Despite being someone who loves stability and routine and knowing what to expect, I’ve been solopreneuring for six years now and have never been happier. Truly. I adore the freedom, the flexibility and the knowledge that I can switch gears or change focus at any time. But that’s not to say that the challenges of women entrepreneurship don’t exist.
I’ve learned from chatting with the older women in my life a few important things. That, just a few decades ago, women saw their fellow females as direct competition. It took us so long to infiltrate traditional workplaces that the few who clawed their way to the top were reluctant to reach down and pull up any other women with them. Space was considered limited, and those who had it, clung to it.
In my experience, that mentality is less prevalent among women who run their own businesses today. But the aftertaste still lingers. Which is why it’s essential that women entrepreneurs do everything we can to support, advise, and promote each others’s work. Not convinced? Here are a few concrete reasons to sway you.
Women entrepreneurship inequality is real, and we can help each other deal with it
Do you make products for women and sell them to women? Then you might not feel the sting of misogyny often — or at all. But if you work in a male-dominated field, order parts from a male-run supplier, or even own a shop in a part of the world where women don’t typically hold business-centric roles. Then you might have been stung. Many times. You might have even encountered women clients who mistrusted or doubted you because you are a woman yourself.
It can be hard to strategize solutions with the men in your network. Both because the ones you’d ask for help are unlikely to act in similar ways themselves, and because they might not have experienced similar in-equal treatment.
As a woman who runs a business, you need to be able to consult other women entrepreneurs for advice.
You need to be able to reach out to someone with more experience. She can tell you how did she deal with sexism in the past. You need to be able to chat with another woman about what NOT to do when someone is prejudiced against you because of your gender. Only through helping each other can we learn to overcome the challenges of women entrepreneurship.
You can do it
Ever seen a movie about a wildly successful male businessman that didn’t involve a golf scene or a country club scene? Or better, ever met a real-life male CEO or company founder who didn’t make time to socialize with his colleagues in the name of business-building?
Businessmen continue to be powerful because they recognize the importance of connecting and sharing information with the other powerful men they know.
Think how much we could achieve if we built a women entrepreneurship club for ourselves. Think how many deals we could seal, clients we could secure, partnerships we could forge if we made listening to and supporting each other a priority. It works for successful men, and it’ll work for successful women.
We need sounding boards
I attend three monthly, high-powered, women entrepreneurship groups. They have proven valuable in generating client work, honing strategy, finding new promotional tools. They also remind me that I’m not alone in my struggles. Without them, I’d be giving my poor husband an earful every single night, and overwhelming him with issues and questions that, as a non-entrepreneur, he has no idea how to handle.
Women can certainly work with men as sounding boards, but again, why not use your need for advice as an excuse to create a women entrepreneurship Club? Why not see if there are women who’ve had similar experiences and can give tips from a distinctly female perspective?
Overcome challenges of women entrepreneurship
I firmly believe that women entrepreneurs have a duty to support each other. Our networks grow when we talk business. Moreover, our reach grows when we connect with our colleagues. And we feel less isolated when we ground ourselves in groups of businesswomen.
If you’re going it alone, I hope you’ll find ways to reach out to the other women entrepreneurs around you. Offer help, ask for help, and soon you’ll find yourself with an understanding, wisdom-packed, network-building group of women who will do everything in their power to help you succeed and move beyond the challenges of women entrepreneurship.