By Suneera Madhani, CEO and Founder of Stax, a payment technology company and CEO School, a top 0.5% business podcast worldwide for women.
It’s well-documented that female entrepreneurs make less money than their male counterparts. There is a myriad of reasons for this. Many female founders don’t receive funding from venture capitalists. Those who do receive funding often don’t receive the same amounts as men. Others don’t pay themselves at the same rate as male entrepreneurs. The list goes on.
After coaching thousands of women through my podcast and serving countless small business owners through my payment processing company, I’ve found five ways you’ll be more likely to break through barriers and achieve the success you’re after.
1. Take risks.
Many people are afraid to take risks because they don’t want to fail or let people down. Growing up, women usually aren’t encouraged to move outside their comfort zones. As a society, we praise boys for trying new things and getting their hands into messy things but ask girls not to get dirty and to sit on the sidelines.
That fear can carry over into our ability to scale our businesses, too, when we delay in hiring more team members because we’re afraid of failure. I remember hiring my first full-time employee was one of the most challenging moves I made as an entrepreneur. Fortunately, that became easier as we went from one to three to 10 to over 100 team members.
2. Aim for progress, not perfection.
You may have seen the report floating around that found men will apply for a job if they feel they’re 60% qualified, but women won’t unless they feel 100% prepared or “perfect” for the job.
Though done is better than perfect, it seems many women didn’t get the memo. Women tend to overthink and overanalyze everything, which causes them to wait for just the right time or circumstance before taking action. But that time never comes, and business is messy; you can’t grow and scale a business if you’re waiting for perfection. Instead, take action, however imperfect, to make progress.
3. Have confidence in your competence.
It’s possible to be confident but still lack confidence in your abilities. For example, women are notorious for engaging in self-sabotaging talk. Even when complimented, they tend to respond with a “Yes, but” comment that offsets their achievement with a noted fault rather than saying something like, “Yes, and isn’t it awesome?”
On the other hand, men seem to take compliments, even if they aren’t warranted. They’re less likely to question their competence; they simply forge ahead. Lean into your abilities and push yourself to get out of your comfort zone. No one will believe in you unless you believe in yourself first.
4. Don’t let the pandemic win.
The pandemic really did a number on women, particularly female founders. Not only did they need to manage how the prolonged uncertainty would affect their businesses, but they also had to find a way to do it while working from home and caring for, feeding and homeschooling their children. Women were also more likely to become caretakers to family members suffering from Covid, so they’ve had to manage multiple full-time jobs, most of them unpaid.
Women have lost 5.4 million jobs during the pandemic so far. This means we’re losing a generation of women (and female founders) from the workforce. With the women’s labor market participation rate now the same as it was in the 1980s, progress has not only stalled, it’s reverted back 40 years.
Rather than succumb to these challenges, we need to come out stronger to support women in our workplaces and in launching their businesses. We need to break these statistics by committing to creating better work environments for working mothers and ensuring our women leaders rise to the top.
5. Dream big.
In my anecdotal experience coaching thousands of women, most define business success as hitting six figures and having some flexibility for their family.
When I first started, I never knew I could build a billion-dollar business. I personally hadn’t seen any women doing it, so I figured, like most, that the pinnacle of success was that million-dollar mark. But as I focused on growing and scaling my business, I found other female founders doing the same.
These are precisely the voices we need to elevate and the stories we need to be told. When strong, successful female founders share their journeys and experiences, they inspire and encourage girls, their teams and other women to do the same.
And when female founders know what’s possible, it raises the bar for everyone, making these goals easier to attain.