Do female entrepreneurs face tougher challenges?

The statistics about female entrepreneurs tell a rather worrying story. But why are women opting not to launch businesses?

Women account for just 17 per cent of business owners, only 10 per cent of the female population in the UK are thinking about starting a business, and if women started businesses at the same rate as men there would be an additional one million female entrepreneurs. But the real question here is why, could it be that it's harder to be an entrepreneur as a woman?

“I don’t think it’s harder, I think it’s hard whoever you are,” Lisa Walker, founder of brightplaybox says. “But I think sometimes the decision to try running your own business can be harder for women as generally speaking I think more men are confident in their abilities to succeed whereas women have more self-doubts which can stop them taking the first step.”

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Ruth Thomson, founder of SocialSocial agrees that confidence can be an issue. “I meet a lot of amazing women who lack confidence in their skills and abilities, which means they don’t put themselves forward for opportunities,” she says. “This is a real loss for everyone.”

But, Clare Groombridge, founder of South Coast Social, thinks female entrepreneurs face a different set of challenges to their male counterparts. “I think it’s just a different playing field,” she says. “Ultimately I do believe women can have it all but perhaps just not at the same time.”

Groombridge started her social media and marketing agency two years ago and says that she’s faced a number of personal challenges in that time. “I founded the company after having my daughter and naturally there has always been a juggle between motherhood and business.”

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But she’s found ways of working that mean she can give her clients the attention that they need, while also being able to spend time with her family. “I fully subscribe to the ‘digital nomad’ ethos – essentially all I need to run the business is my MacBook and a WiFi connection so I can work from anywhere, anytime,” she says. “I make it work for me – I’ve essentially created a way of working which means I can give the business my undivided attention when required but also spend valuable time with my daughter. It’s all about being extremely organised, using every offer of support and taking advice when it’s offered as well.”

Walker says that she feels the pressure of juggling family life with running her business too. “Sometimes I feel like I’m being judged negatively if I’m not on top of all areas of my life such as my business, bringing up my son, managing the house and seeing my friends and family.”

She’s learning to make peace with the fact that she can’t do it all though, she says. “I’m realising something has to give, reminding myself of the reasons I’m doing what I am and prioritising the really important things.

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“I don’t see my friends and family as much as I’d like as I spend a lot of my evenings and weekends working, and my house isn’t as tidy as I’d like it to be. But this is a short-term situation.”

Practically, she finds that taking some time each Sunday to timetable her week and set both work and home goals really helps her. “I find if I send a little more time upfront working out what I need and want to do then I have no ‘dead time’ during the week where I’m wondering what to do.”

Thomson says that she overcomes challenges by making sure she prioritises her tasks. “With limited time, I am always making sure that I use every moment in a productive way,” she says. “I’ve never been so focused and had to move so fast! I am very lucky that my husband and I have designed our working lives to be able to work and care for our family equally.”

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