The Frustrating Struggles Of Women Entrepreneurs
I am not personally an entrepreneur but I’ve been lucky enough to be friends with several incredible female entrepreneurs and hearing about their experiences has been inspiring but also rather frustrating. I hate to admit that I even have my own biases. I don’t want them to be there, but when I know that a woman is an entrepreneur, I do begin to wonder, “Is that hard for her? Do men in her industry take her seriously?” I am already imagining all of the particular obstacles female entrepreneurs face, just because of their gender. When you work for a corporation, you have systems in place that protect you (or at least should). There is employee training on sexual harassment. There is a human resources department. But when you’re an entrepreneur, you are the human resources department. You are the payroll department. It’s all you. Here are particular struggles female entrepreneurs face.
Networking is mistaken for flirting
Handing out a card to a potential business contact or asking a male contact for business drinks is misinterpreted as flirting a lot of the time. At the very least, there is the question in the air—he is wondering if there is anything more to this interaction. And the woman has to choose her words and actions based on that unspoken question.
But talking just business is “rude”
The one way to get around any confusion is to be extremely rigid, professional, and speak of nothing but business. You don’t talk about hobbies or the weather or favorite restaurants. But only talking business is misinterpreted as rude and cold.
Being told to sell sex
Anyone you consult with, from a website designer to a straight up business consultant hints at the fact that you should sell sex a little. Whether it’s suggesting you smile more in your photos, wear something “more flattering,” or have a more playful demeanor in marketing videos, they want you to sell the fact that you’re female. Nobody tells men to do that.
Striking that perfect balance in photos
When it comes to promotional images like those for website banners, billboards, or other ads, you have to think meticulously about how you’ll appear. You know that showing just X amount of skin gives the wrong impression. But wearing a turtleneck and loose suit also sends a weird signal. Again, these are not things men have to think about. A perfectly attractive man in a fitted suit can put his image on a billboard and nobody says, “Is he selling real estate or himself?” But people make those comments about female entrepreneurs based on the slightest physical detail.
Those who mock the word “entrepreneur”
Unfortunately, there are a lot of women who misuse the term entrepreneur. I am well aware that this may bring in some verbal lashing but, Instagram models are not entrepreneurs. Those participating in pyramid schemes are not entrepreneurs. But because of the prevalence of such women calling themselves that, true female entrepreneurs face people who don’t take them seriously.
Criticism over work-life balance
If a woman can’t make it to every happy hour with her friends or every girls’ trip due to work, she stops getting the invites. If she has to work through dinner hours, leaving her husband and family to feed themselves, she’s called a bad partner/mom. If a man does any of that he’s called…hard working.
It is sad, infuriating, and messed up, but people often think they can give women less money. They think women won’t argue as much. So female entrepreneurs deal with this all of the time when setting their rates and telling new clients what they’ll need to pay. While associates may be used to women handling money talks a certain way, that doesn’t mean all women do—but it’s a bias female entrepreneurs face.
There just aren’t that many
Many of my female friends say that they just struggle to find a good support system. Because there simply are, statistically speaking, more male entrepreneurs than female ones, there are even fewer female entrepreneurs who my friends want to spend time with. It’s just hard for them to curate a wonderful group of female entrepreneur friends.
Self-promotion is seen as aggressive
When a woman promotes her business, she’s seen as aggressive. People can say it’s inappropriate if she tries to network at a social event like a wedding. Nobody thinks that when a man does it. Nobody calls a man cocky or self-important for simply pushing his business when he sees an opportunity to do so.
But self-promotion is the only way
Of course, the only way to move forward is to self-promote. So many of my female entrepreneur friends have just accepted that a lot of social contacts just won’t like them because they see them as pushy. But they just have to live with it, because they aren’t going to back down just to be liked.
You must work harder to demand employee respect
Sadly, employees tend to try to get away with more when they have a female boss. This is especially true the more male-dominated the industry is, like the restaurant one. Female bosses need to be especially firm if their employees are going to respect them.
You have something to prove
Even though they don’t want to have to prove anything, my female entrepreneur friends say they are hyper aware of this pressure to do well for all women out there. They know people (often men) expect them to fail, so they work hard not just to make it for themselves, but to prove others wrong. They wish it didn’t have to be that way.
Everyone assumes you’re the receptionist
My friends have countless stories of people calling their business, assuming they’re the receptionist, and asking if the boss is in. Or people walking into their business and asking to speak to the owner when they already are.
Conferences can be a boy fest
Conventions and conferences tend to be total boys’ fests. Never does one of my boss lady friends come back from a weekend conference without stories of men who were just trying to pick her up all weekend. She spent half her time avoiding the predator. That’s just something women put up with when they go out and try to further their careers by attending a conference.
Handling all of this without losing your sh*t
Finally, female entrepreneurs can become (understandably so) irritated that on top of just thinking about doing a good job and creating a great product/service, they have to think about all the other nonsense on this list. Men just get to think about doing their job, and not where their gender comes into play.