For more than half my life now, I have worked in careers that have been extremely male dominated. My first company, an insurance agency, I started 20+ years ago when there were very few female agents. Even today, I am one of only two female principals in a nationwide consulting company. That is a trend that I am happy to say is changing. According to research done by The Content Factory, by the year 2018, over half of small businesses will be run by female entrepreneurs. Is that not just an awesome statistic, or what!
We are BRILLIANT
Females are starting businesses at 1.5 times the average rate in the United States according to Inc.com. This is an incredible figure, but not surprising if you are out and about in the business world today. I do a lot of networking to meet business owners (both male and female), and there has been a steady rising trend of women networkers. Ten years ago, more often than not when I walked into a room, I was the only female. I used to make jokes about interrupting the boys club. While most were inviting and just laughed at my joke, there would be those few giving looks like I didn’t belong.
Women today are being true to the word entrepreneur. They are looking at the existing markets and either creating new markets completely or finding ways to put a new spin on the old. They are finding the opportunities and running with them.
We are BRAVE
It takes a lot of guts to start your own company. Most have what it takes but may get lost in the process if things don’t go as expected. Some of the early stages of business can be overwhelming if you are not prepared. It is important to have a plan and stick to it. Then it takes some patience, determination and the ability to adjust when things are not working. Don’t be afraid to take chances. The fact of the matter is, you will make mistakes. You will make the wrong decisions from time to time. Business is a lot like life in that regard. Making the mistake doesn’t matter, it’s how you deal with the mistake that defines what will happen. Believe me, you learn a lot more from your mistakes than your successes. I personally don’t make mistakes anymore, I just have learning experiences. The key is to learn from what didn’t work so you can get it right the next time. So, the question is, “How do I do that?”
Now it’s time to be BOLD
There are many double standards that still exist in the world today and business is no different. Women were not exactly invited to the party, we just crashed it. While we have made a mark for ourselves, we still face a lot of resistance at times, especially in certainly industries. Business may have been the boys club but we are here to stay. I work with a number of female business owners in my mastermind groups, and here are just a few areas that I have noticed that we may want to pay particular attention to moving forward:
1. Know your worth, and ask for it! – This is a big one and one that I have been completely guilt of in the past. To this day, I have to be careful not to fall into this trap. We often discount ourselves in hopes of being able to pick up business. However, it can often have the opposite effect. When we discount, those looking at our services could feel that we have a less superior product or less to offer because it is cheaper. Know your worth and don’t be afraid to ask. You have the skills just like someone else in your field and therefore should be paid just like everyone else.
2. Know your own bias as a female. – I saw a TEDx talk awhile back titled, “Are you biased? I am” that was given by Kristen Pressner. I remember when I saw the title, I laughed and said, “I’m a woman. I would never be biased toward women leaders.” After watching it, I realized I needed to become much more aware of assumptions I was making and even my own decisions. We are a product of our surroundings and how we have been raised. Our brains often make decisions based on patterns and shortcuts. Some of these biases may already exist within us and therefore when asked to make certain decisions, we may be unaware that we are not thinking them all the way through. We are using those shortcuts that exist within us, and not taking all factors into consideration. As Kristen Pressner talks about in the talk, we all have characteristics that we associate with both men and women. Men are generally looked at as providers while women are thought of as caregivers. While that may be true a lot of the time, it is not always that way. I challenge women to watch this talk and take a closer look at themselves.
3. Ask for help! It seems that most feel that help is a four-letter word. The fact of the matter is, we all need help. You can’t be expected to know everything and do everything. It’s not possible. Marsha Firestone, Ph.D. and President of WPO (Women Presidents’ Organization) said, “Entrepreneurs learn best from each other.” We should all have advisers, mentors, coaches even friends and family that we can lean on. Peer advisory groups or mastermind groups are great ways for entrepreneurs to find this guidance. These groups are made up of like-minded people working through challenges, gaining fresh perspectives, holding one another accountable and even helping each other with growth strategies. Being an entrepreneur can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Don’t fear the hard questions. Those are the questions that will push you forward. You will be afraid at times in the process. If you aren’t, you’re probably playing it too safe. It’s all about balance. You have to take risks in business, but it doesn’t mean you have to blow the top off either. You will fail, but that doesn’t mean you quit. You just figure out what didn’t work, fix it and move forward. Find your balance and ask those around you for help.
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” – Mary Anne Radmacher
The bottom line is … we are Brilliant, we are Brave and WE ARE BOLD!