Why Do Women Need Community
“Women-owned firms (51% or more) account for 31% of all privately held firms and contribute 14% of employment and 12% of revenues.” – NAWBO
“Today, on average, a woman earns 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, and women’s median annual earnings are $10,800 less than men’s”- Senate Joint Economic Committee Democratic Staff
“Even though females have higher education rates and work more than men in the same profession they still get paid less in America.” – Rainbo.org
“Women currently hold 28 (only 5.6%) of CEO positions at those S&P 500 companies.” – S&P 500 list
Women have made huge strides in the past twenty or thirty years, but as the statistics show above there is more to achieve and more obstacles to overcome. These challenges increase substantially for a woman business owner, as woman approach entrepreneurship differently than men in most cases. Why? Women have a different perspective in work/life balance, customer service, employee relationships, and usually with a greater focus on community and charity causes. Let’s explore woman’s contrasting views on entrepreneurship.
The Difference Between Men & Women Entrepreneurs
Some variables are the differing responsibilities in the family. One statistic says, “Caring for loved ones was also cited as a major challenge for female entrepreneurs. 66% of women found that these responsibilities influence their decision to start a business, versus only 27% of men,” (National Commission for the Promotion of Equality). In my case, planning for a family motivated me to start a home-based business, as I wanted to be home for my child and work my schedule around him.
Men and women approach problem-solving and business decisions differently as well. “Researchers found that 46% led on that women are thought to take a more cerebral approach to management, being more careful and taking the time to evaluate things before making crucial business decisions. Men, on the other hand, are perceived as more aggressive and make decisions considerably faster.” (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor). I have found this to be true in my experience as well, as I take each business decision as a project to be researched, pondered and carefully reviewed with a list of pros and cons. Woman too seek advice from those they know can contribute to the issue, those of experience or leaders in the field. Men may see asking for help or advice as a weakness, similar to asking for directions if they are lost.*
“Women-owned firms in the U.S. are more likely than all firms to offer flex-tie, tuition reimbursement and, at a smaller size, profit sharing to their workers.” – NAWBO
Also since women feel greater empathy by often placing themselves in others’ shoes, they are usually more compassionate in the way they handle employees and customers. Hence, they use more intuitive marketing strategies because the best marketer sees things through their customers’ eyes. Women more easily express their ideas or feelings, thus they may also excel as content creators which is a key aspect of content marketing and internet marketing.
“Women business owners are philanthropically active: seven in 10 volunteer at least once per month; 31% contribute $5,000 or more to charity annually; 15% give $10,000 or more. Women business owners are more likely than men to serve in leadership positions in their volunteer pursuits.” – Sparxoo
Women owned companies are more apt to give to local charities, support local economic development and give to local charities. They have a passion to help others succeed, especially women and children in crisis, as they understand that a healthy community in turn builds a healthy economy for their business to thrive in. Women are more apt to get involved in their local chamber, volunteer on local non-profit boards and committees to further the interests of small business owners and their customers. Many boards and committees I personally sit on are dominated by women.
We also have the same challenges in common as well. Many women will say they struggle in negotiations and selling themselves confidently; some struggle in financial record-keeping, budgeting, business organization and marketing. While they may have good intuition when hiring, some say they lack effective employee management skills. Some struggle with communication skills needed as a business leader to motivate their team without causing feelings of resentment. I have seen men and women equally struggle and excel in these various areas, but women will more easily express their failures or insecurities.
One thing is for sure, that women are outnumbered by men in business ownership, management and leaderships positions across the board, often resulting in being boxed in by various stereotypes and likewise being misunderstood by their male peers. This can be more prominent in certain regions of the country, where female business owners are in the single digit percentages. Women are supposed to be less vocal about their opinions or successes. If a man is outspoken and opinionated, he is deemed as “assertive or successful”, while a woman will be called a host of nefarious names if she speaks her mind among her male peers.
I have been told by male clients that I wouldn’t understand certain things because I am a woman. I have been discredited as a woman in a technical field, as some men assumed that I would understand the design but they assume I do not understand the development and functionality of a website. While the great majority of men I’ve worked with over the years have respected my skillsets and advice, it may have taken longer for some to build that trust in me and see beyond my gender. It’s unfortunate but it still happens in 2017.
