With the United Nations all geared up to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020 upholding the theme, “ I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights’, gender equality on the ground still seems a far cry. In spite of several consolidated efforts over the past years the progress in closing the gender gap has been painfully slow. In 2020, the Global Gender Gap score stands at 68.6% according to the World Economic Forum’s, Global Gender Gap Index 2020.
Globally, the Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) rate for women is 10.2%, approximately three-quarters of that seen for men according to the Global Entrepreneurship monitor 2018-19 in spite of the fact that the average global rate for business discontinuance is about 10% lower for women (2.9%) than for men (3.2%).
The causes of business discontinuance are attributed to a set of reasons including lack of profit, lack of finance, other job/business opportunity, retirement, sale or acquisition, personal/family reasons, government tax/ regulations, and so on but less than half of women’s business closure reasons are directly attributed to financial reasons (45.8%) and 16.2% citing lack of financing.
Even the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 suggests that in 72 countries women are restricted from opening bank accounts or availing credit, which impedes economic and entrepreneurial ventures.
Entrepreneurial journey was never easy for anyone and like Nolan Bushnell said –
“The true entrepreneur is a doer not a dreamer”
The beginning is always tough. Other than the obvious challenges stated above there are some deep-rooted problems that are not regularly discussed that a first time women entrepreneur encounters at the inception of their entrepreneurial journey.The genesis of these problems are rooted in the deep-seated cultural milieu, the woman’s socialization process and the society in itself. The challenges that women face in their new entrepreneurial journey are a definite deterrent but regardless, there are success stories that defied all the statistics and carved a niche for themselves irrespective of what came their way. Oprah Winfrey, Sara Blakely, Cher Wang, Indra Nooyi to name a few. The one thing these women had in common is their relentless spirit to not take no as an answer. Let’s shed some light on the problems that the first time women entrepreneurs encounter and the best ways to deal with them.
Succumbing to the Crab Box Effect:
Across culture, ethnicity and social stature women have always been brought up to believe that they are born with a preassigned role of a supporter and it’s acceptable for her to be ignorant of the path to her higher existence. It’s okay for her to not have an ambition, a career or a vision. Even if a woman successfully interpret
the path to self growth the pressure of being average is immense to pull her down. The hypocrisy of being crowned and celebrated as a powerless harbinger is just too much, so much so that it’s not surprising to find other women in the family and the social circle who vouch for mediocrity.
A women is brought up to believe that she is not a primary provider for the family, she need not have a career in spite of inimitable education, it’s okay to give up a career of ascendancy after motherhood. This is a definite challenge that is the result of years of socialization and a part of her subconscious. The worst part is it’s got a knock on effect.
Women always have an option they say. A professional or a home maker. This leads most women to believe and follow a tradition of mediocrity. The ‘good girl’ conditioning is so powerful that it gets internalized in a woman’s personality that affects their ability to assert their ambitions, to negotiate what they deserve & voice what they truly desire.
Thus it is imperative for women to make a conscious effort to shun the idealistic social taboos and understand that a provider can be a supporter too. This brings a tremendous mindset shift. It is high time the entire process of a woman’s socialization undergoes an overhaul and it needs to start with the women who are responsible for raising the next generation. Let not ‘woman for woman’ be reduced to a hashtag only. Women need to help each other and work towards their true freedom and prepare them to lead than to follow. More women need to understand that finding their purpose in life not only elevates but alleviates too. Self-independence is the best insurance policy & the path to self-actualization.
Upholder of the Work and Family Equilibrium:
The hypocrisy here is so transparent. Women have always been assigned primary roles but a secondary stature within the family and in the society. Her ranking on the perfection chart has to be leading & mediocrity has no place here. Her everyday struggles of juggling between work and life has over time been normalized by the society.Either give up or be best at it.
It is the greatest reason of burn out in women. No wonder the PEW research found most men stating that a part-time or a not working mother is ideal for young children. While asked what applies to the father, most men said working full-time is ideal for a father of a young child. This clearly explains the high levels of stress, burn out, anxiety & drop-outs among women.
Entrepreneurship is a demanding career & the early days are the toughest requiring your undivided attention. Most first time women entrepreneurs struggle here. Striking a balance between work and home seems an impossible possibility.
It is important to have strong work ethics. Schedule your life not just work, communicate in a relationship when you need help, build a team and delegate, set inflexible family time, practice multitasking & find time for yourself. More than anything accept that things wouldn’t be perfect in the beginning but they will eventually streamline.
