04.13.16

Where Are All the Women Entrepreneurs?

By: Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

For some, the American dream is owning one’s own business. However, a significant percentage of the population is currently sitting on the sidelines. Yes, I am talking about women.

Currently, the data shows that women remain underrepresented among the ranks of entrepreneurs in the U.S. In fact, they are half as likely as men to start a business. The disparity is significant. Not just in start-up rates but in access to equity, mentorship, and growth tools to create employment and revenue. Fewer women businesses break $1 Million in revenue and nearly 88% of all women businesses are solo-preneurs. While women make up the fastest growing segment of business owners in the United States today, we as a country and economy are really missing out (this economic growth is not evenly distributed across the United States) by not more fully engaging this segment of our entrepreneurial workforce. Why?

Females are known to bring a skill set that not only set them apart from their male peers, but also lend themselves to being successful entrepreneurs. For example, women entrepreneurs tend to have less apprehension about financial risk, while being conscientious of foolish ones. Women tend to be more aggressive when it comes to serial entrepreneurship, too. We just need more female business owners starting their business especially in places like the state of Indiana!

Gallup’s Ep-10 Entrepreneurial Talents Assessment indicates there is no discernible difference in the level of ‘rare’ entrepreneurial talents found in male entrepreneurs as female entrepreneurs. Simply put, women entrepreneurs were just as likely to have the ‘rare’ entrepreneurial talents of building significant businesses as their male counterparts (0.5% of all people taking the assessment) but also add another 2.0% who account for or have the 10 entrepreneurial talents can successfully build something of importance. This represents a relatively small percentage of those who start businesses! Interestingly enough, Gallup found that entrepreneurship can be as much as 37-48% of a person’s entrepreneurial talent may be genetic.

If women are so inclined for entrepreneurial endeavors, then why aren’t more making a go of it? According to the Kaufmann Foundation, one factor is support— or lack thereof. Mentorship can play a significant role in developing successful entrepreneurs, for both men and women. If women are unable to find people they can trust and look to for guidance, they may get discouraged. This is why we have partnered with Diverse Talent Strategies to deliver virtual and high-quality engaging mentorship services.

Many female entrepreneurs have also shared with me that they also feel they are facing an uphill battle due to a perceived bias against them. Some people are less likely to take women as seriously as men in business, and that negatively impacts their ability to get funding. Women have disproportionate access to capital often taking more time to raise funds or having to give away more equity to get the capital fuel needed to grow faster. In short, they might develop a complex: If women feel like they aren’t competent, they avoid any opportunity to fail. At the Women Economic Opportunity Center, we are teaching the failure savvy principles that inspire ‘failure resilient’ female venture founders, foster support networks, share in peer to peer learning, build courage and identify role models.

I would be remiss to not mention external societal pressures, like parenthood. Many women in their peak earning years might choose to become mothers. It can be difficult to choose between starting a family or maintaining a demanding career — or attempting to juggle both. While there are many successful examples of work-life satisfaction (Writer and motivational speaker Matthew Kelly says there is no such thing as work-life balance there is only work-life personal/professional satisfaction), some women just opt out of the workforce altogether not believing both choices are possible, thus missing out on potential entrepreneurial endeavors.

So what can we do to reverse this trend? One approach is to empower women with informed choices. Local programs like the Women’s Economic Opportunity Center (WEOC), sponsored by the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center and partially funded through a grant from the US SBA, take some of the guesswork out of growing a business. WEOC offers timely and immediate assistance to women entrepreneurs from conception and start-up through growth, and expansion is substantial, proven and immediate.

For more information, contact the Women’s Economic Opportunity Center at (260) 416-3400. Be sure to attend our Ideas @ Work event on April 26, 2016, to learn more about how our evidenced-based entrepreneurship programs and services reduce start-up risk and accelerate your speed to market. It’s not too late to register at http://www.niic.net/ideasatwork.

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