Tweak Your Biz

Home » Management » What Do Women Need to Start A Business?

What Do Women Need to Start A Business?

Every now and then, I run across a theme in conversations everywhere I go. It all started last week with a conversation with Judy Gombita and Judy Yi about women and identity. For the rest of the week, the theme morphed into the roles of women in business. It’s an understatement to write that gender roles are in flux and probably spurred by the global recession.

For women in emerging economies, it is often about being able to provide survival needs and more. For women in more developed economies, it may have been a necessity to bring more money for the family or being made redundant and timing was right to go for their dreams. Two interesting questions arise: 1) is there something all women business owners need? and 2) what do they need the most?

Are all women who lead businesses entrepreneurs?

There  is a distinction between women business owners and entrepreneurs. Tony Falkenstein said it best in the GEM 2010 report, “the definition of entrepreneurship tends to be a moving target-even the teaching of entrepreneurship causes confusion in the definition. To start a business does not necessarily make you an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs ‘create needs’; business people ‘satisfy needs’ “.

It isn’t that one is better than the other. It’s probably better to see them as a yin and yang of the business world.They both have the desire to create a successful venture. The woman who creates the sideline of making jewelry has as much validity as the woman who sees how an innovation will change the world (think roboticist Helen Greiner).

But what’s missing?

There are still competing attitudes about what women “ought” to be doing. There are always people who have more traditional ideas about gender roles. There are some who believe that you cannot have a full life (family, hobbies and fulfilling work) if you are a business owner. These attitudes are challenging for women who see themselves as both talented individuals and in relationship with others.

Consistent access to funding is missing. It is a well known story in venture capital circles that the money tends to follow people (read:  men) who have an established  track record and are known the the investors already. The good news is that things are changing for the better. There is a tendency among women to discount their ability to obtain a business loan from a bank for their startup or later stage business.

There may even be a lack of knowledge about the different types of funding women entrepreneurs and business owners are eligible for. Granted these are two very brief examples but in a recent article in Business &  Leadership, Irish Minister For Small Business John Perry TD was quoted saying, “It is therefore vitally important that we provide the right environment to foster the development of this untapped female entrepreneurial talent across all sectors of Irish business.”

An interesting question

According to the GEM 2010 report, women entrepreneurs were less active than their male counterparts across the globe. What changed from the GEM 2007 report to 2010? Perhaps the recession had a greater impact on women-owned businesses? Was there something that happened socially?

However, Perry asked something that needs to be answered. What are the three most important issues affecting women entrepreneurs? We all lose if part of our society is not able to act on their aspirations and talents. There is growing data that identifies that women in leadership roles of companies have a very positive effect on the bottom line. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if a woman considers herself and entrepreneur or a business owner. It does matter if she can move her business beyond small and into the model she has been imagining all along.

What do you believe are the issues affecting women entrepreneurs and business owners?


Growing a business locally or internationally takes a different mindset; the CEO Mindset. Elli St.George-Godfrey, a behavioral economics coach, international expansion consultant and founder of Ability Success Growth, uses her 3 Keys Coaching process to help business owners and executives in the US, Ireland and Northern Ireland to unlock the CEO within. Under her guidance, personal styles are fine-tuned allowing the senior leader to “authentically inhabit” the role of CEO and collaborate with their team more effectively. With this focus on both the people and the organization in which they work, Elli’s market-proven coaching helps leaders and their teams develop styles and capabilities which enables them to collaborate and effectively join together to optimize the business outcomes.

Similar Articles
  • Hi Elli, interesting post and one that I’m sure will encourage moreu00a0qualified opinion than mine.I believe the starting point is not with how women are viewed/treated in the workplace but in how men are viewed at home, in other words an imbalance will alwaysu00a0exist outside of the home so long as society tolerates imbalance in the home. For instance, there was an opportunity here in Ireland after the last general election to appoint a maleu00a0ministeru00a0for children which would have sent a new message, but we missed it! u00a0u00a0u00a0u00a0

  • Hi Elli, Great Topic!!! u00a0I’ve been involved in a new initiative in Waterford City called FAB (Females at Business) this programme is to help women in business who might be thinking of starting a business or who has just started one but not sure where to go next. u00a0It is a programme that takes them through the whole process from Idea Generation to getting them started to giving them full support when they’re up and running, but it’s run on a voluntary basis by established business owners and this is where the support comes from. u00a0It was very interesting in the beginning as 100 people turned up for the opening day, a good 60 of them applied for the programme, but it was felt that the majority of women don’t start a business because of a lack of belief in themselves to be able to do it! Once they had the support and knew there was always someone on the other end of a phone they could call for help they were raring to go!nnWe had 15 very successful businesses established from the programme and are now entering into year 2 of it. u00a0I think people need support and know they can pick up the phone and speak to a person who will help them whatever the problem is or if the person on the other end of the phone can’t help them, they can put them in touch with someone who can. u00a0As well as a nurtured belief that they can do it and it doesn’t take a special ‘talent or gift’ it just takes a bit of work!

