In 2013, a Pew Research Center study revealed some sobering insights into the reasons why 34 percent of millennial women weren’t interested in becoming a boss or top manager. But beyond gender inequality and discrimination in the workplace, some experts also referred to a confidence gap—less self-assurance compared to men—as essential as competence for success.
Their study wasn’t specifically about entrepreneurship, but it stands to reason that women, especially millennial women, had some good reasons to lean toward forging their own path—essentially sidestepping inequalities by building their own companies.
The figures are more inspiring today: The 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report says “there are now 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues.” This is significant—in 2012, there were only 8.3 million women-owned businesses. In fact, the number of women-owned businesses is growing at a rate that’s one and a half times the national average.
Female entrepreneurs’ ventures span economies and industries, despite ongoing challenges: balancing work and life, networking, battling for business capital, and overcoming the fear of failure. Interestingly, figuring out how to overcome those barriers might actually be helping women to develop the skills and traits necessary for business success, given a Gallup poll’s finding that women in management tend to be better leaders than their male counterparts.
Millennial women are taking their seat at the table, both as leaders of growing companies and as entrepreneurs. They seem to embrace a more unconventional leadership style, emphasizing interpersonal skills, embracing the latest technologies, and rejecting outdated hierarchical models that were common for generations. They are more optimistic, and work-life balance as well as workplace satisfaction matter more to them that monetary compensation.
What can we all learn from the success of entrepreneurial millennial women? Here are some suggestions.
Be more human
Monika Kochhar, CEO and co-founder of Smart Gift, says there is a lot to be said for being more human as a leader, and appreciating that different people solve problems and approach work in many different ways.
She shares her thoughts in Laura Dunn’s article for HuffPost:
“Even as a leader, being part of a team means listening, taking advice, and collaborating to achieve goals and navigate obstacles. The overall attitude of those around you can make or break a business.” She learned to work with others in search of the best solution to a problem, and she believes that “success can be achieved by leveraging the diverse strengths of everyone on the team.”
“Remember the three Ps—persistence, passion, and people—which are keys to success,” she adds to Entrepreneur. “I have learned that everything takes longer than you anticipated—but it is always better than you expected.”
“Don’t let someone else’s vision of success force you to stray from the path you worked to be on. Carve your own path and you’ll always be heading in the right direction,” says the co-founder of Ipsy Michelle Phan in an article on Inc. A vlogger and author of beauty tutorials, she developed a subscription service that sends out personalized beauty goods to millions of women monthly.
“My biggest advice is to know your strengths and weaknesses before you start any business. Draw up a list. What are you good at?” she advises in an interview with Wear Oh Where.
Don’t try to be someone else: your emotions, intuition, and instincts are critical in today’s business world. Content strategist behind plagiarismcheck.org Nancy Christinovich agrees:
“Be hungry for knowledge and use it to your advantage. Self-awareness and [your] own vision will help to research the niche and build a professional network. I know many entrepreneurs who tried someone else’s path and failed but succeeded once they decided on own mission and plan,” she says. “So, live by your core values, not others’.”
Do your homework
“My first real management experience came after I launched my first business,” says Hannah Becker, founder of The Motivated Millennial, in her article for YFS. “As an accomplished MBA student, I naively devoted two weeks to reading acclaimed management theories and soon considered myself prepared to manage anything or anyone. Boy, was I naive!”
She admits that being an entrepreneur isn’t without challenge and recommends to do your homework before starting a business:
- Do your market research (competitors, target audience)
- Don’t skip the critical process of business idea evaluation and validation
- Craft a business plan
The key is to keep things nimble, though. Bridie Picot from Thing Industries cautions against getting bogged down by too many details once you’ve got a startup idea. “The more research you do upfront as to how much work is involved and how much you need to learn could easily put you off,” she says in a roundup by Fast Company.
And Kimra Luna, founder of Freedom Hackers, recommends to take it easy when planning business. She just started by doing what she loved:
“I got my first taste of entrepreneurship when I started my own booking agency when I was 18 years. I started booking concerts for fun, and it turned into a full-time gig,” she told Creative Live.
Women still face challenges related to a more negative perception of female leadership, and unfair associations between appearance and work performance. It means that ladies often have to work harder in order to earn recognition.
“I found many times my contributions had to be significantly larger than my male counterparts to merit a public ‘good job’ in front of various audiences,” Jenny Dorsey told Forbes.
A professional chef, Dorsey gave up pursuing her MBA to go to culinary school so that she could start her food consulting business. She invented recipes, mastered the art of crafting a dish that stands out, and managed an underground restaurant that faced tons of criticism for a time.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Jenny told HuffPost. “For years I could hear the voices of my peers, former coworkers, and fake friends in my sleep, whispering, ‘Here I thought she was going to be someone important.’ It has shown me failure is simply the beginnings of success.”
Shift your mindset
The worst adversary in business is fear.
“It can be scary to make a big transition or leap, but you should push through that fear,” encourages Maggie Germano, a financial coach for women.
“You don’t have to go it alone,” Maggie suggests. “Make sure to also reach out to others for support.” Now she runs Maggie Germano and helps others achieve their financial dreams.
Founder of Splendid Spoon Nicole Centeno adds:
“View failure as a gift. When the business is in pain, it will force you into submission, and if you listen, it will give back to you.”
Nicole started her healthy food and mindfulness training business in 2013, though she worked in ad sales and marketing before that. Two years of solopreneurship and attempts to “have it all”—two jobs, two babies, and marriage—ended with stagnation. She shifted course and invited a business partner on board for a complete relaunch.
Millennial women are redefining leadership and entrepreneurship. According to reports, their generation is discovering entrepreneurship earlier, starting more companies, targeting higher profits, and manage larger staffs. As their ventures start to thrive and lead the way in terms of innovation, it makes sense to take a look at the philosophies that are guiding their success.