“I got my start by giving myself a start.” – Madam C.J. Walker
In the last few decades, women have created a storm by entering new fields & professions. They have proved their mettle by being central to the growth of homes, businesses, economies and our futures. In this blog, we take a look at the distinctive characteristics that set a female entrepreneur apart from her male counterpart, and how gender-specific strengths can be combined to push the boundaries of innovation, expansion and economics.
The inception of the idea to be an entrepreneur stems from similar desires for both sexes: they have always envisioned having a business of their own or have wanted to start something of great meaning and significance to them. But much of the similarity ends here and gender-specific differences greatly influence the start and progress of their entrepreneurial journey.
On average, women begin their entrepreneurial journey in their early thirties, while men start almost five years earlier, in their mid-twenties. Part of the reason for a late start among women entrepreneurs is that they like to have enough capital to invest in their business, while men are more open to seed funding and funding from venture capitals.
The difference becomes more pronounced as women progress in their business and careers. Women see the world differently than men. On average, they view things through a more creative set of lenses that not only helps them think differently, but also think fast. Women have the gift of being compassionate, yet strong-minded, which allows them to reach out to more people while remaining empowered. “There is scientific evidence showing that women are better at communicating, analyzing and having better intuition, three cognitive abilities that contribute to ways in which female entrepreneurs differ from male entrepreneurs,” says Dr. Krithika Kumar, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of ‘Better Brains’.
(Disclosure: Founder of Better Brains is related to the author. No statements are sponsored or falsified.)
While all of the above factors influence the achievements of women entrepreneurs, two additional elements greatly affect their success:
1. Work-Life Balance: Women balance their professional and personal lives better than men. They devise ingenious coping methods, not only for home, but for the workplace, too. They are methodical and hence, able to attain a balance between their career and personal lives. Lisa Saro, founder, ‘I Brands Beverages’ says, “Owning your own business or being an entrepreneur, offers flexibility in your schedule to maintain a very healthy work-life balance and a successful personal space.”
2. Improvisation: This is an important reason why women entrepreneurs are able to enter, run and win the corporate race. Whether they improvise by turning the comfort food they cook for their family into restaurant specialties, or up-scaling their sewing skills into fashion houses, women have flourished in turning mundane into magical. And they don’t stop there. “For every milestone there are ten more”, says Shubhra Chadda, Co-founder of ‘Chumbak’. She says her biggest achievement is yet to come.
Despite thinking and working differently from men, none of these women hold back because of gender differences. They treat their profession as a passion and put in the same amount of hard work and dedication as male entrepreneurs. Aparna, founder of ‘WomensWeb’ says, “I don't believe that any entrepreneur is ‘born’ that way - a combination of life experiences, interests, situations, as well as attitude leads one to make certain choices, among which entrepreneurship is one.” Not just that, these women have embraced the influence of men in their lives. Dr. Kumar says she has been fortunate to have many male role models. From the men whom she has known since childhood-- grandfathers and father-- to the men who entered her life as a young woman – her Ph.D. advisor and her husband-- they have all supported and encouraged her to follow her dreams without worrying about gender differences. We briefly spoke to her father and husband, both Co-founders of Better Brains. Their perception of her success is extremely similar to hers: they look at her as an asset. Her father truly believes she is a born entrepreneur, and from science to business, she has learned fast. Her husband believes that she is better than he is in many ways and that she brings creativity, motivation and method to their business. Aparna and Shubhra both give credit to their spouses who have helped them in balancing their professional and personal lives, and have supported them morally and emotionally. Lisa has a spiritual guru who has not only helped her be a more successful entrepreneur, but also a better mother, wife, human being, and woman leader.
It became clear from talking to these women that the best women entrepreneurs allow themselves to learn from men and value the energy and traits they bring. They are open to teaching, learning and working with men to help their businesses succeed.
This makes one wonder if combining gender-specific strengths offers a good strategy for unparalleled success. The answer seems to be a resounding “Yes”. Two of the four entrepreneurs I spoke to, Dr. Kumar and Shubhra, work with their spouses and assert that gender complementation brings more to the table. They also believe it gives them a better chance at “having it all” with no regrets because they can make time for each other and their family. Even in cases where men and women are no more than co-workers, they use their gender-specific abilities for greater synergy and success.
With the growing trend of focusing on women’s education, equality and empowerment, men and women entrepreneurs have become more evolved and treat each other as equals. This is especially true of a developing country like India where the environment, economy and opportunities are ripe for growing women entrepreneurs. This effect is so large that it has drawn back intelligent and talented women like Dr. Kumar and Lisa from the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively. So, if you are one those women who has always dreamt of being an entrepreneur, chase that dream. We hope you draw inspiration from these ladies and start your journey with fire in your bellies and courage in your hearts.