In 2016, the number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 firms declined from the previous year to 4.2%. The corporate world has been slow to recognize the magnitude of the responsibility of child-rearing, as well as the number of skills necessary to successfully manage a household. Time management, the ability to delegate, and developing effective training programs are just a few of the skills that both mothers and corporate CEOs utilize on a daily basis.
Taking time off from their careers to have families and raise children is one of the most common reasons cited for the gender pay gap. Fortunately, despite continuing gender inequality within the workplace, the number of women-owned small business is growing almost twice as fast as the national average for the total number of start-ups. Many women are deciding to stop waiting to be recognized and fairly compensated for their work by existing companies and starting companies of their own instead.
Defining success is an important first step for anyone considering starting their own business, including women. For some, success is measured by the amount of personal freedom afforded by a career. For others, success might be measured by the degree of social responsibility and influence they are able to achieve with their work. Increasingly, financial considerations are just one element of many for people determining what constitutes a high- quality, balanced life for them.
In an article in Forbes, a female CEO of her own company describes the final destination of her journey towards defining success by saying “I had grown enough to boldly say my children were my No. 1 priority. I explained that I would build an organization in which everyone could say the same. I also ensured that corporate needs would be addressed with the urgency and commitment required. The investors shared my values.”
Any type of business, whether in manufacturing, technology, real estate or a service industry, has to be based on a solid business plan. That plan should include an idea supported by both legal and market research. Meeting those challenges are the same for both men and women, but female entrepreneurs do face a few higher hurdles on the fast track towards self-employment than their male counterparts. One of those hurdles is greater difficulty in obtaining financing.
Financing may be less of an issue for small businesses with low overhead. However, most new businesses require the purchase of initial equipment or inventory. Further, for a business to grow, it becomes necessary to hire employees, rent larger spaces, and pay higher utility bills. One of the most common complaints of women entrepreneurs is the difficulty of obtaining financing. Ironically, banks often lend money most readily to those that need that money the least.
Womens Business Centers have been developed to provide guidance and support as well as business training and access to capital to women entrepreneurs. Another good resource are the increasing number of CDFIs, (Community Development Financial Institutions). They are certified by the U.S. Treasury, but unlike traditional banks, many of them specialize in providing loans to traditionally underserved populations.
All successful businesses are built on a foundation of self-knowledge and a clear sense of personal and professional values. Once that foundation is in place, it becomes easier to enlist the support needed to transform a vision into a reality. Women entrepreneurs aren’t just redefining success to include family, but redefining family to include business partners—and employees.