Women Business Owners Are Skilled and Educated, So What Is Holding Them Back?
Over the past decade, women have been starting businesses at more than double the rate of men.
More than 300 000 businesses in Australia are founded by mums who are driven by a desire for more meaningful and flexible work arrangements. These women are highly skilled and highly educated with ABS data stating that women are more likely to hold a Diploma, Degree or Post Graduate qualification than men. Yet despite this, the success of women in business is not reflective in these statistics.
Why do skilled and educated women so often not succeed in business?
I believe there are five key challenges holding women back:
Many women lack confidence in business. From my experience of working with more than fifty mums in business, I see that this is far more prevalent in mum led businesses where women have taken a career break after the birth of a child. During the enormous transition into motherhood, they are traversing a very different landscape which can result in a drop in confidence. I have witnessed this time and time again with the business woman I coach.
Women are less likely to seek finance and back themselves in business. Last year at an International Women’s Day event at R&mpersand, a Melbourne-based Venture Capital fund, I heard from their Investment Manager, Eloise, who shared that there was a real lack of pitches being received from women. I believe this is because generally speaking, women are more risk-averse than men. Mothers caring for children are mitigating risk with their young children all day long. They are innately trained to reduce the risk and ‘stay safe’. I believe that this results in them bootstrapping over seeking finance and investor support than their male counterparts.
Everyone needs support in business, particularly in their first few years of business. Whilst there has been enormous work in improving mentoring for women in business over the past five years, there still exists a lack of access to experienced female mentors. Whilst I am very encouraged by some of the women-only programs which assist female business owners, more still needs to be done for women to enjoy the same level of success as men. I know this: when I started my first business six years ago in Perth, I experienced difficulty in finding suitable female mentors.
4. Family commitments.
In the past year, I have coached more than forty women business owners. These were all mums with the majority being the primary carer of their children. They have an enormous workload and are incredibly stretched. They are, without exception, incredibly passionate about their business but struggle to drive growth. They do not always have the money to afford full-time care for their children, and many look to juggle the demands of parenthood and business until the business has grown enough to afford childcare. It can be a recipe for disappointment and sets up many mothers for business failure.
5. Not thinking big.
I’ve heard many women being cautious in their vision for their business. Many women are happy to be behind the scenes, working their butts off, acting as the engine room of the business. They are often not front and centre representing their business. I frequently observe women-led business owners thinking small. There seems to be a reluctance to share their true vision as it might make them appear arrogant or thinking they are particularly important, so it is not being communicated to their target audience. Women aren’t thinking big enough. They need to feel safe to share their greater vision, and they need to be encouraged and supported to achieve this.
Women face many challenges in achieving success in business. This list is by no means exhaustive nor does it reflect every business. It lists my observations I have made over the past six years running my own businesses.
I am committed to helping more women, particularly mothers, achieve greater business success and this awareness is a start to change.
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