I walked into entrepreneurship rather naively, which could perhaps be put down to the fact that at the time, I was 24, and still blissfully ignorant. I hadn’t really considered entrepreneurship as a profession at that point and it’s fair to say whilst at university I was having too much fun enjoying the ‘good life’ to have got involved with any business societies or extra curricula. My route into entrepreneurship had been more of an accident rather than a planned career choice. This meant that I perhaps wasn’t as clued up to the struggles that female entrepreneurs commonly faced in business, as other women who had actively worked in the industry were.
It has taken living in London, pursuing my line of work and experiencing first-hand the challenges females experience, that have made me appreciate all women in business. The hustle is that much harder and the emphasis to prove yourself as equal and garner respect, is that much greater.
The first ‘by invitation only’ networking event I attended by a well-known corporate, had 8 women in the room, including myself, out of 100. Rather than think it was odd that there were only 8 women in the room, I instead began to wonder if there had been a mistake and that perhaps the person who had invited me thought I was more successful than I was. Imposter syndrome was the hot buzz word of last year and makes people feel that amongst others, they embody a somewhat intellectual phoniness and that they are not good enough to be present in certain working environments. This is especially true of women, who have had to endure a lack of representation at senior levels of management, with an underlying feeling that it is classically men at the top. This also contributes to women believing there is a lack of support as they try to climb the entrepreneur ladder, because there are fewer female entrepreneurs to connect with.
Women have to try much harder than men in a business setting to be taken seriously which brings me back to the networking event. Everyone wore dark suits which compelled me to keep my black coat on, over my smart but very pink blouse, in a bid to be taken seriously, as though the pink (but smart) blouse knocked about 50 points off my IQ. With such an overwhelming ratio to men over women, it became more and more apparent, that they too were curious as to why I was there, more so than they were of any of the 93 men in the room with us, who had more of a natural right to be there.
One of the biggest challenges women face in entrepreneurship is changing their own mind-sets about their worth in business. We shouldn’t naturally think that we are ‘lucky’ to be playing with the ‘big boys’ and that we have been ‘given the privilege’ to sit at a table of predominantly men. Time and time again, women have reported that in order to sit at this table they naturally have to become more masculine in the way that they operate in order to be considered a leader amongst those ‘in the game’.
The good news is there are more and more steps towards female empowerment in entrepreneurship being made, to make the process that much easier. This year I became aware of female business groups NOI Club and Blooming Founders that are catered to the needs of women specifically starting up their own businesses and supporting one another. These groups have been fantastic in enforcing confidence into my abilities and have been a real lifeline to me as I have navigated my way through the various entrepreneurial obstacles.
When I had originally started this journey two years ago, I was blindly feeling my way, having been rejected from a business accelerator (that classically only accepted men) due to my lack of ‘natural business understanding’ and background. Well ye have little faith. It may not have come to me like a duck does to water and I may have hit some rather monumental speed bumps along the way, but it is possible to pursue entrepreneurship as a woman, no matter your age or back ground.
Entrepreneurship is something you can learn, regardless of gender.
Twenty Mile Club