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Women Entrepreneurs in the Business World

Women Entrepreneurs

Recently on Quora, Sramana Mitra, a “successful female entrepreneur in Silicon Valley,” sparked an interesting conversation. She asked “Why is it such a big deal to be a female entrepreneur?”

She pointed out that the media puts female business owners in the spotlight as the exception rather than the rule (the rule being men running things). She felt that “in order to be seen as equal, you cannot begin by segregating yourself,” and asked the community why people feel the need to separate men and women as business owners.
Should We Segregate Women Business Owners?

I think Mitra’s point was that we don’t need to put special attention on women who run businesses. They’re no more unique than men who do the same. And yet, only 30 percent of businesses in the U.S. are run by women, and those companies employ just 6 percent of the workforce. These numbers clearly point to a disparity between the genders in entrepreneurship.

There are resources for women-owned businesses (the SBA is a good example), but there are also resources for minority-owned or veteran-owned businesses. A great deal of research has gone into why these groups are lagging when it comes to owning their piece of the entrepreneurial pie, and as a result, there are some great programs available to spur an increase in success for them.

(As a side note, these programs aren’t necessarily getting great results. The SBA set a goal to help women-owned businesses secure at least 5 percent of federal contracts  within five years, and has not as of yet succeeded.)
Can We Ignore the Differences?

In reading the responses to the Quora question, there are two camps: one acknowledges the difference between how women and men run businesses and accedes that these differences need to be taken into consideration. The other camp tends to look at how things “should be:” men and women should be equal in all things, including business success. Women shouldn’t be looked at as “other.” And yet, we’re not there yet.

I agree that there are essential differences in how women and men interact in the business world. Certainly we can make no blanket statements about how one gender or the other is as a whole, but generally, the two sexes handle situations differently.

Petra C Kassun-Mutch, a serial entrepreneur and Executive Director at the Ontario College of Art and Design University’s Imagination Catalyst, responded to the Quora question by illustrating how women deal with business ownership:

“…we approach problem solving differently (i.e.: more often solve by collaborating as opposed to competing), we tend to consider ROI in broader terms (i.e.: money, but also personal growth, social benefit, impact on family), and we deal with failure differently (more effectively in my view – women [are] more resilient). It does not mean less capable or even less interested in world domination with our enterprise. It does mean, though, that the path we take to get there is different. We have different guardrails.”

And how we’re treated in the business world is another undisputable fact. Too often we hear the phrase “good old boys’ network,” where women find it difficult to be treated equally, despite our best efforts to fit in. Jigyasa Makkar, a Full Stack Development entrepreneur says:

“People are a lot nicer to you in general but you’d have to work twice as hard as a male counterpart to be taken seriously. What would be perceived as confidence for a man would be stubbornness for the woman.”

On the other hand, we can all, for the most part, agree that there shouldn’t be reason to highlight female entrepreneurs as different from male entrepreneurs. They should simply be entrepreneurs. For me, having run my business for 10 years, I rarely think of myself as a female entrepreneur. Nor does my African-American husband consider himself a black entrepreneur. When you’re a business owner, you give little thought to your title because you’re so busy running your business.
Can We Blame How We Were Raised?

As a woman approaching 40, I grew up in the era where girls were not encouraged to play sports or dig into science or math. These areas, to this day, are ones I’m less confident in. Does this explain why our generation doesn’t include more female entrepreneurs, especially in tech and science industries? We see only 14 percent of engineers are women, and the statistics on women in tech are showing a decline, not an increase.

We can hope that with programs that encourage young girls to get involved in fields previously discouraged, such as Girls in Tech, the next generation of female entrepreneurs won’t even need to bring this question up.

It is my wish that as the number of female-run businesses rises, we will have less need to make a big deal about it. We can instead focus on growing our businesses and making more money, not the gender of the person running the company.

 

Do you think women entrepreneurs should be pointed out as unique? Why or why not? If you’re interested in learning more about Kabbage, visit our business loans for women page. 

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Kabbage Team

The Kabbage Team is here to not only fund the small business loans you need, but to help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.

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