There are still big equality hurdles when it comes to gender in the American workforce, but those disparities are slowly inching closer together. Just take a look at Silicon Valley—the number of women founding tech companies is still extremely low. In private companies, just 6.5 percent have a female CEO, and only 1.3 percent boasts a female founder. With these statistics, how can today possibly be the era of the female entrepreneur? How, in a time when there are more women earning degrees and advanced degrees, can we be rallied as the up-and-comers in the startup world?
Here’s the silver lining: women in tech may still be outnumbered, but they’re getting recognized like never before. According to this TechCrunch article, when women lead a tech company, they snag a higher ROI by 35 percent compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, businesses with female founders reached a record level of 13 percent for all venture capital deals as of 2013. Compare that to the four percent from 2004, and you can see that progress is being made.
While there are still, and always will be, horror stories about being a woman in a powerful position, some female CEOs and entrepreneurs have noted progress for the better. Consider the Sheryl Sandbergs and Marissa Mayers of the world. They’re leading Fortune 500 companies, making incredible headlines and serving as inspiration for a new era of female business leaders.
In the grand scheme of things, women haven’t been “accepted” in most parts of the workforce for long (a mere 60 years at best). Now, women are taking charge in the boardroom, and that’s a pretty big feat. In the past decade, the amount of women-owned businesses worth at least $10 million has increased 56.5 percent, which is 47 percent faster than all businesses in that price range.
Failure Isn’t an Option
According to a Fortune Magazine article, the failure rate of businesses owned by women is also lower. If a business has two, one, or no female executives, the failure rate of a startup is 50.3 percent. However, add at least five women and the failure rate drops to 39 percent. Women are particularly succeeding in healthcare, comprising 73 percent of health service manager roles. Of course, the more success encountered by women-owned startups, the more venture capitalists will take note.
For women thinking of starting their own businesses, I have personally benefitted from a number of different tactics that have bolstered my confidence as a female entrepreneur:
- Leverage online and offline networking opportunities. I have taken advantage of social media platforms, local events in Silicon Valley, and other places where I have met other female entrepreneurs. From mentoring me to connecting me to others who have helped forward my own career, these female entrepreneurs have offered me a framework to help with physical or psychological barriers that have appeared along the way and blocked my confidence. Their examples as leaders have been a motivating force.
- Make the most of your male counterparts. It’s not just women who have been influential in my growth and development as a female entrepreneur. More men are recognizing the unique traits women offer the startup world. During this last year of working in Silicon Valley, I have met many male entrepreneurs who have served as connectors and provided helpful advice about what I can do to achieve my goals. When participating in networking events, don’t just focus on women-oriented groups. Connect with everyone you can in the room.
- Learn from every experience, no matter how good or bad. Moving to Silicon Valley has definitely helped me ramp up my entrepreneurial focus. The energy from all the other ideas and passionate people around me has given me confidence that I’m doing the right thing by diving into the startup world. Although my mistakes could easily have set me back, I instead turned them into learning experiences. Every situation and person in this environment can help me hone my entrepreneurial leadership skills. I just had to open myself up to what was around me.
Working in Silicon Valley has opened my eyes to the possibilities women now have in the tech world and given me the confidence to reach for higher career goals. It’s a great time to be a female entrepreneur. However, this is just the beginning. Just imagine where we’ll be in another 60 years.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by UK Department for Communities and Local Government