Empowered Women Entrepreneurs Shape the Business World

March 8, 2024 hr-hrobserver-womenboss-womeninbusiness-iwd

In today’s ever-evolving entrepreneurial landscape, women across industries are rising as champtions of innovation and progress. Despite facing numerous barriers, their determination and resilience are reshaping the business world as we know it.

This article explores the journey of women in the business landscape, highlighting the challenges they confront, the strategies they employ to overcome them, and the transformative impact they have on the global economy.

Women carry incredible influence in shaping the global economy, driving transformative change across industries through their entrepreneurial spirit and leadership. By unlocking the full potential of women’s entrepreneurship, societies can pave the way for a more inclusive and prosperous future.

According to McKinsey research, companies with gender diverse leadership positions are 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability. This underscores the significant impact of women-led ventures on the global economy. Additionally, according to a Boston Consulting Group study from 2018, startups founded or co-founded by women generate an impressive 78 cents of revenue for every dollar of investment, compared to just 31 cents for those founded by men.

Despite these remarkable successes, women still face gender bias. Whether in corporate boardrooms or startup pitch meetings, women often encounter deeply ingrained stereotypes and unconscious biases that create obstacles to their advancement. 

The belief that leadership is a domain reserved for men can cast doubts on their abilities and potential. Furthermore, according to an HBR article from 2020, there is a stark contrast in funding, with women-led startups receiving approximately 2.2% of venture capital globally, significantly less than their male counterparts. Women often face a unique line of questioning during investment pitches, where the focus tends to be on minimizing risk rather than seizing growth opportunities. This bias not only erodes women’s confidence but also restricts their access to vital capital, sustaining inequality and limiting their possibilities for achievement and growth.

Navigating complex challenges of gender prejudice in entrepreneurship 

This topic presents a complex landscape for women, who, themselves, have deeply ingrained negative self-biases. Addressing these biases effectively requires employing diverse strategies tailored to challenge entrenched stereotypes. One such strategy involves introspection, where individuals reflect on their own biases and assumptions. This introspective approach enables women to recognise and address biases they may hold, whether consciously or subconsciously. By fostering self-awareness, women gain the confidence to challenge these prevailing stereotypes and biases that may impede their entrepreneurial aspirations.

Another strategy that could be employed is utilising tools such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT), that is instrumental in uncovering hidden biases. Developed by psychologists Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji, the IAT employs rapid-response tasks to unveil underlying biases that individuals may not be consciously aware of or may be reluctant to acknowledge. Through this method, women can attain deeper insights into their cognitive processes and behaviors, empowering them to effectively confront and overcome gender bias.

Women in business grapple with societal expectations that discourage them from displaying vulnerability or expressing empathy. In a fiercely competitive business environment, women may feel compelled to adopt a more assertive and stoic demeanor mimicking their male counterparts, fearing that revealing emotions could be perceived as a sign of weakness. This reluctance to embrace their authentic selves not only diminishes their ability to connect with investors but also hampers their capacity to build meaningful relationships and partnerships, further exacerbating the challenges they face in the investment arena.

However, overcoming biases and challenges is just one part of the equation for women founders. Establishing a strong personal brand, nurturing connections, and actively pursuing investment opportunities are equally vital components for success. Crafting a compelling narrative that showcases one’s unique strengths and values helps women entrepreneurs differentiate themselves in the market and attract support from investors and partners. 

How can women improve their investors connections?

Maintaining relationships and staying connected within the entrepreneurial community is paramount for long-term success. Networking events, industry conferences, and online communities provide valuable platforms for women to engage with peers, mentors, and potential investors. By actively participating in these networks, women entrepreneurs can access mentorship, gain insights from experienced professionals, and establish collaborative partnerships that drive growth and innovation.

  1. Seeking out investment and funding opportunities is another critical aspect of navigating the investment landscape. 

Despite facing barriers, women-led startups can increase their chances of securing financial support by proactively pitching their ventures to potential investors. This may involve participating in pitch competitions, applying for grants and accelerators, or leveraging crowdfunding platforms.

When engaging with investors, women founders should prioritise ‘investor fit’ and value alignment, even if it means declining investment offers that don’t align with their vision. Conducting due diligence on potential investors is an essential part of being a woman entrepreneur.

  1. Knowing who the investors are, and forming a relationship with them can impact the positive trajectory of the company. 

Ultimately, trusting one’s instincts, and doing what works best for their company is key to navigating the investment landscape, and achieving entrepreneurial goals. Through strategic networking, diligent research, and a commitment to their vision, women entrepreneurs can overcome challenges and build successful businesses that make a lasting impact.

  1. Fostering a culture of support and collaboration within the investment community is crucial for nurturing the next generation of female leaders and innovators.

By creating inclusive spaces where women can share experiences, exchange ideas, and access resources, we cultivate a vibrant ecosystem that celebrates diversity and fosters creativity and innovation. Engaging men as allies in the fight for gender equality is equally important, as gender equality is not solely a women’s issue but a fundamental human right imperative benefiting society as a whole.

For female founders, seeking the right networks and communities is essential. They require safe and supportive spaces equipped with all the tools they need to thrive. This objective is at the core of the European Women’s Association’s mission, where we aim to support and empower women. One of our recent initiatives, the EWA Accelerator in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy, is the Investment Readiness Acceleration Program. This program is designed to equip Emirati and expat women entrepreneurs with essential skills in investment packaging, fundraising, and establishing strong networks to secure investment rounds. Through initiatives like these, we aim to create a supportive environment where women entrepreneurs can flourish and realize their full potential.

The journey of women in the investment landscape is characterised by both challenges and resilience. Despite facing systemic biases and structural barriers, women entrepreneurs are reshaping the business world with their determination and vision. Gender bias remains a significant obstacle, with women-led startups receiving disproportionately less venture capital and facing distinct lines of questioning during investment pitches. Overcoming these biases requires introspection, concerted efforts to challenge societal norms, and promoting diversity and inclusion in the investment landscape.

In conclusion, establishing a strong personal brand, nurturing connections, and actively pursuing investment opportunities are crucial components for success. Networking serves as a powerful tool, providing access to resources, mentorship, and collaborative partnerships. Fostering a culture of support and collaboration within the investment community is essential for nurturing the next generation of female leaders. By engaging men as allies, promoting inclusivity, and empowering women entrepreneurs, we can create a more equitable and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem, where talent and innovation thrive. Through initiatives like the Investment Readiness Acceleration Program, we can equip women with the skills and support needed to navigate the complexities of the investment landscape, driving economic growth and innovation for a brighter future.

Editor’s Note: This year, The HR Observer celebrates International Women’s Day by rolling out different perspectives on how to empower women.

Dagmar Turkova

Vice President, EWA European Women's Association

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