Globally, statistics show that women are more likely to start businesses than men. In a 2018 research by SCORE it was found that 47% of female respondents started businesses in that year, compared to 44% of male respondents. In Ghana 46.4% of businesses are owned by women, and in the U.S., four out of every 10 businesses are owned by women.
The fact is that women in business are visible and thriving. Perhaps it is because of our innate abilities to multi-task, or our nurturing spirits, whatever the case, it is clear that women in business are present and unrelenting. Despite this triumph for female representation in business, the sad reality is that female entrepreneurs experience twice as much hardship as their male counterparts in different regards.
In a 2018 report by Business Daily, challenges such as: defying social expectations; struggling to be taken seriously; owning accomplishments; building a support network; balancing business and family life; coping with a fear of failure, and limited access to funding were highlighted by some leading female CEOs as key challenges for businesswomen. The issue of access to funding in particular poses a real threat to female business owners. According to renowned researcher Andrea Stojanović, women who own small businesses are 43% more likely than men to be concerned about a limited access to money affecting their companies, and woman-led businesses receive less venture capital than businesses led by men (one reason may be that only 9% of VCs globally are women).
The gap in funding means more women are unable to expand their businesses in the same trajectory as their male counterparts and have to experience steeper difficulties to ensure business sustenance in the harsh economy. Even beyond funding gaps, the discrimination faced by many businesswomen because of their gender is costly and stifling. In some industries (like Oil and Gas, Finance, or Engineering – the STEM industries), male-led businesses are given preference over female-led businesses because of the bias that the male-driven business would ‘have the capacity’ to handle projects in this field. Even when women are entrusted with such contracts, they are constantly scrutinized and questioned. Ironically, female entrepreneurs are more sought over in more stereotypical lifestyle industries as opposed to the male-owned businesses in these fields.
So, the question is, do women in business experience more hardship in business because of their gender? We asked a couple of women about this challenge and how they dealt with it. This is what they had to say:
Tanya, 34 (PR Consulting)
I was at a pitch earlier this year, trying to bid for a contract to manage a huge campaign. After my presentation, the Head of Marketing expressed his love and interest for our ideas, then asked who the CEO of the company was. When I told him it was me, he smiled and jokingly said “I can’t work with women”. I did not get that contract.
Caroline, 36 (Asset Management)
I get a lot of doubts from my clients in the beginning of our engagements. They just don’t trust my expertise, but with all my years of experience, I’ve learnt to build trust by putting in extra work at the start of a new relationship. They may not trust my skills as a woman, but they cannot deny the results when they see it.
Vanessa, 31 (Optometrist)
I don’t think there is any bias in my field. People do not really care who owns the clinic or who their doctor is. They just want to get their eyes fixed. The only discrimination I face is really for being younger. Many of my older patients prefer medical advice from ‘older’ doctors.
Shade, 28 (FinTech)
Being the only female co-founder amongst two guys, I find myself hiding in the shadows of my partners even though I am the brain behind a lot of our major projects. One day, our investors insinuated at a meeting that I was a ‘figure-head’, there for ‘gender balance’. I immediately started speaking up and taking more ownership after that encounter.
What about you? Do you think women in business face more challenges because of their gender? How have you dealt with this personally? Let us know what you think in the comments section.