Why are women less likely to become entrepreneurs than men, despite an equal desire?
What’s still holding these women back and what should we take away from this?
On June 11th, marking its first international female entrepreneurship barometer, Veuve Clicquot brought together eighteen well-known figures, including Venus Williams, at a #VeuveClicquotxWomen event to discuss how to embolden generations of women to become entrepreneurs.
While this underlined Veuve Clicquot’s admiral commitment to the cause, the data contained in the country specific reports released at the same time tells, I think, a more interesting story which I wanted to share...
Highlights from the UK Report
19% of women in the UK are entrepreneurs, while 31% are ‘wantrepreneurs’ (i.e. aspiring entrepreneurs).
36% of men in the UK are entrepreneurs, while 32% are ‘wantrepreneurs’.
This tells us men and women have an equal desire to become entrepreneurs, but more men actually take the plunge.
Of the female entrepreneurs surveyed, 63% were between 20-39 years of age, and 37% between 40 and 59. The majority of female ‘wantrepreneurs’ also fell into the 20-39 year age range.
Interestingly, women and men perceived entrepreneurship in the same way (equally motivated by money, think it’s a meaningful thing to do etc).
So why are UK women less likely to actually become entrepreneurs?
What are the Obstacles for Women?
There was a perception that female entrepreneurs had to work harder than their male counterparts to succeed. Why?
Apparently, it wasn’t about self-confidence….more women than men believed they deserved to be where they were professionally and that they could potentially do anything they wanted.
Apparently, it wasn’t about risk perceptions….men were actually more reluctant to take on risk than their female counterparts. However paradoxically, women were more likely to describe themselves as risk-averse than men.
Structural and Mental Barriers
Ultimately, there are a number of barriers we shouldn’t shy away from:
Significantly less women than men believed they were capable of overcoming any professional failures.
The impact of entrepreneurship on family life, caused by the fact that women still end up doing the majority of domestic work in the household according to the Office for National Statistics
Maternity leave is a real challenge for female entrepreneurs who often don’t get paid if they don’t work (receiving only a tiny ‘maternity allowance’ from the government)
It is harder for female entrepreneurs to secure funding for their business as they have to work harder to prove their ‘credibility’ and the majority of investors are men
Male working behaviours still dictate the way we do business and women believe they’d have to become more like men if they wanted to succeed i.e. show more ‘authority’ and be less ‘nice’ in order to be respected
Women also worried they were more likely to be criticised and liked less by their employees than men
“Entrepreneurship is a journey. Those that enter the world of entrepreneurship are on a very unique professional and personal journey that no amount of formal education can teach.”
For those wishing to follow in her footsteps, she has some advice:
Find a Mentor - Entrepreneurs should find mentors a few years ahead of them to learn from and help them navigate challenges.
Find a Champion - Having trusted champions and sponsors who will actively put them forward for opportunities which they would not normally have access to can help them achieve their goals or increase their networks.
Network - Female friendly events are a great way to seek support from like-minded female entrepreneurs and test and pilot ideas. It's also important to broaden their horizons and go to industry events that their male counterparts also attend. If there aren’t any events or networking groups they feel they belong to, they should start their own! In 2016, Michelle co-founded Women of Wearables (WoW) with Marija Butkovic, a fellow woman in wearable tech. In 18 months, they grew their community from 0-8000 globally. CEO Marija and has since grown the community to more than 20,000 followers and community members worldwide.
What additional support do you think female entrepreneurs might benefit from? We’d love to hear from you.