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?