It’s 11:20 am and Dr. Corinne Jenni is now on her second cup of coffee. She has already spent the morning putting the finishing touches on an analysis for a client—a synthesis of market research, client sales and finance data and, of course, tied it all together with her expert opinion as a strategy consultant for her private consulting business Strategati. The day is still young however; later she facilitates a meeting with the think tank group of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Tomorrow morning she will teach a class on strategy consulting and in the afternoon will continue with her volunteering as a counselor for SCORE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping business owners and startups through education and mentoring by volunteering business experts. For Dr. Jenni, this is all in a week’s work.
Welcome to the life of an entrepreneur—a job that requires extreme self-determination and the ability to wear multiple hats—and it is a job many women have decided is the best fit for themselves. For many, this job becomes a lifestyle— individuals take their already rooted tendencies for multitasking and apply them to creating their own enterprise. But how has getting an entrepreneurial venture up and running been for women?
Starting a business is no easy task. But the initial anxiety towards adapting an entrepreneurial lifestyle can be especially high for women. For over 30 years, women have been earning more college degrees than men, and women are still vastly underrepresented in the corporate world in almost all respects. A recent study by the Peterson Institute indicated that two thirds of companies studied had no female board members, half had no female executives and more than 95% of them had no female CEOs.
Despite these gloomy statistics, this trend is changing, albeit slowly. Women entrepreneurs, executives and employees are slowly being recognized for the unique abilities they bring to the workplace.
What are these unique abilities that women bring? Studies in behavior economics show that women help companies make better investment decisions—they tend make less brash decisions and tend to be less prone to overconfidence. They get less carried away with the rush of investing, as opposed to their male counterparts who are more likely to approach investing with a gambling mentality. This is all to say that women can make very smart decisions for the durability of their company.
So if women have such valuable skills to offer, what is the key to seeing more of them in the marketplace? Let’s get back to Dr. Jenni—an example of a self-made entrepreneur and one whose perseverance got her to where she is today. Jenni’s resume and track record make most entrepreneurs, male or female, look thin by comparison. However, even for her there was initial trepidation. “Starting my own business definitely wasn’t easy and I needed to break out of my comfort zone. Getting there required a lot of determination, persistence, patience and resourcefulness,” Dr. Jenni comments.
Fear is often the force that impedes potential entrepreneurs from getting started. But many women have also concluded that this is the only lifestyle that works for them. Dr. Jenni comments, “After years of working in a male dominated corporate world, women simply get fed up working twice as hard and, while on their career path to a top management position, being pushed aside, stabbed in the back, misunderstood, and often mistreated by their competitive counterparts.”
The entrepreneurial world is changing. The State of Women Owned Businesses Report concluded that as of 2016, there are now an estimated 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues. The landscape is changing and each year more and more women become key competitors in today’s economy.
It may be that the key to overcoming fear of failure is as simple as trusting that our work has a positive influence on the lives around us. This is why Dr. Jenni considers her work a contribution rather than “work”. “My work allows me to help others become successful, which only fuels my inspiration, let’s me get closer to my clients and understand their problems, which makes me a happier person in general.”
At present, the state of women in entrepreneurial roles is growing, but is nowhere near complete. The future holds plenty of opportunities for venturous entrepreneurs who, like Dr. Jenni, want to utilize their extraordinary and well-honed abilities to make a mark on the society they care about.