Entrepreneurialism is not a gender issue: it’s time to break through glass walls

Yolanda Regodón. Associate Director of Communications. IE Business School

1 September 2012

We have to stop thinking that entrepreneurship is a gender issue, and start viewing it as an opportunity to create jobs and economic growth.

Reflection, motivation, idea, action and expansion.  Talking about entrepreneurship and women is not an outdated message. Entrepreneurship is a question of trial and error and of a great deal of passion for inspiring people with your idea and expanding on it. So why do women seem to find it so hard to launch a business project, and why do most people still think of an entrepreneur as being a man?  It’s taking us an awful long time to start busting these myths and doing away with the idea that formed part of the general psyche until very recently! And it is taking us even longer, as stated in the Kauffman Foundation report, to stop thinking that entrepreneurship is a gender issue and to view it in terms of an opportunity to create jobs and fuel economic growth that would doubtlessly benefit us all.

I look around and see multiple projects that are launched while others remain at an embryonic stage and this sets me thinking and learning. Among other things, I try to work out what barriers women face when it comes to setting up a business, and how many mechanisms exist to tackle them.  Women have made enormous progress in breaking through the glass ceiling, but we still have a long way to go before we manage to shatter the glass walls and start to build our own companies and businesses.  Although only 30% of the entrepreneurs worldwide are women, Spain should be in a more favorable position given that 60% of Spanish degree holders are women, who also happen to get the best grades. Yet this has little impact on levels of entrepreneurship in Spain.

Hence I am interested in knowing what is happening to all this talent, where it is being put to use, and why so many qualified women do not realize that they could play a very useful role in society by running their own companies, transforming fields of management that have hitherto operated according to parameters that could be described as traditionally masculine. It goes without saying, now more than ever, that one always has to be brave and willing to assume risks. Now is the time to create new realities. Now, more than ever we need to be continuously innovative and to serve as change agents.

The list of requirements below are designed to help both women and men embrace entrepreneurialism because today is the time to launch The Start up of You, as  advocated by authors Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.

  1.-Passion for your project. You have to be convinced.  Passion for what you do and although you may find it difficult to identify your special talents, you have to try because the only people who have never made a mistake are those that have never tried anything new. Are you going to risk missing out on this?

2.-Get used to the idea of failure. Failure is the gateway to opportunities and experience. Stop beating yourself up, open up to the new ways you can channel the emotions you will feel when you try.

3.- Work on your personal brand when it comes to selling yourself and positioning your idea better. Don’t forget that first you have to sell yourself, and then people will start noticing your project. So approach networking the same way you would a new life partner. You will need to work at wooing them.

4.- Pay attention to detail when it comes to method and process in order to build credibility,  which is the cornerstone of your project.

5.- Do something, launch something, take  some kind of action. Whatever it is that you undertake you can be sure that you will be taking a step toward generating change in society’s culture and setting an example for other generations. Promote entrepreneurialism among women and don’t forget the importance of creating networks to that effect.

6.-Forget the way you usually do things and acquire skills and perceptions which although they may seem masculine at first sight, already probably form some part of your day-to-day management style yet you don’t see them as the way you do things. Say what you want and how you want it. Learn to negotiate and to talk on a peer-to-peer basis where money is concerned.

7.-Learn to manage uncertainty, risk takers are in fashion. In crisis situations, only imagination is more important than knowledge, as Einstein once said. Your chosen line of action has to be an intelligent risk.

8.- Execution, execution, execution! As the Americans say, and there isn’t much to add to that. I heard a company director say it once and it has stuck with me. There isn’t time to keep looking back. It’s time for action. Doing something will always be productive and will bring something new.

9.- Launch a project by finding niches and attractive sectors. So you fancy the technology sector? You will have more opportunities, in Spain some 6% of women are doing it, leaving plenty of distance to cover so don’t forget to expand. Taking a glocal approach is key here.

10.- And  above all, don’t forget that we can all create a new reality by seeking change,  and if we can also make it sustainable,  we will be playing our part in creating future wellbeing.

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