Women entrepreneurs need to join forces to maximise their potential

Detail-oriented and dedicated, women have what it takes to become successful entrepreneurs. Lack of confidence may hold them back, but finding and establishing a supportive network can overcome this.

Women and entrepreneurship can be a beautiful combination

In general folklore, we often find tales where men are the heroes. There are some tales where women saved the day, but most of the time, they were the ones that needed rescuing. In modern times, that storyline is beginning to change.

Family businesses in Australia are warming to the notion that their daughters can take the helm – 43% of them surveyed in a study said they believed their daughters showed equal interest in being actively involved in the business.  And why shouldn’t they? Women have equal access to education and can bring just as many skills to the table (if not more) than their brothers.

Family businesses in Australia seem to have a great sense of foresight. A recent global survey found that women start more businesses than their male counterparts and their main venture registers higher revenue. The study assessed more than 2,500 entrepreneurs and angel investors with net worth ranging from $2 million to $7.6 million. At around the age of 30, men and women usually decide to start their businesses. On average, women begin 4.9 companies, while men start 4.3 enterprises. The primary business of female entrepreneurs achieves yearly sales of $9.1 million, whereas the primary venture of males reaches sales of $8.4 million. Despite these results, respondents said that lack of confidence can set women back in business.

Women need to acknowledge their “natural ability to process and think through information,” says Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal, Ph.D., a senior consultant at Gallup and a lead researcher in entrepreneurship. This will not only help a woman strengthen her business startup, but it will also aid her personal development. On a larger scale, Badal notes that investors need to support women more to help them advance in their businesses.

In the male-dominated societies in the Middle East, business formation among women has been growing thanks to technology. Female entrepreneurs are enhancing the economy because of their hard-working mindset as breadwinners in the family. Women entrepreneurs here strive to get their family out of poverty, and tend be more active in societal matters, said Alyse Nelson, CEO of Vital Voices, a non-governmental organization founded by Hillary Clinton.

What holds women back from building business?

PayPal recently surveyed over 1,200 female entrepreneurs and those aspiring to own a business in the U.S., France, China and Mexico. The research uncovered that the most pressing concern for women entrepreneurs is finalising a business plan as well as financing and payment systems. Linda Rottenberg, CEO and co-founder of Endeavor, agrees with this, but she suggests that women can hire someone else who knows more about financials to overcome this obstacle. In the long run however, females need to ensure they understand the numbers.

Female entrepreneurs also have other psychological and emotional concerns. “Women think they need to be perfect at everything,” Rottenberg said. However, there are ways to work around this type of mindset. For instance, if you don’t feel confident in starting a business, you can take a course to learn more about the foundation of startups. This will equip you to convince others to invest in your business and provide valuable insights into growing your enterprise and being profitable and viable.  Another way to address the lack of confidence is to work with a mentor, the PayPal study above had found. Working with others more experienced in the entrepreneurial space can help women business owners get their ventures off the ground.

Supportive networks power up female entrepreneurs for success

Communities of support and partnering with role models can enable women business owners to achieve higher revenues, according to the 2014 Annual Entrepreneurial Winning Women Impact Study from Ernst & Young. Under the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, some female entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to participate in an executive leadership initiative to build networks and relate with role models. 70% of the participants said they are encouraged to pursue higher goals, while 88% observed stronger self-confidence. Female entrepreneurs were also able to get in touch with peers that relate to their experiences, problems and achievements. The national Behind Closed Doors program for female business owners boasts the same results.

Aside from building networks, collaboration with others also offers women entrepreneurs a smarter way to achieve business growth. Work with somebody whose strengths and weaknesses compliment your own, and this can help you grow your company faster. Establish a common goal, and trust each other. In turn, this will enhance the experience and value that you can offer to your clients, which will yield returns for your business.

Tapping into supportive networks and collaboration can help female entrepreneurs address internal issues of confidence while improving their business externally. Building and maintaining relationships can therefore be a win-win for female entrepreneurs.


