Historically, when you think “women entrepreneurs” you think of women working in the cottage industries, doing small time services from home, and doing work of benevolent societies. But when we focus on the definition of entrepreneurship as the “relentless pursuit of opportunity beyond resources.” we realize there are many more women entrepreneurs that immediately that truly fit the mold and go beyond: Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics or Brownie Wise, the founder of the “Tupperware Party.” Each woman cultivated out a new business space while taking advantage of available and unavailable opportunities just well if not better than the other sex.
So what inspired this unstoppable spirit of entrepreneurship in these women to go beyond the traditional boundaries?
It’s somewhat historical as well. The 1960s brought women into the workforce in a strong way. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and even the 1990s, women were being groomed to take their seat at the C-Suite table yet before this period the subject of women in business was virtually nonexistent. Choices for job hire would include becoming a secretary, nurse, or caretaker. Women were seen as a commodity and a supporting role in all things business. But as women entered business, naturally climbed leadership ladders, and later began to enter professional schools, women’s role in business began to mature. Here we are four decades later and now women are increasingly drawn to entrepreneurship as the veil of “supporting roles” and the glass ceiling fades away. According to Harvard Business School, this isn’t a trivial accomplishment. Women owned enterprises are responsible for $4 trillion dollars in sales and employs 27 million workers.
We need to ask, why do so many women have the entrepreneurial spirit despite such a short amount of time in the corporate workforce? The answer is simple: women began to realize their responsibilities of home and office were in need of balance and they began to take advantage of the great equalizer – Technology.
Technology removes so many of the social and circumstantial barriers that women previously needed to navigate. The hurdles of business school admission, funding, social bias, choosing family over work became much lower.
The challenge now is for today’s women to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive and use their competitive advantages to navigate the increasingly entrepreneurial world.
Sustaining an entrepreneurial spirit in yourself could mean:
- Maintaining the sense of empowerment and motivation
- Pushing yourself to be that leader who is capable of taking risk
- Self-motivation of yourself and of others to want to do more (sometimes with less).
- Develop the tough skin at times to actively seek out change, rather than change finding you and needing to adapt quickly.
- Shifting perspective to see the big picture and never resting on your laurels and taking pride in your organization.
American Express did research recently on GENx Women, the forgotten generation. Their findings are relevant to understanding how women sustain their entrepreneurial spirit.
In summary of their findings, what drives women is the desire to have it all: fun, flexibility, and take care of family responsibilities. We’ve long heard “Can women have it all?” Many women are finding the way to realize it all is through entrepreneurship.
Understanding the values of GENx helps us see why their entrepreneurial spirit is first and foremost:
- Relationships. Relationships are their greatest fear and their greatest need. They have a deep yearning to know and be known, but they are afraid. They are afraid of letting their real self out for fear of being rejected so they maintain the ideal self, the self that others accept—leading to deadly isolation.
- Fun. From computer games to bungee jumping, Xers are into fun. One Xer said: “You think money is the basis for our existence when it’s really much simpler: fun is.” Most Xers work to live. They are waiting for the weekend. (Note: Most ESPN “Extreme Games” feature Xers.)
- Experience. Subjective experience validates if something is real and good. They want to enjoy life, make a difference, and do something meaningful besides just punching a clock from 9 to 5.
- Freedom. They don’t like to be labeled and put in a box. They want to be seen as unique individuals able to make a valuable contribution to society. They are very creative and independent and struggle with limits and rules. They value flexibility and spontaneity.
- Family. If Xers have children, they don’t want to make the same mistakes their parents did. They will spend time with their kids. Xer parents, especially dads, seem to be incredibly committed to their children.
*Adapted from A Guide to Understanding Generation X Sub-Cultures by Ken Baugh.
Sound familiar? Take advantage of your unique place in history and your inherent advantages as a woman entrepreneur or woman in business. We’re at a unique crossroads.
Here are five ways to sustain the entrepreneurial spirit in you:
- Build a team that believes in your vision and give them the opportunity to drive.
- Keep an “outrageous ideas” file. Refer to it often.
- Strong communication between each of the team member sharing the big goals.
- Be flexible in how you complete your work.
- Be the entrepreneurial example. Sustaining the entrepreneurial spirit comes from the top.
About the Author
Connie Pheiff, Founder and CEO of the Pheiff Group. Philanthropist and #BeyondMeToo Activist. Most know her as the Unstoppable DIVA with a distinctive voice heard on her syndicated talk show, the Connie Pheiff Show. As a serial entrepreneur, she is the President of CP Creative Agency and the Activate Community. She is provocative, edgy, and brings a genuine humor to the platform. She works with her clients to keep the passion of life activated and for the world’s most daring minds that drive results allowing clients to live their dream. When you work with Connie Pheiff you become #UnstoppableTogether.