Why Women Need to Stop Being So Hard on Themselves When Starting a Business
Starting a business is a challenging yet rewarding endeavor that requires determination, passion, and perseverance. However, for many women, the prospect of starting their own business can be intimidating and overwhelming, leading them to be unnecessarily hard on themselves.
As a result, many women tend to downplay their accomplishments, underestimate their abilities, and doubt their potential for success. The truth is, women have a unique set of skills, experiences, and perspectives that make them well-suited for entrepreneurship.
Despite this, according to the Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey, women-owned firms made up only 19.9% of all firms that employed people in the United States in 2018, but their numbers are growing. It’s time for women to stop being so hard on themselves and realize that they have what it takes to succeed in business.
In this blog post, we’ll look at barriers faced by female entrepreneurs, why they should give themselves more credit, and strategies for overcoming self-doubt in order to launch and expand profitable businesses.
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6 Barriers for Women Entrepreneurs
Historically, women have been expected to assume caregiving and nurturing roles in both the family and the community. This traditional gendered division of labor can be traced back to early agrarian societies, where men were primarily responsible for hunting and providing resources, while women managed the household and cared for children. These roles have been reinforced through cultural norms, religious beliefs, and education systems, perpetuating stereotypes that continue to impact women’s entrepreneurial aspirations.
These societal expectations can create psychological barriers for women considering starting a business, as they may feel pressure to conform to traditional roles and prioritize family responsibilities over their professional ambitions. Additionally, these beliefs can lead to a lack of confidence, as women may internalize the notion that they lack the skills or resources necessary to succeed in the business world. This can manifest in lower levels of risk-taking and a reluctance to pursue opportunities that may be deemed unconventional or disruptive.
Moreover, these expectations can influence the external environment, resulting in fewer resources, support, and opportunities for women entrepreneurs. This may include reduced access to capital, as investors may be less inclined to back women-led ventures due to gender biases. Additionally, women may have fewer networking opportunities and encounter gender discrimination in male-dominated industries, making it more challenging to establish and grow a business.
To overcome these barriers, it is essential for women to challenge societal expectations and redefine their paths to success. By embracing their entrepreneurial ambitions, women can demonstrate that traditional gender roles no longer dictate their potential. To achieve this, women should focus on:
- building self-confidence and resilience
- actively seeking out resources and support networks to help them navigate the entrepreneurial journey
Education and mentorship programs can play a vital role in equipping women with the skills, knowledge, and networks required to succeed in business. By connecting with like-minded peers and experienced mentors, women can learn from others who have faced similar challenges and gain insights into overcoming obstacles.
Perfectionism, often perceived as the relentless pursuit of high standards and flawless execution, can be a double-edged sword for aspiring women entrepreneurs. While it may drive them to excel in their professional endeavors, it can also hinder their willingness to take the plunge and start a business. By understanding the impact of perfectionism and reframing it as a strength, women can harness its potential to fuel their entrepreneurial success.
Women are often socialized to be more cautious and risk-averse than men, and this heightened sense of responsibility can manifest as perfectionism. The fear of failure or criticism can deter women from pursuing their entrepreneurial aspirations, as they may believe that every aspect of their business must be impeccable before launching. This quest for perfection can lead to analysis paralysis, where women become stuck in an endless cycle of planning and research, never making the leap to start their business.
For instance, consider the case of a talented graphic designer who dreams of starting her own design agency. She may be hesitant to launch her business until she feels she has perfected her portfolio, website, and marketing strategy. This pursuit of perfection can delay her entry into the market and potentially cause her to miss out on valuable opportunities.
Another example might be a woman with an innovative product idea who feels that her prototype must be flawless before approaching investors. This mindset can lead to a longer development timeline, increasing costs, and allowing competitors to gain a foothold in the market.
While perfectionism can present challenges, it can also be reframed as a strength that can benefit women entrepreneurs. By focusing on progress rather than perfection, women can harness their attention to detail, commitment to quality, and drive for excellence to create competitive advantages in the marketplace. This mindset shift can enable them to make more informed decisions, build stronger customer relationships, and foster a culture of continuous improvement within their businesses.
Women who want to succeed in business should adopt a growth mentality and see their journey as a series of iterations and learning opportunities. Women can develop resilience and become more successful corporate leaders by embracing the idea of “failing forward” and learning from failures.
For women considering launching a business, imposter syndrome, a psychological condition marked by persistent feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, can be a major roadblock. This internalized belief that one’s accomplishments are undeserved or attributed to luck, rather than skill, can undermine women’s confidence in their abilities and deter them from pursuing entrepreneurial ventures.