News Corp’s Rebecca Lawson wins Behind Closed Doors’ Luminaries Scholarship

News Corp Central Sales Manager, Rebecca Lawson is the winner of behind closed doors’ (BCD) coveted Luminaries Scholarship for 2015.

Announcing the winner and runners-up at BCD’s Back to Business dinner last night, Founder of the respected professional development, mentoring and networking company Donny Walford, said the 12-month scholarship is awarded to a successful woman seeking access to insights, knowledge, support and high level networks in their journey to Executive and Board positions.

“I extend my congratulations to our winner, Rebecca Lawson, as well as our worthy runners up, Christie Brock, the Executive Manager Marketing, Products & People at Police Credit Union, and Social and Digital Media Consultant at Hughes Public Relations, Alli Evans,” Ms Walford said.

“Rebecca’s leadership skills and emphasis on creating a team culture at News Corp made her the judges’ unanimous candidate of choice. While she has already achieved much professionally, she clearly has her sights set on so much more and her career aspirations will doubtless benefit from the Luminaries Scholarship.”

Ms Lawson, an Arts graduate from the University of Minnesota, believes the Luminaries Scholarship experience will not only benefit her personally and professionally but also assist her to carve out the next phase of her career and extend herself further.

In accepting the award, Ms Lawson said she expects the Luminaries program to offer her a better understanding of leadership and provide practical management and business skills she’ll be able to apply to her current role at News Corp and in her future roles.

“The notion of having a support network to discuss issues and challenges within my career is not only appealing, but I believe essential in propelling me to the next level in my career,” she said.

“I see the BCD support network as incredibly valuable and I find it very appealing that this program is built around growing the profile and confidence of businesswomen,” she added.

The BCD Luminaries Scholarship offers businesswomen aspiring to executive roles the opportunity to further expand their leadership and management skills through a year-long membership to the BCD Luminaries program, valued at more than $5,500.

The BCD Luminaries program was created in response to an identified need for motivated businesswomen to have a professional sounding board and support network where they can discuss professional and personal issues, challenges and strategies in a totally confidential environment while, at the same time, encouraging each other to extend themselves to achieve and succeed in new environments.

“One of its major aims,” concluded Ms Walford, “is to increase women’s representation on Boards, committees and in executive management roles and BCD has an enviable track record in successfully supporting our members to achieve these types of roles.”

What makes a businesswoman successful?

A recent article on ‘Fostering Women Leaders’ by Lareina Yee in the McKinsey Quarterly stated that many women’s programs focus on convening, creating and broadening networks. Lareina acknowledged that while these are important investments, they are insufficient. Companies should also instill the capabilities women need to thrive. Some of the most important are resilience, grit, and confidence.  Perseverance through challenging circumstances can shape a woman’s ability to lead.

This is exactly why I created Behind Closed Doors; to improve women’s resilience, courage (grit) and confidence.  Also critical is engaging mentors and sponsors.

When thinking about what makes women successful in male dominated industries, in Executive and Board roles, it’s always around being confident, courageous, persistent, persevering and being resilient.

The trick is how to build all of the above.  And this is where having mentors and sponsors are good, but critical are programs, like Behind Closed Doors, that challenge the members to think differently, give them tools to cope with challenges/issues and roadblocks and get over them! i.e. Build resilience, become more courageous and therefore more confident.

While we know that having female role models in leadership roles makes a big difference to younger women, equally we need to see these women remain in top roles; in business, in Government Ministerial roles, in community.  That’s a real challenge in Australia … not just encouraging women to take on top roles but keeping them there.  That’s when the ‘game’ changes and where women need the above attributes and support structures to ensure we attain greater numbers of women leading and influencing decisions.

Sponsorship is an area where men can play a huge role. Male leaders can make a huge difference to help increase the number of talented women whether in their own organisations or externally.   Women in leadership positions also need to share their stories and to make themselves more visible role models for women and as Madeleine Abright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”