  • Eibhlin Curley

    In my opinon Confidence, Role models, Mentors

  • I totally agree with your point Niall,u00a0but in the overall balance of male to female members of the Dail does it really matter whether the Minister is male or female they should be qualified to do the job and have the interests of us the citizens at heart.

  • I take your point but I think it’s about leadership for me, appointing a man as minister for children would have sent a new message, I accept it’s a symbolic gesture mainly but I thinks it would have been effective in that media would have picked up on it and it would have created a conversation that would lead to real change. u00a0

  • Derbhile

    The myth that they can have it all.

  • Anonymous

    Samantha,nnFAB sounds fabulous! Women do seem to have a different approach to how they start off. Having support is a key piece for many women business owners.u00a0

  • Anonymous

    Derbhile,nnA wise woman business owner once told me that you can’t have it all at once but you choose what you do have. Running a business is both a choice and a series of choices. The wrong myths can erode our confidence.u00a0

  • Interesting topic Elli. Lots of questions there. In relation to the difference between the 2007 and 2010 GEM reports, I have noticed a particular trend here in Ireland amongst women in business (or work). nnWith the increase in wages and business during the Celtic Tiger here, women were less pressured to work outside the home. But as well as that, I feel there was a huge sense of empowerment amongst women, and they realised that they do not have to prove themselves (that they can make it as good as men) and I think they actually let loose of the feminist tag that seem to have stuck itself on the children and grandchildren of the women that started the movement. nnTo clarify, I think there has been an element of release, and some women left work or business because they finally felt they had the choice, and could go back to being great moms and house carers without the stigma. The start of the recesion helped that, but now we are in a very serious position where a good single salary is not sufficient to maintain a family.nnHowever, as taxes go up, and more taxes and levies are introduced into salaries, it has sparked the insurgence of micro businesses, as women can run a small business, as well as manage the home, but avoid the excruciating taxes they would have on a wage (by offsetting many expenses).nnJust a trend I have noticed, and it is by no means mainstream. I will probably be walloped for this 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Eiblin,nnEach of your points could be blog posts on their own. Women’s relationship withu00a0confidence isu00a0tied into how we hear how others define our social roles as well as language. For example, many people (men and women)u00a0refer tou00a0women as girls, even when they are well past 30 years of age. How does this use of lanaguage affect our self-identities and our sense of capability in the business world? nnRole models of both genders are crucial to how women develop their businesses so we can see that there is a way forward. Mentors can serve a similar role but they are more. A mentor can guide you and teach you some of the subtle ways business is done. They can also be the cheerleaders who remind us of our talents and power.

  • Anonymous

    Niall,nnYou are absolutely on the mark! The way roles are divided up in the home are a microcosm of what’s happening outside. I know women who are remarkable in how they run their businesses and yet are pulling the second shift at home with minimal support. As long as we deny that men are capable of being nurturing and organised, we lose out. nnAs for the minister for children, I remember complaining to a friend about how this was so gender-biased. Would it have been so hard a concept to appoint a woman as the minister of justice and equality and a man for the minister of children? nnIt may be that it’s less about how women are treated in the workplace and more about starting the conversation. Are there actions to be taken to support more women founding their businesses? Is that the wrong question? If it is the wrong question, does it matter how businesses get founded and what types of assistance are provided? There is a post on Think Out Loud that takes the idea of women founding businesses a bit further.

  • Anonymous

    Elaine,nnThe number of microbusinesses may indicate the challenge of making ends meet faced by many families. It will be interesting to watch how this trend goes when the recovery kicks in. The tricky part is that some women want to be stay-at-home moms and resent the necessity of working while other women may discover that they feel more empowered when at work. nnThe role that feminism plays in this trend is probably a complete post on its own. I wonder what, if any, effect it has on the trend for women to found businesses rather than simply find employment in an established organisation?

