Challenges Facing Women Entrepreneurs

United States of America


This past summer, I was privileged to participate in founder development programme The Next 36, working on a tech startup called AccessNow, a mobile and web platform that crowdsources accessibility information for people with disabilities. The Next 36 is Canadian-based and combines classes taught by professors at Wharton, MIT Sloan, Rotman and Harvard Business School, with access to capital and CEO-level mentorship. Students and recent graduates, selected from around 1,000 applicants, were invited to form teams and choose their co-founders. Of the 51 participants in the programme, only 12 were women and only two of those 12 were engineers. We had various women's nights, in which we discussed the challenges and opportunities of being women in the tech industry. Here are a few of the obstacles facing women entrepreneurs:

Gender discrimination

Women are often negatively perceived when they demonstrate “founder” qualities: competitiveness, confidence, a willingness to take risks, and aggression. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In initiative states, "When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a 'leader.' Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded 'bossy.'"

These negative cultural perceptions of women owning their own business can carry over, making it more difficult for women to gain social acceptance and participate in male-dominated events. Many of my peers also commented that they wanted to be recognized for their accomplishments as "entrepreneurs," not constantly labelled as a “women entrepreneurs.” Additionally, a survey co-authored by venture capitalist Trae Vassallo found that 60 % of women in Silicon Valley experience harassment.

Access to capital

It is a challenge for women to acquire significant amounts of capital in order to build billion-dollar businesses. A Babson College report in 2014 found that only 3 % of venture capital-funded companies were led by women. This gender disparity translates into the venture capital industry, where only 6 % of partners are women. The venture capital industry involves a lot of networking, which makes it harder for women to enter if they do not have pre-existing connections. Since venture capital firms usually make follow-on investments, it is difficult to get subsequent funding without initial seed funding.

Lack of women role models

These obstacles perpetuate the cycle of aspiring entrepreneurs not having women mentors and role models who can guide their decision-making and who have overcome the barriers they are encountering. Inc magazine found that 48 % of women said the lack of women advisers was a hindrance in building a company.

How might one surmount these obstacles as a woman in business? A few suggestions include attending women networking events, reaching out to women founders to solicit their advice, and engaging incubators, accelerators and funds in dialogue on women’s empowerment. As a society, there is also a need for greater women representation in leadership positions in tech and finance in order to make the tumultuous career path of entrepreneurship more accessible to talented and ambitious women.

 

Photographer & Videographer Credit: Courtesy of Leah Davidson
  • You must be logged in to post a comment
Please enter a comment
  • caroline nyakeri
    This article is spot on on the issues women in enterprenuership face regardless of size of business engaged in. As you have aptly put it, in Kenya too women face discrimination, insuffecient funds and role models. Another drawback here is limited or no education include skills training, digital and financial literacy. This impacts on especially rural women that then have lack of confidence or courage to even venture into the general work force or start up enterprises now that in the 21st century things and people are moving quite faster even for the literate.
    Here Vocational skills training, financial and digital literacy as well as life skills are necessary to close this gender gap as women have great potential and tenacity to succeed once they embark on anything.
  • Scholastica Njozi
    Thank you for sharing this, I have learnt enough and given the way forward on fighting gender gap in our society here in Tanzania

    Scholastica Njozi
  • Asabe Shehu Yar'Adua
    Women face the same challenges all over the world but it's more terrible in sub-sahara Africa.The greastest challenges women face are;

    Mentorship

    Asses to capital

    Social stigma from men and society

    Lack of Exposure

    Lack of motivation

    Sexual harresment from men

    Stiff competition fron men
    2 of 2 Replies
  • Uzoma Katchy
    This isca nice work . However there are different challenges for different women in different  societies.
    In Nigeria,  as an Entrepreneur, our greatest Challenge is Power.
    Lack of Access to Finance. 
    Challenge of Financial Literacy
    Challenge of Working Tools
    Challenge of good Artisans
    Cultural and Traditional Biases.
    In order to surmount  these obstacles, Creativity, Collaboration,  Innovation, Networking and Problem Solving  Skills  should be imbibed. 
    This is where 21st Century Skills Come in to  play. 
    • Scholastica Njozi
      I support you dear adding to that is lack of market to their products is another obstacles

      Scholastica Njozi
    1 of 1 Replies
  • veronica portugal
    I agree, its an article that goes to the point. I consider that its true that women are branded as bossy but there are still women that dont know how to face a leadership position
  • Ajibola Mujidat Oladejo
    Challenges and solutions to women entepreneurship succintly put. Thanks for sharing.
6 of 6 comments