Dec 18, 201309:51 AMOpen for Business
with Jody Glynn Patrick
Women in biz: How to overcome (our own) gender bias
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There are few overt barriers for women wanting to start businesses in the U.S., or to rise to the top of the corporate ladder. However, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Women’s Report, there still exist “covert” barriers to female success or entrepreneurial activity, and many of those barriers may originate in your heads, ladies.
Yes, admittedly some challenges are tied to status expectations or gendered roles, but the biggest barrier may have far more to do with the female psyche than it does with overt male discrimination. A GEM summary brief concludes, “In Europe and the United States, women are as highly educated, or more so, than men. Yet, they are less likely to believe they have the capabilities for starting businesses.”
Report author Candida G. Brush, distinguished professor in entrepreneurship, Babson College, explains: “Even though women may have more years of education, it may not relate to self-perceived confidence in their entrepreneurial capabilities. In developed economies, entrepreneurship is opportunity driven. Women, who are well-schooled in other disciplines than entrepreneurship, may question their ability to identify, assess and act on an opportunity.”
If you think that’s a bunch of hooey, the study found that in the U.S., there are only 10 female entrepreneurial activities for every 15 male initiatives. This isn’t the case worldwide — in Panama, Thailand, Ecuador, Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana there are as many (or more) women entrepreneurs as male counterparts. However, the female-led businesses started in those countries tend to be simple, low-tech endeavors. In the countries of Zambia, Malawi, Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria, where women report great confidence in their business skills, the researchers postscripted that those women have a lower risk of entry than their U.S. sisters — they aren’t trading high-status, well-paid employment for the risks of starting a business. In those countries, too, it is the social norm for women to start businesses, providing role models for risk and success.
U.S. women have to work harder to network with female corporate leaders — and they also have to work harder to get equitable venture funding, the study revealed. However, while men do typically decide who gets what piece of the funding pie (venture capital still being a predominantly male enterprise), fast-growth high-tech companies also tend to be started by men.