While it is easy to count the difficulties of being a woman, it is also easy to think up some significant positives: We live longer, we tend to communicate better, we enjoy freer fashion, and more of us are college-educated.
Similarly, it is easy for aspiring entrepreneurs to get hung up on the downsides of being a lady business leader. For example, venture capitalists often ignore women in business, making initial funding scarcer for some startups. Male business leaders also typically overlook promising ladies (at best) or distrust their opinions and plans out-of-hand (at worst). Finally, our culture tends to have conflicting feelings toward powerful women, expecting them to be perfect in every way and hating them for it. It’s impossible to deny that female entrepreneurship is a steep, uphill battle.
Still, if you look for them, there are advantages to being a woman business leader. Here are five major upsides to being a female entrepreneur.
Having a mentor is a significant boon for any entrepreneur. Mentors supply advice, perspective, and motivation; they provide a helping hand and a sympathetic ear. Male or female, any business leader with a mentor is more likely to find success ― and be confident and content while doing so.
Many business schools and online MBA programs provide mentor matching organizations for those first starting out. For additional mentors, there are dozens of mentorship programs available that are specific to women. For example, Million Women Mentors is devoted to pairing aspiring female STEM students with established women in STEM fields; the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women aims to connect female entrepreneurs with mentors around the world through technology; and Wing to Wing works to empower every women with professional and personal mentorship. Women are more eager to help each other become great, so budding female entrepreneurs will find it much easier to find a high-quality mentor.
Entrepreneurs should be smart, proactive, and creative ― but studies show that being compassionate is another major help for starting a business. Sometimes called EQ (for emotion quotient) and sometimes called EI (for emotional intelligence), the ability to be aware of and appropriately react to emotions is exceedingly advantageous for leaders. Entrepreneurs must be able to manage their own emotions while remaining empathetic to the emotions of their staffs and clients.
Fortunately, research shows that women tend to be slightly more emotionally aware than men. Thus, female leaders have an innate advantage in their leadership abilities, allowing them to devote more concerted effort to other tasks while they let their emotions run on autopilot.
Perhaps related to their naturally higher emotional IQ, women are more likely to collaborate than compete ― which is decidedly not true of men. A handful of studies have shown that women prefer to work with others to bolster their weaknesses and use others’ strengths whereas men tend to overestimate their competencies and attempt to work alone. While some competitive spirit is advantageous in entrepreneurship, a leader should be willing and able to team up to accomplish business goals. Therefore, women again have an edge over their male entrepreneur peers.
Not only do women live longer than men do, but they generally live healthier lives. In business, this means women have more time and energy to devote to accomplishing their goals. What’s more, female entrepreneurs experience a higher level of “purpose well-being,” which is a sense of fulfillment from using one’s strengths to do interesting or important things, than male entrepreneurs. Women tend to be happier and more satisfied with their entrepreneurial work, which helps them avoid the stress that can derail their health and their business plans.
Women-owned businesses are uniquely qualified to receive grants and other benefits thanks to the government and nonprofit organizations. Though grants aren’t nearly easy to acquire as other sources of funding, including loans, they are as close as entrepreneurs can get to free money. Such programs exist to encourage socially disadvantaged individuals to pursue entrepreneurial dreams ― and there is no shortage of encouragement for women.
Women can look to the Small Business Administration for information about government grants, and they might also consult their local economic development agencies or small-business development centers for grant opportunities. Furthermore, private groups including the Eileen Fisher Women-Owned Grant Program, Huggies Brand Mom-Inspired Grants, and Walmart Women’s Economic Empowerment Initiative award hundreds of thousands of dollars to promising female leaders. If nothing else, at least being a woman in business means alternative financial support.