The organizers of POWER | Silicon Beach sent out a survey to better understand the issues that women face as entrepreneurs in our community. We obtain great data from 28 people (89% women). Of these respondents 43% owned or operated a business (with an average number of 8 employees), 28% were employed by an organization, and 29% were students. Below are our most clear and interesting results.* We thank all of those who took time to respond to our survey, we will be using these results to improve both future events and our outreach to the Silicon Beach community.
1. What does being a women entrepreneur mean?
a. Entrepreneurship means many things to many people. Arguably, three important aspects of entrepreneurial behavior are being proactive, taking risks, and innovating. The inclination of women to identify as an entrepreneur tended to be associated most strongly with being innovative followed by taking risks and being proactive. Thus, for those we surveyed, being innovative looks to be most closely associated with being entrepreneurial.
b. People disagree about what characteristics make a great entrepreneur. Research evidence indicates that entrepreneurship is often framed implicitly in stereotypically masculine ways. We randomly presented different definitions of entrepreneurial behavior and asked whether you agreed with those definitions – including definitions that emphasized stereotypically feminine (caring, form strong relationships, humble), masculine (tenacious, take big risks, work well independently), and gender-neutral characteristics (creative, steady, well-informed). Women tended to agree roughly equally with all three definitions – indicating that among those we surveyed, both stereotypically masculine and feminine characteristics are valued and believed to be important to successful entrepreneurship.
2. What challenges do women entrepreneurs face? We asked women what challenges they face as entrepreneurs and four themes emerged:
a. First, some women find it challenging to step up & out – that is, to be sufficiently confident and assertive and to move away from stable jobs to uncertain venture paths;
b. Second, some women believe there is an over-attention to gender – that is, that gender differences are over-emphasized and women entrepreneurs are sometimes pigeonholed as women – as opposed to being treated as entrepreneurs;
c. Third, women encounter sexism in their work – that is, they deal with sexism and related biases (e.g., ageism) and people who doubt that a woman can succeed as an entrepreneur;
d. Fourth, women find it difficult to acquire capital for their firms and to deal with personal financial constraints.
3. What does successful mentoring for women entrepreneurs look like? We asked what successful mentorship might look like for women and five themes emerged:
a. First, women seek regular relational support;
b. Second, some believe that successful mentoring for women is no different than it is for men;
c. Third, women would appreciate tips and advice for navigating a male-centric world;
d. Fourth, some stated that successful mentoring would include being able to get quick business support & advice;
e. Fifth, an important aspect of mentoring to some would involve a regular relaxed and unstructured meet-up for women.
*Our small sample size prevents any conclusions about representativeness or statistical significance, but allows for a sampling of opinions, concerns, & experiences from the Silicon Beach community.