Malini Bhatia shares how persistence, courage, determination and balance can help female entrepreneurs in 2017.
For all of the gains women have made in the workforce, they are still disappointingly less likely than men to become entrepreneurs. In fact, the difference between the number of men versus women launching and running their own ventures is huge—recent research shows that men are 50 percent more likely to join the ranks of entrepreneurs than women are.
This is a problem, since when we look more generally at how women’s participation in business leadership affects the bottom line for companies, we see a high correlation between how many women are in leadership positions and how well a company does financially. For example, Fortune magazine reported that Fortune 1000 companies led by women outperformed the S&P 500 index while they were CEOs. Both payout ratios and business returns rose with women in charge.
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How do we reconcile the reality that women are so much less likely than men to start new businesses today with the fact that having women in leadership positions is proven to help businesses thrive? One way is to identify characteristics shown to help women succeed in entrepreneurial roles. Here are five qualities that women can cultivate to become effective business owners:
A recent study on women entrepreneurs from KPMG revealed the talents that female business leaders believe are most important to their success. While “working hard” topped the list, in close second was their “ability to persevere when times get tough.” This type of persistence is necessary to overcome the inevitable obstacles that every startup faces. To ultimately triumph as a leader, it’s important to keep following your vision even when others say no to your ideas. Commitment, focus, and staying the course can help you move beyond difficult moments and find innovative ways to achieve your goals.
Courage to overcome obstacles.
When entrepreneurs hit roadblocks, another trait that holds them in good stead is courage. Courage involves having the confidence to take risks, which was listed as the third most significant factor for female business leaders in the KPMG report. While stereotypes of women leaders may suggest that they are more risk-averse than men, research has shown that isn’t true. In fact, women have a more nuanced view of risk-taking, according to findings from the Centre for Entrepreneurs and Barclays. Their study showed that more women than men describe themselves as financial risk takers (87 percent of women compared with 73 percent of men), as well as see opportunities where others see risks (80 percent of women compared with 67 percent of men). A high percentage of women do express concern about taking risks that they perceive as “fool-hardy,” however, showing that successful female leaders understand the difference between a courageous risk and a crazy one.
On a related note, being determined to reach your goals is as important as persisting toward them. Determination to succeed can help entrepreneurs with everything from hiring and managing good people (listed as the fourth success factor in the KPMG survey) to improving their industry expertise, having the ability to persuade and sell, and creating a strong network, all of which female business leaders identified as additional success factors.
While seemingly impossible to achieve in many circumstances, capturing the elusive work-life balance is something that appeals to many women who want to launch new companies. In fact, in the KPMG survey, the idea of balance drew the most unanimous response in the survey, with the large majority of respondents noting that work-life balance is crucial to them. While work-life blend may be more realistic than balance in 2017, women entrepreneurs need to find some way to level their scales to avoid burning out. The demands of a startup can be all-consuming, especially in an enterprise’s early stages, so women who have a handle on what helps them stay more centered have an edge over the long-term.
Persistence, courage, determination, balance—these traits all add up to an approach to doing business that helps women stay optimistic in the face of adversity. When data shows that 90 percent of startups fail, it takes a lot of confidence to believe that your business has what it takes to stand among the remaining 10 percent. If you can convey enthusiasm about your product or service through a relentlessly positive vision and attitude, then you can influence potential investors—and eventually customers—to take a chance on your dream. Many men have mastered the illusion of “faking it until you make it,” and successful women entrepreneurs use this trick as well. As a new business founder, you won’t know everything there is to know yet about your market and industry—you’ll need to learn it first, or hire someone else who knows it, to move forward. Your forward-thinking attitude and belief in your business can help you leap over and beyond those hurdles.
If you feel like these five traits aren’t naturally among your current talents, don’t worry. Anyone can develop these attributes if they pay attention to them. And you just might find that having a business idea that you’re truly passionate about will bring these traits into your evolving skill set without much effort.
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Malini Bhatia is the Founder & CEO of Marriage.com, a community of experts that acts as your advisors by providing information & support for healthy, happy marriages. Her passion for supporting people through the journey of building and sustaining positive, healthy relationships, combined with her business acumen, inspired the creation of Marriage.com.