By understanding the impact of imposter syndrome and implementing strategies for overcoming it, women can build the self-assurance necessary to embark on their entrepreneurial journey. Imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent among women, as they may face unique challenges in traditionally male-dominated industries, including gender biases, discrimination, and a lack of representation. These factors can exacerbate feelings of self-doubt and contribute to a sense of not belonging or being “found out” as frauds.
Consequently, women may hesitate to start a business or seek out opportunities for fear of being judged or criticized. In our previous blog, “Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Strategies for Confidence-Building as a Female Entrepreneur,” we highlighted several actionable steps women can take to combat imposter syndrome and develop greater self-assurance in their entrepreneurial capabilities.
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Comparing oneself to others and doing so can be a huge barrier for women who want to establish their own businesses. Insecurity and feelings of inadequacy may be the root of this propensity to compare successes, abilities, and accomplishments, which ultimately discourages women from pursuing their business aspirations.
Women can develop the self-assurance required to start their own businesses by understanding the effects of comparison and putting tactics in place to combat it. Insecurity can fuel the desire to seek validation and approval from others, often leading to an unhealthy focus on comparison. In the context of entrepreneurship, this can manifest as women constantly measuring their progress, ideas, or abilities against those of their peers or competitors.
This comparison can create a sense of inferiority and self-doubt, causing women to hesitate in pursuing their business aspirations, fearing that they may not measure up to others in the industry.
How can you overcome this?
To counteract the negative effects of comparison, women can adopt several strategies that promote self-confidence and foster a more empowering mindset:
- Recognize and Challenge Comparison: When the tendency to compare arises, acknowledge it and challenge the thoughts associated with it. Remind yourself that everyone’s journey is unique, and comparisons often overlook the distinct qualities and strengths each individual brings to the table.
- Focus on Personal Growth: Shift the focus from external comparisons to personal growth and development. By setting clear goals and tracking progress, women can concentrate on their own achievements, celebrating their milestones and fostering a sense of accomplishment.
- Cultivate Gratitude: Practice gratitude by regularly reflecting on the positive aspects of your life and business. This can help to create a more optimistic outlook and promote a greater sense of self-worth.
- Seek Inspiration, Not Comparison: View the success of others as a source of inspiration and motivation, rather than a benchmark for comparison. Learn from their experiences, and use their achievements to fuel your own entrepreneurial aspirations.
- Build a Supportive Network: Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who encourage and uplift one another. By engaging in a supportive community, women can foster an environment that celebrates collective success and discourages unhealthy comparison.
Comparison can be a significant barrier for women considering starting a business, but by implementing these strategies, they can overcome this obstacle and build the confidence needed to succeed as entrepreneurs. As women embrace their unique strengths and focus on personal growth, they pave the way for a more diverse and inclusive business landscape, empowering future generations to follow in their footsteps.
Balancing Work and Personal Life
One of the primary reasons why women may feel hesitant about starting a business is the immense pressure to juggle multiple roles. Women often bear the brunt of family responsibilities, such as caring for children and elderly relatives, managing household chores, and maintaining relationships. Adding the responsibility of starting and running a business to this mix can make it difficult for women to find the time and energy to devote to their entrepreneurial aspirations.
Finally, women may worry about the impact that starting a business may have on their mental and physical well-being. Long hours, financial stress, and the uncertainty that comes with entrepreneurship can take a toll on one’s health, and the fear of not being able to maintain a healthy work-life balance might be enough to dissuade some women from taking the leap.
However, it is important to remember that achieving a healthy work-life balance is possible for female entrepreneurs. I have addressed this concern in my blog, “Balancing Priorities: Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance as a Female Business Owner.” In this blog, I provide practical advice on managing personal and professional obligations, including setting boundaries, delegating tasks, and making self-care a priority.
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Despite the growing number of successful women entrepreneurs, there remains a significant gender gap in terms of representation and visibility in various industries. This can make it difficult for aspiring female entrepreneurs to find role models, mentors, and supportive networks.
Limited representation occurs when the majority of industry leaders, business owners, and successful entrepreneurs are predominantly male. This imbalance can create a skewed perception of what an entrepreneur looks like, which can lead to women doubting their abilities and questioning if they have what it takes to succeed in the business world.
For example, in the technology and finance industries, where men often hold the majority of leadership positions, women may feel intimidated or unwelcome, discouraging them from pursuing entrepreneurial ventures in these fields.
Moreover, limited representation can manifest in various ways, such as:
- a lack of media coverage of successful women entrepreneurs
- a scarcity of resources specifically designed for female business owners
This lack of exposure and support can make it challenging for women to envision themselves as successful entrepreneurs and may lead to feelings of isolation or inadequacy. However, limited representation should not be a reason for women to shy away from entrepreneurship.
