Challenges Women Entrepreneurs Face and Ways to Overcome Them
With more and more women in the workforce today, female entrepreneurship has been on the rise as well, but with that, comes a new set of obstacles that women face. This is especially so when starting a business in male-dominated industries, like construction or even finance where women are sometimes not taken seriously.
Gender stereotypes still mean some don’t think women are tough or assertive enough to make difficult and objective business decisions. For those who are parents, there’s also the assumption that working mothers can’t commit 100% of their time and attention to their business because they’re also needed at home. Though false, these perceptions may mean that women entrepreneurs are sometimes treated like they’re ‘less than’ their male peers which can lead to a lot of self-doubt.
One way to combat this is to join entrepreneur groups which can be easily found online and on social media platforms. Seeking support or just having like-minded people to talk to about entrepreneurship could help you gain confidence in yourself and your business decisions. If you can, finding and engaging a mentor who has achieved your idea of success, would be a bonus!
Not only can mentors guide you on how to solve business problems, but they may also be able to help you build your social network and gain access to certain people or resources that can help you achieve success.
As a woman entrepreneur, you may want to consider looking out for a female mentor in particular. Though the business world may be male-dominated, a (wo)mentor would better understand the challenges faced by other women entrepreneurs and provide advice from a female-centric lens. Be bold and take the first step in approaching a female entrepreneur you admire and ask to be their mentee. It’s important to speak up because good mentors are always highly sought and won’t simply fall into your lap.
Of course, when your business takes off, don’t forget to look around and offer a helping hand to other women getting into entrepreneurship as well. It’s important to show support, uplift and encourage more women entrepreneurs to grow their business and make it a fairer playing field for all entrepreneurs!
Balancing work and family life
At some point in the journey of running your own business, you’ll probably have trouble juggling your business, your family and your social life especially if you’re married and/or a parent. On one hand, you’ll be expected to be a committed daughter, wife or mother. On the other, you’ll be a boss, involved in decision-making and ensuring the success of your business. It could get overwhelming very quickly, trying to give your all both at home and in the boardroom.
As such, a strong support system is a must. Ensure that everyone in your family – your husband, kids, parents and parents-in-law – understands what you’re doing. Have a conversation and discuss sharing responsibilities like childcare and housework. Get the grandparents involved with childcare, if they’re able to help out. Draw up a roster with your partner and allocate responsibilities, like who is picking up and dropping the kids off, who will be chaperoning play dates and so on.
They say it takes a village to raise a kid, and when you’re also raising a business, it’s doubly important to have people you can rely on to help.
For women who don’t intend to have a family of their own or get married, they usually bear the responsibility of caring for their ageing parents. This is especially challenging if your elderly parents do not have any retirement savings and expect to be financially supported by their children.
Thus, it’s important to discuss with your parents and siblings on how their retirement will be funded. On top of making sure your elderly parents’ expenses are taken care of, take turns with your siblings to visit them at their home or hosting them at each other’s homes. Making sure their bills are paid is one thing but ensuring that they don’t feel neglected is equally as important. Talk to your siblings and let them know when you’re busy and unable to care for your parents and share the responsibilities.
Underlying all these challenges is the fear of failure, and at the core of successfully running any business is having the financial resources to support your ventures. You need to ensure that you’re stable financially to have peace of mind when tackling any challenges as they come.
Not all businesses will be profitable overnight, so you need to make sure that you have sufficient funds to tide you over until you break even. Seek advice from your fellow entrepreneurs about how much they saved and how long it took for them to turn a profit. Then, look at your finances and work out how long you can stick it out in the case where the business is not yet profitable.
Another thing to think about when you pursue entrepreneurship, is your Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution. Did you know that as a self-employed person, you’re still required to make mandatory MediSave contributions under the Self-Employed Scheme? It’s best to top up all three CPF accounts (Ordinary Account, Special Account, MediSave Account) in addition to your mandatory contributions to a maximum of $37,740 total. Calculate your contribution amount here and find out more about topping up your CPF with our article on CPF Top Ups via the Retirement Sum Topping-Up Scheme.
If you’re already an entrepreneur in the making or think that starting a business is in your future, you might want to consider taking up a flexible insurance savings plan, like Income’s Gro Cash Flex Pro that lets you live spontaneously while you save. Gro Cash Flex Pro provides yearly cash payouts1 from the end of the 2nd policy year and the option to accumulate or withdraw your cash payouts to fund your goals. For customised advice on how to optimise your finances, you can also consider speaking to an Income advisor.
It isn’t easy being a woman entrepreneur but chasing your dreams while making a living off it is an amazing achievement! There are no shortcuts, and it takes having mettle, great mentors, a strong support system, and stable finances in order to push yourself and your business forward.