It's hard to believe that less than a hundred years ago, women still didn't have the right to vote.
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Today, there are 9.1 million female-owned businesses in the U.S. employing more than 27.5 million people. Even so, female entrepreneurs continue to face some unique challenges in business ownership. If you are a female entrepreneur, here are some tips to help you overcome those challenges and leave your mark in business.
Right or wrong, the perception among many male entrepreneurs is that their female counterparts are risk-averse, an apparent contradiction in a field where risk is virtually a prerequisite for success. Although you should never make a decision to simply prove your willingness to risk it all on a great idea, don't be afraid to lay it on the line for something you believe in.
Many female entrepreneurs report that the primary hurdle they have been forced to overcome is self-doubt. Business has traditionally been a male-dominated domain and it's not unusual for female business owners to feel unprepared to meet the challenges of business ownership. The problem is that other people - your employees, strategic partners, competitors - can pick up on your self-doubt and exploit it as a weakness. That's why it's absolutely crucial to model confidence in every situation, even if you don't feel overly-confident on the inside.
Do Your Homework
Unfortunately, women entrepreneurs still encounter people who doubt their abilities for gender-based reasons. If you haven't done your homework by thoroughly researching the products, strategies, and issues you are discussing, you provide ammunition for the doubters. However, if you know your stuff down pat, you will eliminate any doubts about your business acumen and establish yourself as a competent and qualified woman in business.
Many female entrepreneurs start their companies as side businesses out of their homes, playing the dual role of part-time business owner, part-time homemaker. A successful business is important, but so are your commitments to your family. If the commitments of business ownership exceed your comfort level, examine the situation and re-shift your focus to achieve a balance you and your family can live with. In some cases, that might mean re-sizing the business to a more manageable level or even hiring additional staff to free up time for things that are more important at home.
Female entrepreneurs especially benefit from mentoring relationships with more experienced colleagues. By enlisting the advice of a more seasoned female business owner, you tap into a wealth of information that has already been field-tested and proven effective. Conversely, once you have established yourself in business it is your responsibility to pass your knowledge on to other female entrepreneurs who are just starting out.