In 2018, women are faced with a number of difficulties separate from the standard operating procedures of running a business. Here are the top five challenges women in business face today, and why we in the small business community should work to facilitate a level playing field for all:
1. Raising capital
Every entrepreneur will have to navigate the complicated landscape of venture capital and crowdfunding in order to acquire the resources needed to scale. Yet opportunities for funding are not readily available to all, and the statistics speak for themselves; according to Pitchbook, only 2 percent of female founders received VC dollars in 2017. This climate makes it extremely difficult for female-led businesses to thrive, and the lack of collateral — fiscal or otherwise — aligns with the fact that many female-identifying entrepreneurs run their business from home and have difficulties hiring new staff, renting meeting space and investing in marketing/sales.
2. Discrimination and harassment
According to a 2018 Marketplace poll, nearly half of women who experience sexual harassment leave their jobs or switch careers. A 2017 Pew Research study reported that 42 percent of women face gender-based discrimination in the workplace, sharing incidents of being passed over for important assignments or overlooked for a promotion due to family status. Small business owners need to have a well-oiled HR-machine in place to spot fires before they spread; in the inaugural Small Business Expo: Bi-annual Trend Report, it was found that less than 1 percent of small business owners surveyed focused on HR, with most time spent on operations and marketing.
3. Employee retention
For small business owners, it’s important to ensure employee skills are transferable across departments to narrow the risk of employees looking elsewhere. Addressing wage gap issues and providing the right culture is also important — flexible hours and championing individual professional development will all help to increase retention rates.
4. Access to mentorship and resources to scale
Having a strong network of mentors and resources are crucial building blocks to scale your business. In our digital-first era, there are a number of free resources and national-scale events with ample opportunities to network, including Inc. Magazine’s Women Summit and Small Business Expo.
5. Owning accomplishments
For budding entrepreneurs, more often than not there’s a tendency to unintentionally downplay individual achievements. Knowing your worth is an important skill that’s essential at the negotiating table. Never give away too much without a financial commitment from a potential client; it’s vitally important to leverage consensus-building qualities without unintentionally downplaying your achievements and credentials.