Empowering Women

3 Innate traits that may put female founders at a disadvantage, and ways to overcome them.

Jessica Alba Forbes

2015 ended with an article on TechCruch: 18 Female founders who killed it in 2015

Its highly encouraging to read about women and entrepreneurship. Women have always been the minority in this ecosystem and I personally feel that there is a logical explanation to it. Fundamentally, women tend to have less of an interest or know-how in tech in general. While most investment money is poured into high-growth start ups, in that, I mean tech-enabled ideas, many female-led companies are still geared toward fashion or F&B (where the funding options are extremely limited as compared to that of tech). It is no wonder why Nicolai Wadstrom believes that “females should be exposed and encouraged to engage with technology at a young age” as quoted in Elise’s article on Techinasia. Indeed, not having the “pre-requisites” or the innate interest for tech could be a good reason for the lack of females in this space.

But that is not what I wish to discuss in this article.

On a lighter note, the journey of starting PSLove had been a journey of self discovery – constantly reflecting on how I can leverage on my strengths and make up for my weaknesses to push the company forward. From my discovery, I picked out 3 traits which I felt could put female founders at a disadvantage and listed some ways which helped me overcome them. A small caveat: these “Female traits” also have its advantages at various roles in the company and shouldn’t be seen as all negative. We are meant to balance the males. Haha.

 

1) Women tend to get overly emotional.

Yes. Just like in a relationship – we tend to rely a lot more on our emotions rather than being completely rational about how things turn out. And we all know that starting up is like taking that roller coaster ride over and over. Sometimes our sanity just can’t keep up to the influx of emotions a start-up brings!

However, it is not impossible to keep ’em under control.

One way is to stay focused on the “why” instead of the outcome. For instance, if a campaign did not go well, look toward the mechanisms / metrics to figure out why it went wrong and how you can iterate the next round instead of putting yourself down because of the general bad feeling you get.

Another thing which I found was a common theme amongst female founders is the difficulty in making the right hiring decisions. We tend to get emotionally connected with people, which makes hiring right and firing fast really challenging. I found a method which worked extremely well for me in terms of hiring – avoid meeting applicants in the first cut. Make an initial assessment by having them fill up a questionnaire before deciding on the potential candidates to meet. That way, you reduce the chance of hiring purely based on “likability” or emotional connection.

2) Women tend to look for stability / security.

This, is totally counter-intuitive to what starting-up brings. In fact, you will probably never feel stable or secure in this journey. Being in a relationship with an entrepreneur is admittedly not easy, what more doing a startup itself. We cannot live with our bank accounts running on zero. I’m always amazed at how rags-to-riches entrepreneurs make it to the finishing line. The constant worry and stress can inevitably lead to a breakdown.

As a bootstrapped entrepreneur, I draw a very clear line between personal finances and company finances, even though there were many times I considered feeding the company with more cash. I suppose thats a good reason why people raise money.

To break it down rationally, feeling “secure” is simply the feeling derived from knowing that you have enough financial muscle when the time calls for it. Put aside a pool of money for whatever future needs you think you might have and know mentally that you are self sufficient, for now at least.

3) Focus too much on the nitty-gritty details.

I can’t say this for sure for all female founders, but i do find myself being troubled over the smallest things that really don’t matter in the bigger picture. There were many times i wished i had the kind of “world domination” ambition that i find in most male founders.  That being said, this can also be an advantage of having females on the founding team – they think on a different dimension from the guys.

Find a male founder to achieve a balance and take on the role which requires such traits eg. customer service, UI/UX design, partnerships, operations..

If you find yourself taking too much time in sweating over the small stuff, take a step back and weigh out the impact of these details. Will they make a dent in the bigger picture?

 


 

I have deep respect for all the ladies who are out there fighting to grow their businesses whether is it a start up or a lifestyle business and i’ll like to encourage ladies who have thought about doing something to step out and embrace this reality (inspired from Christopher Nolan’s sharing about the ending of Inception). The sense of fulfilment and lessons learnt along the way are definitely worth it!

I’ll like to also keep this conversation alive, so do leave your comments below have lets have an open discussion 🙂

 

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