According to a 2018 report by the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) Association, the percentage of women-owned businesses increased by 45% between 2007 and 2016 — five times faster than the national average, constituting 39% of the 28 million small business in the United States. It's clear that women are taking on the business world like never before, starting their own enterprises, leading corporations and otherwise making names for themselves. What does it mean to be a successful business woman? What challenges do women encounter in this sphere? And what can they do to conquer them? Keep reading to find out.
What does a business woman do? Working in business can mean several things, from holding a top leadership position at a small or large company to venturing out on your own as an entrepreneur and starting an organization of your own. Success means something different to each individual, of course. One woman might define it as rising to the top in a male-dominated industry, while another might define it as launching a business that earns profit relatively quickly. Given the unique challenges business women face, especially in contrast to their male counterparts, these accomplishments are especially noteworthy.
Unfortunately, women are up against more in the business world (and many industries) than men are. Much of this stems from bias and sexism. In order to succeed in business, women need to develop resilience, being able to demonstrate their value even in the face of discrimination. It's important for anyone, no matter where they work or who they are, to be able to bounce back from criticism and setbacks, and this is especially true for women in the business world, where the odds are stacked against them.
An innovative spirit is often key to succeeding in business. Having a great concept and knowing what to do with it can make your startup a success, just as developing a killer marketing campaign can lead to your next promotion. But curiosity is about more than that — it also involves being excited about learning new skills, collaborating with others and constantly improving.
Own the room. You must be a person who projects confidence in order to succeed in the business world because if you don't believe in yourself, no one else will. It sounds cliche, but it's true. You're less likely to earn that promotion if you don't believe in your own skills, and you'll certainly have a difficult time starting your own business if you're don't have faith in your ability to do so. The adage "fake it til you make it" holds here. If you don't have confidence now, pretend you do; you'll come to see how far it gets you, and ultimately, it will become true.
Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, said, "To succeed you have to believe in something with such a passion that it becomes a reality."
As you're just starting out in business, you'll have limited resources. You'll face plenty of challenges. Often, it may feel like you might fail. But if you have passion for what you're doing, you'll push through. Otherwise, you may decide to call it a day. Truly believing in your mission can help you make it a success because you'll be willing to tackle those obstacles.
Babson College's report "Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital" revealed that less than 3% of companies backed by venture capital funding had women CEOs. Due to bias and other factors (we'll get to them below), women simply don't receive as much support when starting businesses as men do. Given that businesses are costly endeavors, funding is essential for getting one off the ground. It's a tough pill to swallow, but looking to your network, as well as groups that specifically support business women, can help. The Hera Fund is one example. This angel investor fund specifically backs female entrepreneurs.
Despite the strides women have made across industries, they still face gender bias. No matter how successful you are or how many accomplishments you have under your belt, there will always be people who think women can't be entrepreneurs. Overcoming this often needs to come from yourself, but it can also help to seek out likeminded people, such as meetup groups and networks of female entrepreneurs and business women (Fairygodboss's community is a great place to start!).
Many people who "fail" in business do so because they lack the necessary support. In order to combat this, it's important to seek out mentors to help you grow professionally. Look within your own company, but go further, reaching out to people you admire on LinkedIn and using your network to meet new people who are successful leaders in your industry.
We touched on this above, but it bears repeating: a lack of confidence can kill your idea before it even starts. This is, unfortunately, a big problem among women especially. You need to project confidence in order to tackle the many obstacles you'll face. As with several of the other challenges, finding likeminded business women and mentors is one way to help you boost your sense of self-worth. You also need to consciously make an effort to work on it, perhaps in therapy or simply learning to argue with your negative self-talk.
There are many successful leaders and entrepreneurs throughout history. These are just a few of the most successful business women.
The former CEO of PepsiCo spearheaded a number of key initiatives for the food and beverage giant, such as including healthier options.
Now a household name, Winfrey rose out of poverty to become a media executive, philanthropist and one of the most successful talk show hosts ever.
Rometty shattered glass ceilings in the tech world, still very much a boy's club, when she became IBM's first female CEO.
The second female publisher of a major U.S. newspaper was the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, The Washington Post.