If the future is female, why do so many women still feel stuck in the entrepreneurial world – and sometimes, rightfully so? Despite all the progress that has been made, it’s clear that even in 2021 women are still facing so many obstacles when it comes to starting or expanding an enterprise.

What are those challenges, and what can be done to eliminate them once and for all?

 

Lack of Funding

Women get less funding, and fewer funding opportunities than men – that’s a fact: last year, only 7% of venture capital funding in the U.S. went to female-founded companies. Another study found that female-led ventures are 63% less likely to receive VC funding. Many female leaders have also pointed out that it hinders them and their entrepreneurial goals.

Get to work: Multiple platforms exist for the sole purpose of giving women entrepreneurs the funding they need. Good examples can be angel women investors like Astia, or directories like Grants for Women. Another approach could be seed crowdfunding, like IFundWomen – a field where women outperform men. Although most of the work has to be done by venture capital and banks, realizing the inequality and acting to improve it – some of the responsibility lies in those leaders’ hands; it’s a matter of putting themselves and their enterprise front and center, gain visibility and simply ask for funding – a task that many women find intimidating and refrain from.

 

Low Self-confidence, Fear of Failure and Improper Support System

“We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and our boys to be brave”, as Reshma Saujani, founder of “Girls Who Code”, summed it in her popular Ted talk about what she called “the bravery deficit”. Many women struggle with low self-esteem, especially when it comes to the business world. To be an entrepreneur means that you will have to face failure – that’s a part of the game. Even today, at least 75% of successful women in high professional positions suffer from feeling inadequate and lonely, which is linked directly to imposter syndrome and power gaps. From missing relevant connections to emotional support – many women in business feel isolated, when the reality is, even successful businesswomen are struggling with such feelings.

Get to work: While there’s no “one solution fits all”, and every journey is individual, many women find solace in careful planning, mentoring, and networking. A study showed that networking among women is vital for their businesses’ growth and for their self-empowerment. By having a strong, gender-specific circle of support, not only can women develop their business, but also support other women and improve their managerial skills. Finding a business mentor can also help with building confidence, and developing a strong business strategy is always a great tool to make informed decisions.

 

Gender Inequality

When looking at the entrepreneurial world or the job market through the gender lens, one can clearly see that women still have to work their way up and face many stigmas and discrimination. Many laws and policies around the world have already been determined to change this situation, like California’s bill requiring public companies in the state to include at least two women board members – but their implementation is far from completion.

Get to work: Work culture and thinking paradigms are constantly changing, but the efforts are far from being enough. Breaking the glass ceiling will only be possible when more women would speak up – and share both gender bias and their success stories, as small as they might be. A recent study in the health tech sector showed that workplaces that adopt a “small wins” approach and encourage workers in general, but women in particular, to voice out their achievements, contribute significantly to gender equality.

 

Limited Knowledge

Especially in social entrepreneurship, where women excel, women are very mission-driven – and paradoxically, this drive frequently meets their limited knowledge of running a business. Although many female-led enterprises are exceptional and even groundbreaking in their innovation and opening up to new markets – many of them would admit that they don’t necessarily have the right tools to manage and grow their business, and would have been happy to have more time to learn more. Alongside the fear of managing while having limited knowledge, that might be the reason why 90% of women-owned businesses are sole proprietors – and a crucial part of growing a business includes hiring employees.

Get to work: Knowledge is power. Although 79% of women entrepreneurs in the United States feel more empowered now than they did five years ago, the significance of women acquiring business, financial and marketing education is greater than ever. Gaining such knowledge is a clear trajectory for women to dare more and therefore succeed more.

 

Balancing Responsibilities

Work-life balance was an ascending challenge for many over the past year while working from home – but on the female front, the situation is even more complicated. The pressure on women to be defined by their role as a mother makes it hard for many entrepreneurs to find the right balance, leading many to constantly be on the cusp of burnout. Many women around the world are also still expected to take the lion’s share of the household chores, and only recently those patriarchal patterns have started changing. Juggling both career and home-life is never easy, and many women find themselves feeling guilty about making time for one and not the other.

Get to work: Prioritization is key. Building and running a business takes time and effort, and this acknowledgment might help with shifting the focus toward that direction. Asking for help from your immediate circles is especially essential in the launch phase – but also afterward. It’s also important to pay attention to one’s mental state, and make healthy choices that come from emotional wellbeing.

 

Even though the situation is far from idyllic, it’s safe to say that women’s inclusivity and leadership have never been in a better place than in 2021. Looking forward, we will definitely see more and more women involved in decision making, rising to power and owning success in the corporate world and in other fields of life; the next female president is no longer a question of probability, but only a matter of time.