Instead, it should serve as a motivation to break the mold and pave the way for future generations of women business owners. Here are some solutions to help overcome this barrier:
- Seek out role models and mentors: Actively search for successful women entrepreneurs in your industry or community who can provide guidance, advice, and inspiration. Engaging in mentorship relationships can help build confidence and provide invaluable insights into the world of entrepreneurship.
- Join networking groups and professional organizations: Connect with like-minded women entrepreneurs through networking events, professional organizations, or online forums. Building a support system of fellow female business owners can help overcome feelings of isolation and provide encouragement during challenging times.
- Share your own success story: As you build your business, share your journey and successes with others. By doing so, you’ll not only inspire other women to pursue entrepreneurship but also contribute to a more diverse and inclusive representation of business owners.
Advocate for change: Use your voice to raise awareness about the importance of supporting women entrepreneurs and closing the gender gap in the business world. This can include advocating for policies that promote gender equality or supporting initiatives that provide resources and opportunities for female entrepreneurs.
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Why Should You Stop Being So Hard on Yourself?
Starting a business can be a daunting task. The pressure to succeed, juggle multiple responsibilities, and meet societal expectations can lead to feelings of self-doubt, guilt, and anxiety. However, it is important for women to stop being so hard on themselves and focus on overcoming the challenges they face.
We are often our own worst critics, but we must learn to be kinder to ourselves. We should celebrate our successes and learn from our failures, rather than dwelling on our mistakes. We must also recognize that we cannot do everything ourselves and that it is okay to delegate tasks and ask for help.
Here are some tips for women to avoid being hard on themselves when starting a business:
Delegate Tasks and Focus on the Big Picture
One of the biggest challenges women face when starting a business is the tendency to take on too much themselves. Women often personalize their businesses and tasks to such an extent that they feel no one can do them as well as they can. This can lead to feelings of overwhelm, stress, and burnout.
To avoid this, it is essential to delegate tasks and focus on the big picture. Identify tasks that can be outsourced or delegated to others and free up your time to focus on the strategic aspects of your business. Remember that delegating tasks does not mean that you are relinquishing control; it means that you are freeing up your time to focus on the things that matter the most.
Manage Your Time Effectively
Time management is crucial when starting a business, especially for women who often juggle multiple responsibilities. Women still tend to handle the bulk of household responsibilities, which takes valuable time away from investing in their business. To manage your time effectively, it is important to prioritize your tasks, set realistic goals, and avoid overcommitting yourself.
Create a schedule and stick to it as much as possible, but be flexible enough to adjust your schedule when unexpected events arise. Remember that it is okay to say no and set boundaries to protect your time.
Remain True to Yourself and Find Your Own Voice
The pressure to meet social norms and preconceptions is one of the main obstacles women in business confront. Women are often expected to be nurturing, empathetic, and collaborative, while men are expected to be competitive, assertive, and dominant.
However, successful female CEOs believe that remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived notions of how women should behave in business. Do not be afraid to be yourself and bring your unique perspective and strengths to the table. Surround yourself with a supportive network of people who believe in you and your vision.
Overcome Social Expectations
Women entrepreneurs may feel as though they need to adopt a stereotypically “male” attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive, and sometimes harsh. However, successful female CEOs have shown that women do not need to conform to these expectations to be successful.
Instead, focus on your strengths and use them to your advantage. Women have unique qualities such as empathy, collaboration, and communication skills that can be powerful assets in business. Do not be afraid to use these qualities to build meaningful relationships and drive success.
Dress for Your Success
While it may seem superficial, there is a correlation between how you dress and how you feel. The clothes you wear can have a positive impact on your confidence, which is crucial when starting a business.
Everyone should own at least one piece of power clothing, something that when you put it on, you instantly feel good about yourself. This could be a tailored blazer, a statement necklace, or a pair of killer heels. Whatever it is, make sure it makes you feel confident, empowered, and ready to take on the world.
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It’s important for women to remember that they are not alone in this journey. There are many women who have gone before them and have succeeded in building successful businesses. By embracing their unique strengths and perspectives, and surrounding themselves with a supportive network of people who believe in them and their vision, women can overcome self-doubt and achieve their full potential.
So to all the women out there who are starting a business or thinking about it, believe in yourself, embrace your strengths, and don’t be too hard on yourself. You are capable of achieving your dreams and making your business a success.
Go out there and show the world what you’re made of!
Hoping this article finds you well, and as always we love to hear from you in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
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