5 Obstacles Women Entrepreneurs Encounter and How to Surmount them
Over time, we have observed women entrepreneurs rise from scratch to the pinnacle of success. Gone are the days when men dominate every endeavor of life. Gone are the days when running a business is strictly a men’s game. We now have women sitting atop multi-billion dollar empires.
Now let’s analyze the successful women in the world. I am talking about successful women such as Mary Kay Ash, Estee Lauder, Coco Chanel, Anita Roddick, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, etc. How did these women make it? What obstacles did they encounter when starting a business from scratch? How did they surmount such obstacles in business? And how can you copy their winning strategies? Well I will suggest you read on.
My purpose of writing this article is not to excite you; neither was it written to scare you. Rather; I wrote this piece to help boost your level of preparedness and improve your chances of succeeding. Are you a woman entrepreneur? Or you about starting your own business from home? Then read on.
5 Obstacles Women Entrepreneurs Encounter and How to Surmount them
“You know, all these years, all these years you’ve been eating my cookies. All these years you’ve been telling me how wonderful they are. Well, I’ve decided I’m going to go into the cookie business. My husband immediately said, ‘Oh sweetie, that is such a stupid idea.’ And then my mom and dad pipe up and say, ‘You don’t have any business going into the cookie business.” – Debbi Fields
The first obstacle women entrepreneurs face is cultural value or tradition. This obstacle is more overwhelming on female entrepreneurs in Africa; where tradition demands that the man/husband be the bread winner. A woman displaying her entrepreneurial prowess is assumed as trying to take over the leadership role of the man. This obstacle also arises in families where the husband/father is an entrepreneur. The male children are groomed on operating the family business and carrying on after the exit of the father. The females are usually pushed aside this grooming process.
“I knew I had been denied opportunities to fulfill my optimum potentials simply because I was a woman. These feelings were not merely indulgences of self pity because I had personally known so many other women who had suffered such injustices.” – Mary Kay Ash
To surmount this obstacle, you must be willing to breakthrough this limiting tradition; you must hold on to what you believe in.
2. Public discrimination
“The greatest failure is not to try. Had I listened to all the people during the course of my life who said, “You can’t. You’ll fail. It won’t work. You don’t have…,” I wouldn’t be here today.” – Debbi Fields
The next obstacle women face in business is societal discrimination. Most individuals still live with the perception that certain businesses or tasks are better done by men. Have you ever seen a female automobile mechanic, plumber, mason or welder? What was your first reaction?
“Those men didn’t believe a woman had brain matter at all. I learned that back then that as long as men didn’t believe women could do anything, women were never going to have a chance.” – Mary Kay Ash
“It is horrible to say, but I was stigmatized by being a bridal designer for a long time, I am amazed I have been able to move beyond it. I had really all but given up trying, but I did it because it was my lifelong dream.” – Vera Wang
You must have screamed “what the hell is a woman doing with such occupation.” Well, I have done it countless times. The truth is that we frequently think women are incompetent in certain fields of life. Individuals would rather transact with a business man than a woman. Why? The reason is because it’s believed that men are born to do it.
"I am black, I don't feel burdened by it and I don't think it's a huge responsibility. It's part of who I am. It does not define me." – Oprah Winfrey
You might believe this obstacle is uncommon; wait until you lose a business deal or contract just because your competitors are males and you are considered incompetent. The only way to deal with the issue of societal discrimination is to become resilient to criticism. Stop perceiving your feminine gender as a weakness; accept it as a strength and prove your competence by doing all you can to surpass your male competitors.
3. Lack of investor’s confidence
"What's the worst that could happen? Everyone turned me down; big deal." – J. K. Rowling
The third obstacle women entrepreneurs encounter is raising capital. Investors naturally pay less attention to women and I can’t really tell why. It’s easier for men to raise capital than women; except such a woman has demonstrated her proficiency over time. Women entrepreneurs find it hard to raise money or obtain a bank loan because investors and bankers would rather take risk with men than women.
“I would tell them about my plan, the cookies, my dream, and sure enough, they would listen and eat the cookies. They would respond by saying ‘Thank you so much. Thank you for coming in, but no, we’re not interested.” – Debbi Fields
Now how do you handle such situation? The answer is persistence. You must keep requesting for what you want; regardless of the amount of rejections you receive.
4. Running business and family together
“There is time for work, and time for love. That leaves no other time.” – Coco Chanel
Women obviously are the pillar of the family; they are the building blocks on which the family foundation is built. So many times, women see themselves torn between dedication to the family and business.
“When my company started really growing, I didn’t have any help in my house at all. I had the upkeep of my daily life, I had a one year old and a three year old, and I had my house. So I had to prioritize.” – Julie Aigner Clark
“It was a risk. I had a husband and I was pregnant with my oldest son. But I don't look at risk the way other people do. When you're an entrepreneur, you have to go in feeling like you're going to be successful.” – Lillian Vernon
Now how can a woman deal with such obstacle? The answer lies in time management and delegation. These two keys are crucial to complementing your act and building a successful business alongside a family.
“How did you balance growing the business with raising a family? You just do. I had a business, a lot of orders, and a baby howling for supper. You balance it. You give your baby supper first and then get your orders in. I have worked on more holidays... but what are you going to do?" – Lillian Vernon
5. Pressure due to competition and business routine
“I started The Body Shop in 1976 simply to create a livelihood for myself and my two daughters, while my husband, Gordon, was trekking across the Americas. I had no training or experience and my only business acumen was Gordon’s advice to take sales of £300 a week. Nobody talks of entrepreneurship as survival, but that's exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking.” – Anita Roddick
The last but not the least obstacle women face in business is stiff competition. Growing a business from scratch requires hard work, dedication and persistence. Business is a game of dog eat dog; and to survive, you have to be resilient.
“Toughness is a good thing, yet it is considered good only in men. When a woman is tough, men can't stand it. I like being tough; tough and smart.” – Lillian Vernon
“There is always competition. Whatever you do, there will be competition, and you have to decide how you’re going to play. For me, I had to be the very best. Because if I was not the very best; I would end up being number two.” – Debbi Fields
As a woman in business, you may see yourself being confronted with opposition from both inside and outside sources; and this might lead to fatigue. When confronted with such situation, you need to apply the art of delegation and time management. Get the monotonous business operations off your neck and focus more on the core.
“What was your greatest challenge?”Staying alive as a business, staying ahead of the game, and melding my business life with my personal life." – Lillian Vernon
In conclusion, these are the five obstacles most women entrepreneurs face. So if you are a female entrepreneur just starting out in business; you must be prepared to encounter such obstacles. Your ability to overcome these obstacles is what will make you a successful entrepreneur.