March is Women’s History Month, so it’s an appropriate time to explore a question: are women entrepreneurs different from men? Do women small business owners approach businesses differently from men? And what can women entrepreneurs do to get ahead?
I’ve worked with entrepreneurs for nearly three decades—both women and men, in small towns and big cities. In most respects, male and female business owners—whether running small businesses or launching visionary ventures—are pretty similar. On the whole they’re competitive, smart, risk takers, collaborative, leaders.
But there are differences. I am a frequent public speaker to groups of entrepreneurs on how to take their businesses to the next level, and when I speak to women’s groups, my message is somewhat different. Where I often see male entrepreneurs stride into rooms confident of their ideas and themselves, I often see women more hesitant. Where I see women tentative about growth, I see many men eager—often beyond their capabilities—to expand.
Yes, yes, I know. These are generalizations. I can point to legions of women or men who don’t fit these generalizations. Nevertheless, there are some things women entrepreneurs and small business owners can learn from men that can help them grow bigger companies if they want:
- Concentrate on what you have, not what you lack. Male entrepreneurs tend to be confident, if not cocky, about their capabilities, while women tend to downplay their accomplishments. A friend who was a hiring manager told me: “If there are 10 qualifications for a job, a man will apply if he has one; a woman won’t apply if she’s missing one.” Every group of entrepreneurs—both men and women—have agreed with that.
- Toot your own horn. Women have a hard time promoting themselves, especially in one-on-one or small group settings. It’s tough to do this gracefully, but work on it! As Sheila Ronning, founder of Women in the Boardroom, once said, “I’ve called dozens of men and women for comment on newsworthy events within their expertise. More than half of the ridiculously highly qualified women I spoke with told me they weren’t expert enough to comment. No man has ever said that to me even when he was far less qualified.”
- Charge more. Even when women set their own fees, they tend to make less money than men for the same work. A 2017 study by the accounting firm FreshBooks showed that self-employed females who set their own rates made 28% less than their male counterparts. Some of this is due to the fact that women in some cases rightly know they can’t charge as much as their male competitors and land the client. But it’s also partially due to women undervaluing their own worth.
- Move faster. In my experience, women are more strategic; men quicker to action. For example, I once hired two social media interns at the same time. The male intern immediately started posting on social media sites. The female first determined the best audience and most relevant topics. He got us higher numbers; she brought us more valuable targets. Women often go “Ready, aim, aim, aim, fire” while men are firing away. Sometimes, you just have to pull the trigger.
- Go for the gold, not for the glamour. Women, generally, want their businesses to have intrinsic value—to accomplish something important, that they have an emotional connection to. Men are far more willing to just make money. Often that means following opportunities that seem, well, boring. Of course, I’m not saying your work shouldn’t have meaning or that women should only care about making money, but there are plenty of unglamorous businesses that both make a contribution to society and make you money.
Of course, there’s also a long list of attributes male entrepreneurs could emulate from women. They can listen and learn more; seek others’ advice; be better at multi-tasking; give more priority to work/life balance, both for themselves and their employees. They can be more strategic and less rash. And, guys, you could be a bit more humble.
What do you think? Are men and women entrepreneurs different from one another? And if so, how? Or do you think I’m way off base? Let me know. You can reach me on twitter @RhondaAbrams or on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/RhondaAbramsSmallBusiness
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2021
This article originally ran in USA Today on March 10, 2021