I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Female entrepreneurs are required to work tirelessly to earn their well-deserved spot in the corner office and at the head of the table.
Yet statistics show that more often than not, hard work literally doesn’t pay when women are at the helm of a company. Only 3 percent of money from venture capitalists and 4 percent of commercial loans go to female entrepreneurs — even as the number of women-owned businesses continues to skyrocket. According to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report from American Express OPEN, “Between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45 percent, compared to just a 9 percent increase among all businesses.”
Still, the language venture capitalists use to describe female entrepreneurs is tinged with negativity — words and phrases like “high maintenance” and “cautious” are viewed as traits that could lead to disaster.
A new AI platform from The Circular Board in partnership with Dell and Pivotal claims to be the missing puzzle piece needed for women to finally receive their due. “Alice” connects women with mentors and potential funding partners, along with resources like financial planning advice and relevant event listings. The goal is to provide female entrepreneurs with everything they need to eliminate the gender gap and succeed in a workforce that is actively pushing back against them.
Back in the ’70s and ’80s, when I was first navigating the workforce and establishing my footing in a male-dominated field, I didn’t have apps that taught me how to budget or sent me in the direction of the right networking events. But now that there are apps and platforms for almost anything, it’s important to remember that there are still a multitude of skills and strategies that can only be performed by you, the woman in charge.
So what are the old-school keys you need in order to open those doors?
1. Have a dream and stick to it
Technology can help you accomplish your dream, but it certainly can’t come up with your passion project and end goals for you. Mina Lux, CEO and founder of Meelo and a 2016 Stevie Award winner, described having a dream as the primary motivator behind her success as an immigrant and woman in tech. “‘Immigrants take the risk because of a dream,’” she said. “‘It’s the passion of making a better life and having that chance to actually carry it out. Does risk come into play? From time to time it does, but then we flip right back to that dream of having an opportunity unavailable elsewhere. That’s always been the root of my strength.’”
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Admitting to yourself and others that you can’t do something entirely on your own takes courage, but few people can honestly say that their success came with no outside help. For me, that came in the form of asking a friend for a loan in order to start my business. While online tutorials and multi-purpose platforms like Alice are useful for filling in knowledge gaps or leading you to the best resources, eventually, you’ll find yourself in need of another human — even if it’s just for moral support. “I have definitely not launched my business by myself,” said Michelle Garcia, owner of Heirloom Catering in Denver Colorado. “You’re always going to find yourself at a roadblock, whether it’s learning about a sales tax, developing a new website, or creating a new marketing plan. Always just ask for help. It’s so simple and it sounds so trite but it’s true.”
3. Learn to communicate
Being able to communicate effectively is always going to be a necessary skill, regardless of how advanced artificial intelligence becomes. While the methods of communication have evolved, the need to master professionalism, eloquence, and the ability to articulate your ideas in a manner that is compelling and convincing hasn’t changed. As female entrepreneurs, we’re already doubted, judged, and ignored more than our male counterparts, so it’s imperative that we take the time to refine our presentations, review our emails before sending, and learn how to be assertive and demand respect through the words we say and the way we say them.
4. Know your worth
While knowing your worth definitely includes demanding fair pay and not settling for the standard 80 percent of a man’s paycheck, it also means taking ownership of your work, staying confident in your ideas, and not giving in to the voices that say you’re not equipped to run your own business or create a new product. It would certainly be easier if technology could boost our self esteem and determination to pursue our path of choice, but this one is completely up to you.
Debrah Lee Charatan is the cofounder, principal, and president of BCB Property Management and brings a singular record of achievement and more than 40 years of experience to New York real estate.