In my interactions with different women’s networking groups and the regular discussions I have about female participation in business and on boards, it is clear that issues around barriers to entry and representation for women in start-ups and as entrepreneurs still exist.
The arguments range from a lack of representation by women in technology industries, a lack of female CEO’s and of course, the old board appointment issue.
There are some exceptional examples in Australia of female entrepreneurs and mumpreneurs, all of who have achieved by managing a work/life balance – one that undoubtedly was in and out of balance over their lives.
If we broadly characterise the conditions of the entrepreneur as needing an appetite for risk, a laser-like focus, reflexiveness to situations around the start-up and endless patience and optimism, this immediately carves out a very small percentage of the population that will be entrepreneurial at any given time.
Of those that have some of these characteristics, many of those entrepreneurs or business intenders will remain nascent due to any number of circumstantial events, regardless of gender.
Many of the women who would be potential participants are going to be limited by a commitment to actual or planned parenting, the need for regular hours and an income, or being the support to another breadwinner in their endeavors to provide this stable environment.
This is reality rather than sexism for many women. As there is choice involved, and the life of the entrepreneur is frustrating, difficult, risky, transient and arduous in equal measure to its highs and euphorias, many choose to take a road more travelled regardless of their potential for success, or their family situation.
It’s hard to survive and pay a mortgage with no income. It’s hard to work 18-hour days seven days a week with any family commitments, including aging parents or other caring responsibilities. It’s hard to pull kids out of school or childcare to move countries chasing investors or new markets.
The type of conditions by which we know most entrepreneurs have to live to get their innovation to market are extreme, that is why we celebrate the start-up. It’s an endurance sport that takes a very particular type of commitment and stamina.
I don’t think women aren’t participating because they are intellectually not equipped or overtly marginalised. I think many simply choose lifestyle and balance over the demands of the fast growth high-risk lifestyle. Ditto CEOs and directorships.
If you look at the statistics around participation in home based businesses and other “mumpreneurial” ventures that are low risk, low tech, flexible and low barrier to entry, women are flooding into these ventures. Tech ventures are classically high risk, high cost, high barrier to entry.
Women are making choices about how they participate in the entrepreneurial world that suits the life they want. Where participation means flexible, teleworked, output driven, rewarding and values based, women are there working and succeeding.