1. Gender discrimination
The most obvious of the challenges, it may seem that outright gender discrimination is a thing of the past; unfortunately, this is not the case. Gender discrimination may be more subtle these days, but it is still a hurdle for women entrepreneurs who are trying to build businesses, make pitches and garner investors. Sometimes, potential investors and clients may take a woman entrepreneur less seriously simply because she is a woman.
2. Lack of access
It is also often the case that women have less access to some of the networking venues where business deals are made: “The Good Old Boys Club” is still alive and well in many places. Women may not have as much insider-access as men to some types of golf-course wheeling and dealing. This is why it is imperative for women entrepreneurs to build their own networks. Thankfully, online networking is providing unprecedented ways for women entrepreneurs to connect and collaborate.
3. Balancing business and family
While there are some prominent examples of successful businesswomen who are also mothers, balancing business and family remains a real challenge for women. The reality is that pregnancy, childbirth and infant care affect women in ways they don’t affect men. Women also face additional cultural pressures to be the “perfect mom” and a successful businesswoman at the same time, and this can cause tremendous stress for women entrepreneurs who are fighting for a place at the table. Again, technology can help in providing some flexibility for working moms, although it certainly does not alleviate this tension altogether.
4. Lack of self-promotional skills
Most women grow up learning to focus on the needs of others, not learning to promote themselves. Entrepreneurs need to be able to speak about their own skills and achievements comfortably. Many women shy away from this type of self-promotion because it feels too close to bragging, and this can create a real obstacle to success.
5. Shying away from healthy competition
In addition to the lack of self-promotional skills, some women shy away from competition because they grew up trying to please everyone. While collaboration is also an important element of any successful entrepreneurship, women entrepreneurs also need to be able to engage in healthy competition without worrying too much about the approval of others. Otherwise, women entrepreneurs may have a harder time saying no and may end up undercharging for their services.
While these obstacles present real challenges for many women entrepreneurs today, they need not prevent women from achieving business success. Some of these challenges may be difficult to address individually, but women entrepreneurs can take steps to build their self-confidence and engage in healthy competition. In addition, they can build their own networks, challenge the current paradigms about work and family, and stand up to gender discrimination.