It is time women take charge of their lives. It is important to self start a conversation with oneself and understand what one truly desires. If you want to be a home maker more power to you but if a C-suit is what you want, learn to strive towards it. Make adjustments that starts from as important as settling down with the right partner who supports you, to finding the right job fit that helps your promote your future aspirations. Like Sheryl Sandberg said
“ I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.”
Lack of Planning:
Some women successfully outrank the societal doctrines and family to make way for their vision but most struggle midway due to the lack of an actionable business blue print. There are few learnings which are ongoing but the basic research and a long-term and short-term business plan is mandatory. Before being mystified by the motivation wave of being an entrepreneur have a plan ready, align the needs of your family & set up a framework with your better half, research, meet industry experts, evaluate your financial strength and the needs of the business. Set up sort-term & long-term goals. Take a mentor if required. Don’t just walk into the battle ground all unarmed. More than anything maintain high degree of resilience. This not only prepares you at a mental level & keeps you going but helps you chalk out a plan B and not submit to failures which is a mandatory induction into the world of entrepreneurship.
It is a must for the first time women entrepreneurs to treat their venture as a primary source of earning for them and their family’s needs and not a top up. This helps you to get into that mental frame and start out real seriously and not treat it like some midsummer madness.
“Your perceptual thinking determines your potential entrepreneurial success”.
Most first time women entrepreneurs go wrong here. But it’s not only them who are at fault. It starts with the man & the woman behind her upbringing, the social circle and the society at large. Women are nurtured & socialized to believe that they need the permission & support of other men starting with the farther & ending with the husband to lead a life. More of like creepers always needing a support system to fall back on. No wonder women in 18 economies need their husbands permission to work according to a World Bank study. As a result most women wait for this permission and never give shape to their dreams unless they are lucky to receive the support they seek. Permission to be supported & the mental strength that they are not alone. Most women till date look up to men to take major decisions in their lives viz. permission to start, financial help, reference. This is a definite discouragement for the first time woman entrepreneurs to start and stand on their own.
Entrepreneurship is a collaborative process but the journey is yours alone. Your conviction is enough for you to begin. Don’t wait for permission. People who believe in you will stay with you regardless of the outcome. This not only boosts your confidence but stops you from procrastinating. Plus women need to understand that a decision that is going to affect not only the decision maker but the people associated with them should be the result of mutual consultation and consensus and this does work well in both work as well as a family set up. The woman’s say is of as much importance as a man’s. Participate more & take lead in the smaller things within the household and in the work sphere. Whether it’s taking a decision to start your dream venture or asking your boss to spearhead the annual business plan presentation for which you toiled day & night or taking the last call on a real estate buy in the locality you were brought up, calls for considerable amount of self-belief & assertion. Remember “Self independence begins with self awareness.”
The Pressure to prove it to the world:
The perceptual bias which is an offspring of gender inequality has percolated into the not so obvious layers of the subconscious so much so that now it seems normal. Women reported having lower confidence levels than men in their capabilities to start a business according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2018-19.
Globally, 43.4% of women and 55.6% men reported that they believe they have the capabilities to start a business.
When it comes to a first time woman entrepreneur’s success most people set their expectations very high because these women challenge the so-called normal doctrines of the society & are given the permission to be different. This alienates them & leaves them with no other way out but to succeed to prove themselves right. Most first time women entrepreneurs encounter people who are skeptical about their success. This forces women to end up operating from a place of fear instead of self belief. The exact reason most give up in the first few days at the slightest hint of failure.
Here are few things women need to do to deal with this mindset problem. Begin by envisioning your future and get possessive about it. Know your strengths and weaknesses equally & set practical goals. Being aware helps you fix the future set backs in the present & boosts your confidence by pushing you to implement tailor-made plans.
Along with awareness it is imperative to visualize your future. This not only boosts the motivation hormone but sets the ground for your future success because science says your brain cannot distinguish between you visualizing it & the thing really happening.
Awareness and visualization should be followed by acceptance. Accept that a probable backlash is unavoidable. Learn to stand behind your decisions irrespective of the number of times you fail at it.
“Begin only when you believe and believe when it has begun”.
The journey of a first time women entrepreneur is definitely challenging but the results of dogged determination and persistent hard work is equally worth it. After all, carving a niche for yourself has never been an easy breezy trip.