Female entrepreneurs still face unique challenges in today's world. According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, 11.6 million firms are owned by women, accounting for 39% of privately-owned companies. Women in business, and women in charge of businesses, are not a rare occurrence. Yet female entrepreneurs continue to face professional challenges that men do not.
What is work-life balance?
One of the pervasive concerns for female entrepreneurs is achieving a work-life balance: a way to not allow work to overtake family life and vice-versa.
Women are often seen as the primary caregiver of children, regardless of their professional status. Christy Cegelski, a freelance copywriter and email marketing strategist, is often frustrated by this. "Men are seen as providers. Society doesn't expect them to drop everything work-related to pick up a sick child from school or make dinner for the family," she says. "There's an assumption (spoken or unspoken) that we should be the primary caregivers and house managers. I don't get a pass just because I might run a successful business."
Kim Hawkins, President of Events Wholesale, an online discount event, and wedding planning supply company, makes a concerted effort to separate her work and home life. Hawkins says, "During family time, I try to separate myself from the computer, phones, and even iPhone so that I can give them my undivided attention. This is often very challenging, but I know my family appreciates me being present and not occupied with work."
How to find a support system
Women in business find that establishing a like-minded support system is key to overcoming the unique challenges of being a female entrepreneur. Relying on friends and family may not be possible, as these connections may not relate to your specific work concerns and goals. Mary Eberle, a genetic genealogist who founded DNA Hunters, LLC, suggests diversifying your support network.
"I joined several online programs for supporting female entrepreneurs," Eberle says. "Some furnished broad support. Another one teaches the specific skill of pitching. Locally, I meet monthly with a free business coach provided by a local business school. We set goals, discuss offerings, and strategize."
A personal support system is also key. Ineke McMahon, the co-founder of The Path to Promotion Learning and Development Academy, credits her personal support system with giving her the strength to establish her company while continuing to work a full-time job and raise her two children, one of whom is high needs.
"Finding a good support system is essential here. Having the right partner who won't complain if you are up till 3 am a few nights in a row just to get through the workload is great. Being passionate about your business is important, but also making sure that you don't listen to the nay-sayers."
How to avoid unrealistic expectations
Another commonly-expressed frustration of female entrepreneurs is having unrealistic expectations for themselves. Women often feel pressure to do everything themselves, often concerned that they must be perfect in order to represent all women in business.
Eberle has learned in her business that outsourcing is not a failure. "Having to wear many hats can become impossible," Eberle says. "I've set up websites, processed payroll, and file employment taxes. Although challenges can be fun, I've learned it's best to outsource many of these tasks. This allows me to focus on serving my clients, sales, and visibility."
Brittany Rose, creator of More Than Cheer, a recreational sports company that uses cheering to teach life lessons and develop confidence in young women, has found that turning the unrealistic expectations into advantages has helped her build her business using what she refers to as the power of underestimation. Rose says, "Being a young, Black, female entrepreneur—it was easy to be dismissed and overlooked, but I was able to turn that into an advantage by capitalizing on information and opportunities people shared because they didn't find me threatening."
Being a female entrepreneur means facing many challenges head-on, but with the community of other women and their experiences, female entrepreneurs can thrive in the business world.
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