“Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone”.
But it is for everyone, who wants a piece of the pie.
It’s been an eternal game of catch-up for women in the field of entrepreneurship but it’s safe to say, they’ve swerved systemic trip hazards and gained some real ground. The number of women-owned businesses has increased by 45% since 2007 – compare that to a 9% increase among all businesses¹.
It’s been a good run. Women are now majority owners in at least a third of U.S. small businesses. We’ve trodden out some wrinkles but to be able to announce, whole-heartedly, that we’ve almost evened out the entrepreneurial playing field: we need more.
What it comes down to is that men and women have fundamental differences. This simple fact should not be shrouded in stigma or tiptoed around for fear of saying the wrong thing. It is not something to be meekly shied away from but rather, to be dissected, studied and used to the global collective advantage.
The best place to start is to investigate the whys and wherefores of entrepreneurship:
What drives someone to start their own business?
What do men bring to the table and what incremental value do women bring?
Are men simply natural entrepreneurs while women aren’t?
As it stands today, the economic potential of women remains an untapped reserve, a resource that is in rich supply. If an alien were to drop out of the sky and land in Times Square, they would scratch their wrinkled green head and wonder why the roving eye of the world’s economy is overlooking the entrepreneurial value of 50% of the population. Or, they would get flattened by NYC’s wild-west traffic.
There is clearly a vital need for ample research on factors that limit and promote women’s entry into entrepreneurship. Ironically, the research itself is indicative of the gender-divide: most research on entrepreneurship is based on samples of men. I kid you not. BRB. Just adding the empirical research gender gap to my to-do list of gaps to close. Anyway, back to business (not sorry about the pun).
Research indicates that personality may be one piece of this puzzle². While both men and women with entrepreneurial intent, had higher Ambition, only women with entrepreneurial intent scored highly on Communal Tendency. The crux of this study, was that men and women who showed no interest in entrepreneurial activities, did not differ in Communal Tendency. This indicates that the entrepreneurial space, typically linear and individualist, could profit from an influx of women by adding a layer of prosocial focus. After all, most successful businesses require a team of, well, humans. Fuck up the community cohesion and your numbers will follow suit.
The next logical question: well, what kind of personality should an entrepreneur have? A study found that an entrepreneurship-prone personality profile consists of high-risk propensity, self-efficacy and mediators including extraversion and openness to new experience and… Drumroll please… Men scored higher. In other words, men are more likely to go sky-diving (risk), and while they’re fifty thousand feet above a slab of concrete, believe in themselves, that they’re going to see another day (self-efficacy).
But, this gender difference in the entrepreneurial personality profile is not uniform across all cultures – so is it an artificial construct? Let’s take risk for example. Men’s love for risk is a common go-to when rationalising gender differences in entrepreneurship. What is neglected is nuance. The fact that risk is most often measured by honing in on stereotypically masculine dominated behaviours – sky-diving or bruising American football – veils the fact that cheerleading puts more people in hospital.
The risks that women take are kept quiet, not wielded as a gaudy emblem of honour. Often they are concealed in sticky social stigma (think abortions) or bubble-wrapped as a prerequisite of what it is to be a woman (think childbirth). Higher male scores in self-efficacy can be plainly rationalised as a product of an economic system built by and for men. When asked about likelihood of success, female entrepreneurs are more restrained than men: only 65.3% are confident in their ability to succeed, while men are 72.4% sure³.
In an economic system where only 1.9% of all VC funding went to women-led businesses in 2022, this adds up⁴. In fact, if we’re keeping it real: women should be far more demoralized, based on what they’re up against. Women’s lack of confidence is no reflection of their own weakness, but rather a mirror of systemic gender bias.
Back to the question: are men simply natural entrepreneurs while women aren’t? The simple answer is no. The fallacy stems from a skewed underlying vision of what business is all about. Business acumen is still measured in risk affinity, high confidence, bullishness. Why? We are holding up a mirror to the businessmen of the past.
What is swept under the carpet, however, is that these same businesses are suffering a 76% rate of burnout amongst their employees ⁵. There are many routes to success and, as the saying goes, many roads lead to Rome. If women entrepreneurs operate differently from men, it’s not better nor worse, but exactly that: different. Women’s entrepreneurial potential is dimmed by being regarded through the lens of business myths, the rusted tracks of which were laid down by the steely businessmen of the 20th century.
It is now 2023 and it’s about time we update the answer to the question: what it takes to be an entrepreneur. On top of industry specific “hard” skills, there is a rich array of “soft skills”: essential factors in an individual’s propensity to entrepreneurship and their respective success.
Understanding what these soft skills, behavioural patterns and personality traits are, and how they are distributed across the genders is the first step in the elevation of women, by showing what they uniquely bring to the table. But most of all, it isn’t about showing; it’s about feeling. Women themselves need to catch sight of their own capabilities and sphere of influence, to take a pioneering leap into a space that was for so long-vetoed by men.
At the Global Collective, we offer a modern framework for women to bring their business game to the next level with confidence and connect male-led investment firms to the missing pieces in the gender diversified investment so that they are the pioneers in the global face of gender equity in business.
² Zisser, M. R., Johnson, S. L., Freeman, M. A., & Staudenmaier, P. J. (2019). The relationship between entrepreneurial intent, gender and personality. Gender in management, 34(8), 665–684
⁴ Madori-Davis, D. (2023). Women-founded start-ups raised 1.9% of all VC funds in 2022, a drop from 2021. TechCrunch.