Women make up about 50% of the world population and 40% of the global workforce, but they only own about 1% of the world’s wealth. That is slowly changing as in the United States, according to The National Association of Women Business Owners, more than 9.4 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 7.9 million people and generating $1.5 trillion in sales as of 2015. And locally we are seeing good growth as the gender gap noted in 2015 is starting to reverse, where South Africa is showing a healthy level of gender parity in terms of entrepreneurial involvement.
Despite the improvement, female entrepreneurs are still faced with some challenges in a business environment. So let’s take a look at 5 challenges female entrepreneurs are face with and how can they overcome these.
1. Access to funding
The reality is, money doesn’t grow on trees, and as with everything in life, having your own business, or starting a new business, comes with a lot of associated expenses and a need to closely manage your business’s money. This is a challenge all entrepreneurs face.
Without a solid cashflow strategy in place or that extra cash to fall back on, it’s most likely that your business won’t be able to grow as fast as you would like – never mind sustain itself. As a small business, cashflow is king and given that many clients pay 30 – 90 days, the risk of not having that extra cash is large. Apart from the traditional lenders, there are additional options – like invoice discounting, trade finance or property-backed lending – that may help you to make your business’s cash flow work better for you, so make sure you understand all your options.
2. Entrepreneurship can be lonely
It’s important for any business owner to have a mentor – someone to talk to when the going gets tough. It’s always advisable to have a sounding board, preferably from someone who has been in your shoes, a person that will not sugar coat the journey you are embarking on. This is where networking also becomes important because often you find a mentor in the relationships you build with other women you might meet for example, someone whose journey resembles where you want your business to go.
3. Finding your feet in a male dominated environment
It can be challenging to be accepted in an industry that’s deemed “male dominated”. As an entrepreneur, once you have decided on an industry, don’t abandon your dream because of the competition. Arm yourself with as much information as possible, build your own network of support, know the options that are available to you and very importantly, believe in yourself.
You must also be willing to put in the hours and prove your worth – in some industries, you will find that your male counterparts have been in the industry for over 40 years and struggle to take instructions from a woman.
4. Work-life balance
Many entrepreneurs struggle with striking a balance between work and their personal and/or family life, but it seems to be more of a struggle for female entrepreneurs as somehow when you have children it is automatically expected that your home life will overshadow your abilities to succeed in business.
Being a “mompreneur” is achievable – what is essential is taking the time to plan out your days, schedule everything including what you have to do with your kids in your diary. And if you need help, reach out to family or friends or hire someone to help you with the kids at home. No man is an island and asking for help does not mean you are failing.
5. Defying social expectations
Female entrepreneurs entering a space full of men automatically feel the need to adopt male behaviours related to how they conduct businesses – these usually mean being aggressive, overly harsh and competitive. This does not have to be the case, be yourself – use who you are, your personality and your views to achieve your goals in business. You don’t have to become someone else to get your point across, your hard work should be what speaks for you – this is the only way we will change the perception of women in business.
So for all those women that took a chance by starting their own business, for all those that dream of expanding and taking their business to the next level, or those that need the encouragement to take the leap to turn their dream into a reality – don’t let these challenges keep you down.
*Kevin Vlietman is Commercial Executive at Transaction Capital Business Solutions.