Analysis: here's how budding women business owners and entrepreneurs can overcome the pitfalls and challenges they face

Entrepreneurship has traditionally been associated with men and was once considered a form of masculinity and a "men only" career. In years gone by, some even claimed that entrepreneurship required high levels of testosterone.

Although this may now seem absurd, this traditional association of entrepreneurship with men and all its embedded assumptions can still present challenges for those considering entrepreneurship who do not fit the ideal image of the male entrepreneur – namely women.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Drivetime in 2016, Della Kilroy meets some of the 800 Irish female entrepreneurs taking part in the 10th annual National Women's Enterprise Day

I have conducted 35,000 hours of research and interviewed 300 female entrepreneurs in various stage of their journeys. It is clear that entrepreneurs, regardless of gender, face such generic challenges as finance, building a customer base and growing the business to name just a few.

Here, I have distilled my research into five things potential women entrepreneurs should be aware of as they attempt to navigate the pitfalls. For those women who do decide to become entrepreneurs, they are positioned within contemporary entrepreneurial discourse, including popular media, as a discrete and separate category with their own label – "female entrepreneurs" "mumpreneurs", "fempreneurrs", or "lipsticks entrepreneurs". These special classifications only go to confirm that there are normal entrepreneurs (men, family teams, partnerships) and then, separate from them, there are women.

Don't be afraid to say 'I am entrepreneur'

Women are often reluctant to claim the entrepreneurial identity. Many of the women I have worked with refer to their "wee business"! This reluctance is significant as "owning/claiming" is an important first step in the building of a credible entrepreneurial identity (i.e., being seen by stakeholders as an entrepreneur). Women need to be bold and not be afraid to say "I am an entrepreneur" when asked what they do for a living.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Reignite, Áine Kerr talks to Amy Cahill about her successful one-woman business Oxmantown Skincare

You have permission to start a business

Given that women often find it difficult to see themselves as entrepreneurs, and some feel that they need permission to do be one, my key message is to be aware that you do not have to wait until you get a degree, gain 10 years’ experience or reach some other self-prescribed milestone before you can be an entrepreneur – just do it. Don’t wait till you have all your ducks neatly in a row. Rather than waiting for permission, the right time and right circumstances, be ready to act. Just do it!

Digital first

The rapid acceleration of digital technologies is reshaping markets and society globally. In Ireland, whether you are a student, an employee, a customer, a business leader or a mere observer, it seems that everyone is talking about 'digital.’ As the recent Covid-19 pandemic has shown, digital technologies enable new business models for every industry. Regardless of your business idea, if you not starting up digitally or with digital in mind, ask yourself why not. Rather than getting stuck on the tech versus non tech divide, wider your horizons by thinking different degrees of tech.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Reignite, glass ceilings and how to break them with Chupi Sweetman, Paula Fitzsimons and Síona Cahill

You are your network

Networking is an important intangible resource for any entrepreneur. As well as being a resource, it is also a skill and, like any skilll, practice makes perfect. However, it is important to be aware that when it comes to networking, as humans we tend to flock towards PLU (people like us), in other words homophily. When creating your networking training plan, try to identify gaps in your network and how you can fill them. One way in which to fill such gaps maybe to join a professional network.

There is a lot of debate with regards to what is best for women i.e. women only networks versus mixed networks. My research shows the importance of women only networks when starting off as they are good for building confidence and reducing the isolation associated with starting a business. As you, your business and your growth ambitions grow, your networks should too. They should reflect the broader entrepreneurial ecosystems, one composed of a variety of diverse stakeholders including men.

Don’t just think big, think bigger

Mindset and expectations matter when it comes to creating a vision of what is possible (i.e., growth ambitions), but they can also act as unconscious constraints, limiting what is possible, especially if we focus on our problems, our worries, and allow impostor syndrome to take hold. When it comes to growth ambitions, try to let go of preconceived notions and not just think big but think bigger. Once you begin to adopt a practice of expanding your expectations, what you see as possible becomes probable. Simply put, do not be afraid of big things.


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