Career

Published on April 10th, 2011 | by thevyne

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Women: The “Invisible Entrepreneurs”

By Bethany Gardner

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on why more women aren’t entrepreneurs. After receiving many comments from women who have started their own businesses, and others who would like to but haven’t, I have discovered many women ARE entrepreneurs, although they remain largely invisible. Why is this? In an age where women are routinely selected for positions of leadership and power (though still unrepresented in proportion to their numbers), whether that’s Secretary of State (three of the last four have been female), CEO (15 female CEOs in the Fortune 500), or entertainment moguls (Oprah Winfrey recently launched her own television network, and many women have obtained significant roles in the entertainment industry), why are women still moving largely unnoticed amongst the entrepreneurship ranks?

One reason is that many female-led businesses aren’t built on a large scale. They tend to be smaller businesses, often started with a boyfriend or husband, with modest goals for growth and expansion. Women-led businesses are less likely to network or seek out venture capital than male-led businesses, and thus don’t receive the capital they would need to grow larger or expand. Male entrepreneurs, on the other hand, tend to start businesses with several other men, many times those with complimentary skillsets. This allows for a more even distribution of work, varying perspectives, and faster business growth, with fewer of the squabbles that take place when one is working with a romantic partner.

Another reason women-owned businesses flounder is that they don’t have access to the role models and mentoring that would help them become successful. Often women start companies without access to or knowledge of other women who have undertaken similar pursuits, and thus can’t benefit from the knowledge these women could impart. Additionally, new female entrepreneurs don’t always seek out support networks of other female entrepreneurs, who could help them pool knowledge, resources, and contacts, networks that male entrepreneurs easily find and join. As a consequence, women don’t receive the tools and information that would help their businesses grow.

Finally, I believe women are stymied by the same internal conflicts that men face, namely fear- the fear of failing, the fear of the unknown, the fear of losing eveything by taking on huge risks. However, I believe this fear can be more accute for women, who are socialized to not take large, life-changing risks, particularly when they don’t see other role models who have done so successfully.

In order for women to become successful, large-scale entrepreneurs, women will need to find or create their own “girls’ clubs”, or networks of female entrepreneurs. Being a part of these groups help women to develop the contacts, knowledge, and resources they will need to successfully grow their businesses, as well as find potential buisness partners. Starting a business solo is a sure-fire way to remain small scale. These networks would also help women obtain the support and motivation they’ll need when the road gets tough, as it most assuredly will. Seeing other women successfully navigate these challenges can inspire and motivate new entrepreneurs, helping them achieve even greater business success.

Entrepreneurship may be the last hurdle for women to conquer in the business world, and we will not overcome it individually, but by helping other women accomplish their dreams while we seek to accomplish our own.

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