As we prepare to launch our StartUp Secret Sauce eBook Series, I’ve been doing research on women entrepreneurs. Go ahead, think of one … that’s not Bobbie Brown or Vera Wang or another goddess of our generation leading some other fabulously girly business. In the hi-tech arena, you might think of Carly Fiorina with all the press surrounding her tenure @ Hewlett-Packard, but I have to tell you, women launching and running businesses (about 50% of them, mind you) are just not considered entrepreneurs.
Does a person have to launch a hi-tech business to be considered an entrepreneur? Here, women have single-digit percentages of the total field of hi-tech and science based C, and VP level positions. We don’t look like Mark Zuckerberg, we don’t act like Donald Trump, and tend to speak very differently from the “men” in the start-up boot camps. We aren’t as confident about our ideas, we don’t tell as good of a story as men about the future of our idea, and we aren’t good about extracting freebies from our vendor and partner relationships.
We do, however, create wonderful work environments that promote long-term revenue growth and collaboration with our clients and our strategic partners. Does this serve us in the long run? Tough to measure, however, in my experience, I’ve seen many more men experience the shooting star effect than women. In fact, if you ask around you – what does an entrepreneur look and act like – most everyone flashes to the late night pizza/beer shot over a computer – not with a baby in their arms. (Great article from WITI.)
I have to say that I’m seeing a shift in this societal view of entrepreneurs. Just last week, I attended an ops meeting at a pre-launch start-up and the founder’s baby diaper bag was on the counter next to the front door. Mom came to get the little guy before we dove into the meeting, but not before we all (men and I) had a chance to coo over the next generation’s likely entrepreneur.
This is not a woman problem or a man problem or a societal problem. It is a sign of the shift of the times, and there’s nothing but opportunity for us all when we invite women to play at entrepreneurship.
What’s my point? Treat the little girl selling lemonade on the corner the same way you treat the boy throwing papers – as a budding new business owner. Treat the young female business leader in your organization the same way you do the man, and invite them to participate in your innovative culture. Me – I’ll work on getting these women to speak up and ask for more.