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I had coffee with a friend the other day who was preparing a capabilities deck for her IT startup. She was drafting a proposal for a fairly large government project and was understandably feeling a little flustered. What really piqued my curiosity, however, was what she had written underneath her company’s name: “A woman-run business.” As a female entrepreneur myself, it made me do a double take.
I took to my journal to get my thoughts out. There was so much curiosity and I was seeking some clarity around it. Here is where I started:
“Woman-run business? I mean, in 2018, is a female-run startup still something remarkable? Why is it something that we need to announce? Today there are more and more female-run businesses; is it even something special anymore? Is a woman CEO, in emphasizing her gender, not simply acknowledging there is supposed to be some degree of novelty in the concept of a woman-run business? Should we really be making a special category for ‘female entrepreneurs’?”
After a few pages and a few days of thinking about it, I have realized just how important it actually is. The truth is, no matter how forward-thinking we like to consider ourselves as a society, women still face a myriad of very real challenges. This is not to downplay how difficult the entrepreneur journey is to begin with. However, it’s a simple fact that there are still fewer women in entrepreneurship than men, though the number is rapidly increasing. For women, this means fewer role models. For some, it may even mean a smaller support network to turn to when looking to learn and grow their skills. Even if we ignore the statistics that indicate women have a harder time accessing capital or anything else, the lack of mentorship and support is a pretty significant hurdle.
The good news is that there are some incredible women out there who are working on changing these statistics. So as I was drinking coffee with my friend, whether she realized it herself or not, indicating that she was a “woman-run business” was critical. By acknowledging that there is still something quite special about a woman-run business, she was also making the statement that women haven’t yet reached an entirely even playing field where men and women face identical challenges. And at the same time, she was letting me and other women entrepreneurs out there know that there’s always support around if we need it.
She was playing her part to equip other women for the hurdles that do still exist. Her message is a positive one for promoting female entrepreneurs everywhere and is not directed only at current and potential clients. Messaging is so important and knowing where to use it is equally important.
Make it part of your brand and put it out there in the beginning. Do your research: Is the industry predominantly led by men? By women? Work with a branding/marketing firm to help guide you on this. You do not want the only part of your brand to be that you are a woman-run business, but it is an important part of who you are and what your company stands for. It is important to understand the difference so you can tap into what your audience needs to know about your business when making decisions.
There are several admirable organizations out there promoting female entrepreneurship. Some are dedicated entirely to capital, networks, partnerships and grants, while others try to encourage peer-to-peer learning among women entrepreneurs. And it’s all amazing — as a female business owner, I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for these opportunities. In my experience, I believe we all play an equally crucial role as female business owners simply by increasing our visibility. By being role models for each other or just by sharing our stories and experiences, we’re already letting aspiring female entrepreneurs know that they are not alone on their journey.
While I don’t solely view myself as a “female entrepreneur,” I see no harm in acknowledging that it’s a very real part of who I am. Everyone is a whole lot more than just one thing — we all tick a vast number of different boxes at any one moment. But if you’re a female entrepreneur who has dealt with any type of challenges along the way, sometimes it’s just nice to know that you’re very far from alone.
December 13, 2018 at 07:01PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs