How female entrepreneurs can overcome barriers to success

Business news and opinion

9 November 2017

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day takes place on 19 November as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

However, according to a survey by NatWest, 125,978 new businesses were started by women in 2015, compared with 257,097 by men. So why are the numbers lower for women, and what are the barriers preventing more young women from becoming entrepreneurs? And, more importantly, how can these be overcome?

Here are our tips if you're starting out.

Become part of a support network

National networks like Enterprising Women are fantastic online resources, and they host events across the UK. Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to find local and regional “Women in Business” pages. Ask to join these, and you’ll soon be part of a network of like-minded women near you. Join mailing lists and attend networking events that you’re invited to.

Find a mentor

Finding a mentor or entrepreneur to offer advice and support in the early days is key to realising that all barriers can be overcome. A mentor can be a friend or colleague who is a few steps ahead of you, or seek out someone suitable at a networking event.

It's possible to work with a remote mentor who you’ve contacted online, but a genuine, face-to-face relationship is more beneficial in terms of personal development. If you don’t already know a potential mentor, search on Mentorsme. This website will match you with prospective business mentors in your region.

Raise capital

At a global start-up event held in Monaco earlier this year, the female entrepreneurs at the forum agreed that lack of financial investment is a barrier to female-led start-ups. Founder of Enterprising Women Bev Hurley told The Guardian that a more “cautious” attitude to money leads women to “undercapitalise their business”. She also said that being risk-averse isn’t always a bad thing in business, but you want to avoid stalling at the start from a reticence to raise capital.

Speak with your bank, look into crowdfunding or join up with a friend – there are plenty of ways to finance your dream.

Overcome the fear of failure

A 2016 survey by the Start Up Loans Company found that 9% of women interviewed stated simply that “fear of failure” hindered them from following their dreams. Believe in yourself and what your business has to offer. Robust number-crunching can be reassuring: your business has the ability to succeed if you follow your plan.

Again, a mentor can help you gain that essential self-assurance. Stock up on some new bedtime reading: British businesswomen Jo Malone and Karren Brady both have biographies out. Inspiring stories can really help build your confidence and resolve.

Gain the right skills

The Monaco forum also identified skills gaps as a potential barrier. “Digital literacy” is typically seen as an area where men are stronger than women. In Britain’s universities, business studies has a 50:50 gender spilt; however, IT-related subjects are predominately studied by men.

If you feel you have a knowledge gap, don’t let it stop you. Fill it either by improving your own knowledge, or hiring in help. Training is available for women in business: for example The Women’s Organisation in the North of England offers training for business women.

Above all, remember that success doesn’t have a gender. If you have a good idea, and the drive and skills to realise it, there needn’t be any barriers.