You’re a powerful woman, so go for it!