  • Elli, thank you so much for the tip of the hat in this thoughtful blog post. This topic is certainly an intriguing one for me: as a woman, as a business person, as a student of business (and as a recovering Sociology undergraduate major :-).nnI remember graduating from college nearly 20 years ago and entering the work force with vim and vigor. I distinctly remember discounting the concepts of glass ceilings as out-dated and not applicable to new young career women, like me. Ha! As I have matured bothu00a0in life and tenure in the business world, I realize that the issues of gender in business remains complex (as it is in life). nnEach individual’s experience in the work force and the market place is unique, therefore, the forces that influence and guides a woman’s path is certain to be different than a man’s. I believe that — at least in the last two decades –u00a0that biases are increasingly more based on lifetyle choices/realities, communities (i.e., networks), and individual personalities (e.g., tolerance for risk, etc.) than gender. This is not to discountu00a0the all-too-realu00a0gender issues coloring the state of the world for women as business owners/entrepreneurs.u00a0My point of view is that it by acknowledging the factors as choice-based versus biology-based takes us quantum leaps forward tou00a0feeling welcomed and competitive in that world.

  • Anonymous

    I resonated with your myths here.u00a0 Entrepreneurial initiatives often start where old myths die.u00a0 Old myths: someone will take care of me, my roles make me happy, the company will compensate me for my sacrifices, living on a routine is normal, etc etcu00a0 I think we need myths – big, imaginative, creative myths of our own!

  • Anonymous

    Judy,nnI’m delighted you commented! Are the factors really choice-based? We’re socialised from an early age into gender preferences which may hijack the choice process. For instance, are women who found businesses more likely to be in industries that are tradtionally female? Does this matter when a business owner, regardless of being male or female, still has to understand business principles and concepts and create a competitive and money-making enterprise? How does this fit into the larger economy of a nation?

  • Anonymous

    Robin,nnThanks for commenting about the myths. Myths can serve the purpose of being the “folklore” of business. Stories are time-honoured ways of explaining the intangibles so that we may be aware of them in our lives. The wrong myths may have started off as cautionary tales but they can become tools to limit or eliminate certain behaviours. Could entrepreneurial initiatives create new stories that embolden us to see our business through to our exit strategies?nnIf we stop and look at Mr. Perry’s question, do women business owners/entrepreneurs need new myths to start their business? Or do they need something more pragmatic like training, funding and opportunities to connect with more powerful individuals and organisations?

  • One of my own key beliefs (and no one else has to agree) is that each individual is ultimately in charge of ones own life.u00a0The pressures of circumstance, history,u00a0timing, family, society, personality, and so on exist and influence, but I choose my responses among unmovable factors as well asu00a0beyond perceived boundaries. nnI think that women enter industries typically associated with ‘female’ market because it’s what they know best. We typically feel most confident in what we know best; however, this is not exclusive to gender. For example, I recall reading earlier this summer about Sandy Pope — a woman who is going up against James Hoffa to be the next President of the Teamsters union. Talk about atypical women’s role! In reality, Ms. Pope’s long career asu00a0a truck driver and head of her local union makes her a legitimate candidate — and not surprisingly interested in this industry. nnTo an earlier point, when we remove irrelevant biases — like gender — then people are freed to pursue their true callings.

  • Anonymous

    Judy,nnThank you for responding to my questions. I agree that when all is said and done we make choices about our lives and that’s what defines us. Looking at your response makes me wonder if all of the resources are currently in place and what women business owners/entrepreneurs need most is actually an internal re-calibration of confidence.

  • Debi Harper

    Excellent article,must introduce the date night:) and take it just as seriously as a big client meeting. I like to veg in front of the tv in the evening, must make more of an effort lol They sound like a great team.

  • Thanks Anita. I’m glad that came across in the interview too as Nellie certainly seems lovely.

  • Nellie Akalp

    Anita – Thank you so very much!!! 🙂 – Nellie

  • Nellie Akalp

    Debi – Yes it takes an effort but it is a MUST in the end to take some time for each other. 🙂 Thank you for reading and commenting! – Nellie

  • Nellie Akalp

    Thank you for reading and for commenting, Niall! – Nellie

  • I have listened to Small Business Trends Radio’s podcast interview with Nellie and enjoyed the conversation very much. As business minded individual interested in a rational philosophy and the proud owner of EGO blog, I must say that your ego, i.e, your own life, should be involved in your business and your should take pride in putting your ideas into action. I understand that the word “ego” has got a bad rap in a way, but the original meaning of the concept is a good one. The word ego comes from the Latin word, I (am).

  • Well said 🙂 Thanks for commenting and sharing 🙂

  • Thanks Elaine – I agree that is what comes across which is why I was so interested in interviewing Nellie

  • Women prove all most in every field that they can do good work in any industry. I said why not in business. I think women have different thinking to operate the business and they are also very passionate to do his work.

  • Dylan Moran

    Thanks Sian to feature the article and give initial support.

Featured Author
© Copyright 2009-2018, Bloggertone LLC. All rights reserved.