Do you have a great business idea about which you're passionate? Or are you thinking about taking the plunge into entrepreneurship? If you're a woman, you may be feeling hesitant about taking those first, all-important steps toward starting your own business. After all, search around the internet and you'll come across article after article that talks about the many challenges of being a female entrepreneur.
The fact is, though, not only have times changed, but also they continue to change. And while many challenges still exist, there definitely are advantages to being a woman entrepreneur. It can be tempting to focus mainly on the obstacles, but having an understanding of the advantages available to you can help you transition more smoothly into the entrepreneurial role, and recognize the opportunities that exist for the female entrepreneur today.
Here, then, are seven advantages of being a female entrepreneur.
1. The stats on women entrepreneurs are on your side.
There has never been a better time for women to start their own businesses. According to American Express's 2018 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the number of women-owned businesses grew from 402,000 in 1972 to 12.3 million in 2018. This growth is even more striking when compared with the overall growth rate of all firms: The number of businesses overall saw a 1 percent annual growth rate from 2007 to 2018, while women-owned businesses experienced an annual growth rate of 4.2 percent over the same period.
The employment and revenue statistics also are impressive. Women-owned businesses employ 9.2 million people and, when it comes to generating revenue, these businesses are more than holding their own, generating $1.8 trillion annually.
Women of color also have taken breathtaking leaps in the women-owned business stats. As of 2018, women of color account for an estimated 5.8 million businesses (or 47 percent of all women-owned businesses), and these businesses employ over 2.2 million people overall, with revenues of $386.6 billion.
The statistics make one thing clear: More women are starting their own businesses these days, and many of these businesses are thriving.
2. Female entrepreneurs focus more on collaboration than competition.
Collaboration is an important factor when it comes to being a successful entrepreneur. Even Fortune 500 companies engage in collaboration with other companies and, for the entrepreneur, the ability to collaborate—that is, to form relationships and partnerships with other businesses or entrepreneurs—can have a significant impact.
The good news for women when it comes to collaboration? The fact is that women are socialized to be more relationship-oriented, which is a big plus when it comes to collaboration. Research has found that women prefer collaboration, compared to men, who may tend to be more distrusting of colleagues. This trend toward female collaboration starts at a young age: A study published in 2017 found that girls are better at working together toward a collaborative solution than boys are.
In today's world of business, cutthroat competitive strategies are no longer the only route to success. Your ability to work well with others can be an invaluable asset in the modern business environment.
3. Women business owners have more mentors and role models than ever before.
The benefits of having a mentor have long been known in the world of business, and a recent study indicates this is even more so for women. Traditionally, though, fewer women than men participate in mentoring relationships.
In a world where women-owned businesses have been experiencing high rates of growth, however, you have more and more opportunities to both meet and form beneficial mentoring relationships with other women who have successfully faced the challenges of entrepreneurship you now face.
On the flip side of the equation, as you enter into the world of entrepreneurship and learn through experience the ins and outs of running your own business, you also will have the opportunity to become a mentor and a role model yourself, providing inspiration and motivation to the next generation of female entrepreneurs.
4. Women's strength in emotional intelligence is a competitive advantage.
In recent years, leadership studies have found that having a high emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ, is an important factor when it comes to leadership success. Studies have also found that women, on average, have a slight edge over men when it comes to EQ. In fact, a 2016 study showed that women score higher than men in almost all emotional intelligence competencies.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and understand both your own emotions and the emotions of others, and to use this information to help guide how you think and behave. Basically, then, emotional intelligence is about the ability to acknowledge and work with your feelings.
When it comes to leadership, emotional intelligence means, among other things, having self-awareness and empathy, as well as the ability to listen. This, in turn, means that women can leverage their aptitude with emotional intelligence when it comes to leading their own companies.
5. The parenting experience has its entrepreneurial benefits.
When it comes to balancing work with life and parenting, people tend to think of the challenges. After all, everyone has heard, if not experienced, the tales of the screaming toddler or the recalcitrant teenager. But, as all parents know, you can learn a lot from dealing with parenting issues.
When you are open to it, any experience can be a teaching experience, and parenting in particular lends itself to some powerful learning for the receptive parent—experiences that can often be of benefit to the entrepreneur as well.
Multitasking is another strength of female entrepreneurs. Most women who are mothers have become adept at handling many aspects of their lives simultaneously—often out of necessity rather than any desire to be a multitasking wizard. This ability to manage competing responsibilities also is important for the entrepreneur, who often finds herself wearing many different hats at the same time.
6. Women make great leaders.
In today's world, more and more businesses are recognizing the value women bring to the leadership role. A 2018 study by Deloitte, for example, showed that employees today want a leader who is able to balance "soft power traits" with "hard power traits." Out of the top five leadership traits identified, three are soft power traits: communication, flexibility, and patience. And these are all traits in which many women excel.
Additionally, the study found that employees also are looking for leaders who are transparent and authentic, and who have the ability to see their own weaknesses. Here, again, women entrepreneurs have an advantage.
The bottom line when it comes to leadership style? Women often make great leaders, and this is something that the working world is coming to both recognize and appreciate.
7. Female entrepreneurs have the ability to create a women-friendly corporate culture.
No doubt you've heard it before: In many companies, the corporate culture can work against women. But when you own your own company, you have the ability to establish the kind of corporate culture that works best for your lifestyle.
It doesn't matter what that lifestyle is—you may want to raise a family, or you may have certain values you hold dear—as an entrepreneur, you have the autonomy and the authority to create a work environment that works best with your needs, and, potentially, the needs of your employees. Being an entrepreneur gives you the opportunity to live your life more authentically, while at the same time allowing you to create a corporate culture that's more in line with your values.
There are many small business ideas for women out there. If you've found one that fills you with passion and purpose, and you've been spending your days dreaming of starting your own business, then, yes, it's important to be aware of the challenges that face the women entrepreneur.
But two of the most important attributes of the successful entrepreneur are optimism and positive thinking. With that in mind, it also may help to be aware of—and focus on—the advantages of being a female entrepreneur, so you can leverage your special strengths as you embark on your new entrepreneurial journey.