Women In Business

What barriers do female entrepreneurs face?

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Women who start their own businesses often encounter more obstacles on the way to success than men face. There are deep, historic social reasons for this phenomenon but the modern reality is that female professionals have higher hurdles to jump when it comes to getting bank loans, paying for childcare, building informal social networks and more. What are the details about these unique struggles that females endure? Here’s a summary of the four main areas that pertain to this old question:

Financial

Things have changed a lot in the past 50 years. In the 1960s, for example, it was nearly impossible for a female owner of a company to get a loan from a major bank or credit union. Nowadays, the challenge has more to do with credit scores, collateral and well-written proposals than gender. Even so, women often find themselves out in the cold when it comes to loan approval. In fact, women often struggle to procure financing in the best of economic times.

Social

One of the most formidable obstacles for women is social resistance. Even when banks are required by law to make loans based on strict, objective criteria like credit ratings and income, there are still plenty of ways to lock a person out of the financial and commercial arenas. Many men, for example, will not even consider taking on a woman as a professional partner. Whatever the reason, this sort of behavior is a fact of life. In generations past, a man who teamed up with anyone other than a man to start a company was viewed as a pariah of sorts by other entrepreneurs. That attitude still exists and is one reason so many women have difficulty locating angel investors, backers and partners.

Childcare costs

For anyone who earns a mid-level or lower income, childcare expenses can be prohibitive. There are real-life cases where single parents earn just enough to cover these costs, which means they’d be equally well off just staying home with their kids. Another downside: the majority of large corporations either don’t have on-site facilities for employees’ children or don’t offer financial incentives to pay for care. When it comes to this necessary expense, millions of single parents barely get by.

Maternity leave

The fact that female workers, especially young ones, might need to take maternity leave is a key factor in a significant number of hiring decisions. The thinking, even by supervisors who are women, goes something like this: “Why should I hire Sally instead of Tom? They’re equally competent, but Tom will probably not ask for time off to care for a newborn child. Sally is a greater risk for taking maternity leave, so I’ll play it safe and hire Tom.”

The above scenario plays out hundreds of times per day in major corporations’ human resource departments. Even with the growth of paternity leave plans, few men opt for the time off and are still viewed as having a very low absentee risk. The effect is hard to quantify, but surveys of HR executives shows the phenomenon to be a real one.

About Ainsley Pavee

ainsleyp@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

Ainsley Pavee is a New York based financial and business consultant with a focus on assisting female business owners and entrepreneurs overcome hurdles that can hold them back.

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