The age-old debate on gender differences also happens in the business and entrepreneurial field. Compared to their male counterparts, are women really all that different when it comes to being entrepreneurs?
Statistics from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that around 126 million women are starting or running businesses, while 98 million have been operating established businesses for over three years. That’s 224 million women impacting the global economy—and this survey counts only 67 of the 188 countries recognised by the World Bank.
According to Fortune, there have even been reports showing that female entrepreneurs at times outshine their male counterparts in terms of success. Companies helmed by women entrepreneurs had 13% higher revenues than those run by men, and finished 9% above the average for all entrepreneurs surveyed.
Yet why is it that females seem to be less aggressive than males in entrepreneurship?
We followed with great interest a status that Khailee Ng, a managing partner from 500Startups, had uploaded on Facebook. He invited young students from colleges and universities interested in the startup industry to comment on his post, promising an opportunity to selected individuals to dine with influential people in the industry. The post was well-received with many showing their interest.
Yet something stood out. Most of the comments left were from men and only one response came from a woman.
Being such a good opportunity, you would have thought people of both genders would jump on board, but this was not the case.
We then decided to take this chance to analyse and find out if there is any particular reason why female entrepreneurs appear to be less forward or aggressive when seizing business opportunities compared to the males.
We also approached three women entrepreneurs, to get their opinions on the matter. Here’s what we’ve concluded.
1) The entire startup industry is male dominated.
Though women are now beginning to take on roles in startups for industries that are traditionally male-dominated such as high-tech, engineering and bio-technology, we still have quite a ways to go.
In fact, a survey has shown that 40% of women graduating with engineering degrees leave the profession or never even enter it. This possibly explains why in most of these companies, males in technical positions outnumber females by more than four to one.
So it is no wonder males are seen as more dominating when the ratio shows how much their sheer number overpowers females.
Jesrina Arshad, the founder of PurelyB, agrees with this and particularly highlighted tech startups. She said it is very male-dominated and male-skewed in terms of leadership.
“Whilst in the past two years we have seen a positive increase in women-led startups and women founders but it is still largely skewed towards men in SE-Asia. Thus I can’t say I’m surprised that there were a lot more men responding to an opportunity like Khailee’s based on sheer ratio alone,” said Jesrina to Vulcan Post.
2) Women entrepreneurs tend to not have as much time.
Being the minority, it could be advantageous for women because they are probably more prone to capturing the attention of investors and potential partners if the right concept, business strategy and traction is there.
But a reason that could deter some women from applying for these business opportunities could be lack of time.
Jesrina believes that women tend to be more meticulous than men, which results in them spending more of their time planning and executing tasks in running the company. So they lack the proper time it takes to be able to engage in these additional initiatives and opportunities as they would need to prioritise.
There is also a study done that shows how females face a certain amount of social pressure that their male counterparts see less of.
Women tend to find themselves being pressured with certain factors such as starting a family early, which in itself is already an enormous time commitment. It may not be impossible to raise a child and build a company from scratch but it is a true challenge and restricts women from partaking in as much activity compared to men.
Cheryl Yeoh, partner in FlexiRoam and past CEO of MaGIC, said that it could also be an instinct factor where males are just more prone to be alright with spending time for these activities due to their natural instinct of hunting and gathering chances.
“It’s just the way we’re set up. Males and females have different roles and they work to make the household fit but of course, these days things have changed and women have more equality and can do more. It just takes a bit of time for the general female instincts to catch up perhaps,” said Cheryl.
3) There might not be enough awareness.
Another reason could just be overall awareness. Though the startup industry may be a large one, it may not be mainstream enough for every person to be aware of.
This could also be attributed to the fact that women may not know about these initiatives in the industry and were only made aware of them past the deadline or due dates, which is something Jesrina has said happened even for her.
“Joining certain startup community groups helps founders keep aware of initiatives like these but some are invite-only and all are still very male dominated,” said Jesrina.
4) Women entrepreneurs tend to prioritise other things.
It all could also come down to pure preference. There may be women out there who find these opportunities a gold mine that they should harvest as fast as possible while others may opt to divert their attention on more pressing matters.
Ai Ching Goh, founder of PiktoChart, has shared that although she used to attend various networking events, she just couldn’t simply find a particular reason to continue attending so many events because there were other things she wanted to prioritise more.
“I used to attend networking events but I did not find a good reason of why I should continue attending many events and believed that building the business with my team was more important. It may be a question of priorities for many women,” said Ai Ching.
All in all, the conclusion is that it is wrong to say women are not aggressive. It appears to be situational and depends on the individual.
Cheryl shared how there may be less female entrepreneurs but those in the field do stand out. It may just be that some women just aren’t suited to entrepreneurship, just as some men aren’t too.
I personally believe that the perception of women being less aggressive is going to fade because, if we take a look at the men in entrepreneurship, we wouldn’t really characterise their key trait as being aggressive.
Startups are generally the result of pure hard work from all parties involved, female and male. This is what should really count, rather than just being aggressive in chasing opportunities.
Feature Image Credit: Compiled from linkedin.com, harpersbazaar.com, and twitter.com.