Womentrepreneurs… the double edged sword we wield

October 3, 2011Post by Laura Humphreys

Having been interested in an article recently posted on Facebook about the lack of women seeking and gaining investment capital, I feel inspired to make a commentary on some characteristics that can both make and break women in business.  I’ve coined the phrase ‘womentrepreneurs’ as merging words to make new ones is such a trend these days (think Brangelina and the Jolie-Pitt rainbow brood by way of example).  I work a lot with female small business owners and I know that we are all our own blessings and our own worst enemies.  So here’s my summary of what we do very well and where we let ourselves down in the world of business.  I’ve listed 5 qualites we are blessed with and the dangers these traits can present.  Please forgive me for the generalisations.  Of course these traits do not apply to all women so if as a woman reading this you feel you have to disagree, go for it.  As I say, I work with women in business a great deal so it is with some confidence that I can say the following fits most of us, if not all.

1. Women worry more.

Pros – See my previous blog on The Worry Factor in business.  Worry can be a good thing in business as it is usually what prevents major mistakes being made.

Cons – Worry can easily become fear and prevent action.  Business involves risk taking.  An unwillingness to take risks can slow growth and keep a womentrepreneur locked in a smaller game than her male counterparts are playing.  Using worry as a motivator to take action is a great skill for a womentrepreneur to cultivate.

2. Women are great multi-taskers

Pros – Women can get an awful lot done in a day. They can and do take on all aspects of a business from sales and marketing to customer service to admin.  They can switch quickly and efficiently from one task to the next and keep the quality pretty high across the board.  This can save a lot of extra cost in the early days of a business.

Cons – The downside is that women are more likely to spend time on non-income generating tasks than men and may be less willing to out-source administrative tasks that they feel they can do themselves.  Being spread too thin takes energy away from the all important focus on sales a young business desperately needs.  A willingness to let go and focus on income generating activities is a must.

3.  Womentrepreneurs tend to have less of an ego.

Pros – women make decisions based on research and applied logic, are more likely to assess a situation for all of its merits and problems before jumping in.  Ego driven decisions often lead to costly errors in judgement.

Cons – a lack of ego can also become a lack of confidence, especially when a woman is operating in a male dominated industry where ego is driving the culture of the industry.  Finding a way to hold your own and present yourself and your business with confidence is critical for all womentrepreneurs.

4. Women have a greater share of the empathy chip

Pros – The ability to see another’s perspective can be a very useful tool in business, especially when handling difficult issues with staff or clients.  Empathy can dissolve potentially explosive situations.

Cons – Too much empathy can make us soft.  Sometimes you need to be hard and risk not being liked.  Wanting every one to be happy could take the edge off our leadership position.  Using empathy to your advantage, to win over clients and build a loyal team is a great strategy.  Just be willing and able to make the hard calls when it counts.

5.  Women are intuitive and able to trust their gut

Pros – A woman’s gut feel is incredibly strong and should be trusted in most cases.  Women are in touch with an emotional response to a person or a situation that instinctively tells them what to do.  Women who trust their intuition and have the courage of their convictions can make a formidable force in business.

Cons – Intuition and gut feel come from an emotional space which means women can be prone to making decisions based on emotion rather than logic.  Emotion can be a dangerous thing in business, especially in negotiations.  Nerves of steel can beat an emotional attachment to an outcome any day.  So womentrepreneurs… go with your gut, keep your emotions in check… and be willing to walk away from a deal that isn’t good enough.

It’s true for all people in any situation really – our biggest strengths can also be our biggest weaknesses.  The power comes from knowing this and maximising the star qualities whilst minimising their potentially negative mirror image.

I should add though that I am the biggest fan of women in business.  Yes because I am one, but also because women are so good at so many things.  We care about other women in business, we support each other, we network and send business to our sisters whenever we can, we are committed to our education and never too proud to say what we don’t know and seek the advice of those who do know.  It is always a privilege and joy for me to mentor a womentrepreneur, the ability to laugh at ourselves and with others being one of my favourite traits.  Go women!