I’ve been writing a lot about all the cool things these local lady business owners are doing and musing about how important women’s entrepreneurship is. And I have simultaneously been thinking about all the challenges women specifically face as I battle them and observe people around me battling them. Last fall I wrote about all the things I have worked on personally that I know a lot of women battle with that hold them back. I wrote about this generally for women in all sorts of work areas, but lately I have been thinking about how this works against women business owners in particular.
As you may already know, I think it is vitally important to have more women leading us into the future in all sectors but especially entrepreneurship.
And yet is seems like there are so many obstacles, like entrepreneurship is a special challenge for the way women are socialized. And I am not writing this so we should feel bad or throw up our hands but just to acknowledge that there are real obstacles to women’s leadership in the entrepreneurial space and perhaps we need some creative solutions to overcome them. (Thank goodness these bad habits can be unlearned!)
Oh woman, there are so many ways that this can bite us in the ass. Too much time spent on achieving perfection in an email, in a document, with a prototype, on the details of your website. Too much time waiting to get a product out there because it is not perfect. It will not ever be, it will always need improvement but there is no capital for continuing to improve it if you haven’t taken the plunge to start really selling it. The need to be perfect is a serious obstacle to sustained motion and success that has to be dealt with to grow.
The need to know 100% before starting in
There are so many things to learn and so many things for which you will be a novice when starting a business. What is it in a woman that doesn’t apply to a job if she doesn’t meet 100% of the criteria, while a man will apply when he meets 60%? Well nearly everyday I must work on something that I only sorta know how to do. The perfectionist in me doesn’t want to fumble around and make mistakes, but that is OK as long as I learn from them. Like perfection, needing to know everything before starting blocks movement and growth. It hinders learning. It has to be overcome for progress.
Step in and care for everyone but yourself
Lead by example not by regularly donating your precious energy to help people work out their own issues. For some reason, so many women feel like part of being a woman is regularly getting together, or getting in touch with a whole list of people and “helping them” or being a listener or whatever. Stop throwing time and energy towards trying to help or fix anyone. People can only help and “fix” themselves anyways.
Yikes! This may sound harsh. There is still the socialized nurturer in me that is like: “Don’t help people! What?!!? But helping people is good.” And yes, often it is good. But there is a difference in stepping in to watch a friend’s kids, or cheering up a friend going through a break-up versus regularly taking on other people’s problems. When we are beginning our most meaningful work, being a part time therapist for this or that friend who is still struggling with the same old crap is an excellent strategy to delay or hide from what is really important.
Embrace the part of you that is deserving of help
In the ebb and flow of business occasionally there are a huge number of problems that seem unsolvable. And of course they are solvable, but often the solutions are asking for help and favors. This really irked me and still does. Asking people that are almost strangers if they would use their shipping account for a huge shipment is a necessary obstacle to bootstrapping your way to your own fancy shipping account. I worry about asking questions like this because I worry about not being liked, being too presumptuous, looking like a novice idiot. But the reality is that I have never regretted asking for help. That doesn’t mean that people could always help me, but pretty much anyone that matters in business knows that an entrepreneur needs help and has to get creative to make it. No one worth a damn will fault you for this.
Well I’m sure that this list could go on and on, and I’m sure I will write with another one shortly. To combat these regular pitfalls I recommend connecting with other women entrepreneurs. Learning from them, and find some way to track and reflect on your personal progress (these Weekly Letters are largely it!). I am also increasingly imagining that women entrepreneurs are super hero’s blasting through the toxic muck that is society’s expectations of who and what they should be. It is more fun that way.
Someday I hope there will be a lot more to offer women in business so it is not such a wild frontier out here!
Go. Fight. Win!