For all of the above reasons, women need female mentors and peers to bolster their confidence, offer a listening ear when they need to vent and be a source of constructive and positive advice when needed. As we have unique challenges balancing our responsibilities in our business and in the family, sometimes only another woman in that position will truly understand, sympathize and have effective suggestions.
Where can Women find Community
Women business owners need to find other women business owners in their community, either through networking or business events, groups or workshops. They can also seek them out through word-of-mouth, local business directory listings through their city or chamber. Depending on the community you live in, it won’t be that difficult as women entrepreneurs usually also excel at networking and enjoy attending social events with fellow business owners. Getting out there at local business events will naturally lead to a growing database of other female business owners like yourself.
There are also membership groups exclusively for women and thus dedicated to promoting women in business. I recommend visiting these groups to find inspiration and that sense of community, but do research to verify that the members and the board are both aligned with your values and goals. Women-only groups may feel more comfortable for some women but get to know the members and board well to ensure their mission is focused on positive reinforcement and equality with an inclusive environment (thus preventing cliques, malicious chattiness and incited jealousy among the members). I also recommend attending general business and networking groups that are diverse in gender, age, race and industry, where you can learn from a wide variety of entrepreneurial men and women.
These membership-type groups usually offer an array of engaging guest speakers on topics that relate to business ownership including marketing, business management tools, time management and work/life balance. Take full advantage of all these groups have to offer including establishing relationships and partnerships within, joining a committee and volunteer opportunities. The more you get involved, the more apt you are to find the support of their community.
What to Look for when Building your Community
Women need to find people who they can trust, who have knowledge and experience, and who have your best interests at heart. There are many people out there that will admire you and your progress, will offer advice but do not have your best interests at heart. Jealousy among women is a common thread in our society unfortunately, and as your success grows you will see more of it from the people you least expect. For your business, your sanity and peace of mind, run from these people as far and as fast as you can because their ulterior motive is to tear you down so you feel as sad and low as they do.
Many business women here in our community in Central and especially Eastern Kentucky talk about the “who do you think you are” attitude from their family and childhood friends, once their career or business takes off. Why? When they see one of their peers exceed their expectations, it makes them feel less than and it also makes their reasons of why they couldn’t get ahead seem like what they are … thin, flimsy excuses. Your success makes them take a good look at who they are and their potential. In some cases, that may motivate them to find their passion, in others it creates bitter resentment.
Don’t hem yourself in to just people you know well, are from your local area, in your age group or in your particular industry. My greatest resources of support have been from people of all ages (young to old), male and female, and in a variety of fields. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, with their each set of skills, their own experiences and a unique perspective, thus each one has something to offer when it comes to building your business or helping you overcome obstacles. Keep your ears, ears and mind open. Get to know people outside your circle. Don’t confide too easily, but give the relationship time to develop trust and a genuine feeling of respect.
Find Mentors & Be a Mentor
When looking to build your community, find men and women who are not just your equals, but look also for mentors who have more experience and knowledge than you. Don’t let these industry leaders intimidate you, but learn from their examples, ask questions and humbly take their advice. There have been so many mentors I have learned from over the years who offered invaluable nuggets of information that I may not have appreciated at the moment, but learned over time the truth of their words. I am so grateful to all the voices of support, those who cheered me on and those who stepped in to offer help before I knew I needed it.
When you establish a level of success in business, it’s also as important to offer your lessons learned with others and become a mentor yourself. If you’ve made mistakes – share them, if you found effective strategies – share them, if you discovered valuable resources (books, blogs, groups or workshops) that helped your business grow – share them. “The greatest success we’ll know is helping others succeed and grow.” (Gregory Reid)
As your business evolves, so will your community. Don’t be afraid to let new people in, as they are new opportunities for growth. And don’t be afraid to let go of others, if they do not support your goals or try to tear you down when you reach them. Successful and happy entrepreneurs do not do it alone, but have a community of like-minded individuals behind them for support, knowledge and encouragement. Find yours today.
*I realize making generalizations about gender do not apply in all cases and there are always exceptions to every rule, gender or otherwise.