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It’s not news that women are significantly more likely to leave their jobs than men. Many are flocking to entrepreneurship for greater flexibility, deeper purpose, and control over their own heritage. However, women entrepreneurs face special challenges. This is where men can act as allies for gender equality.
It is important that well-intentioned allies consider the following:
- Why entrepreneurship is attractive to women
- What unique challenges do women entrepreneurs face?
- How Allies can help women entrepreneurs
It’s impossible for men to fully understand women’s lived experiences in the workplace — but that’s not even what a male ally does. Allies don’t save women or do it about themselves; Rather, they meet women where they are and offer them the support they need.
See also: Five fundamental challenges for women entrepreneurs and how to overcome them
Why entrepreneurship is attractive to women
There are many reasons why women leave America’s corporations and this creates a good opportunity for entrepreneurship. The more allies understand why women are starting their own businesses, the more empathy they can offer as support. Women often pursue entrepreneurship because they are not included in corporate environments.
Reason #1: More flexibility
In the US, 66% of primary caregivers are women. This means that the burden of household chores falls to a large extent on women. On average, women work six hours more per week in the household. While this warrants a conversation about fair play, the reality is that women need more flexibility in their jobs.
Entrepreneurship is a way for women to create a schedule that works for them, but that doesn’t mean they work fewer hours — they work when they’re available. This can mean working after school, on the weekends, or late at night after the kids have gone to bed. Owning your own business and being in charge helps women achieve this flexibility.
Reason #2: Not having to run corporate politics
Workplaces were largely designed by men for men’s success. Until the recent shift during the pandemic, the workplace very much resembled this mad Men 1960s era. The ideal worker who is always online, says yes to everything, and responds to emails promptly is adored in American business.
While these behaviors can sometimes be important, actual job performance and results are far more important than these behaviors. However, data shows that promotions tend to fall to those we believe are fully committed and put their professional lives ahead of their personal lives. Not only is this unhealthy, it definitely doesn’t work for women or people in the long run.
Reason #3: Be purposeful
In our research, women often say that the most important attribute of what they look for in their work is purpose. They want to feel confident in the organization’s mission and understand that they help make the world a better place. This may seem universal to humans, but women are less hesitant about work that they personally don’t mind. What better way to balance work with purpose than creating your own mission through entrepreneurship?
See also: Women entrepreneurs share successes, challenges and advice for entrepreneurs
What unique challenges do women entrepreneurs face?
Allies understand the unique challenges faced by women in business. As a society, we are 136 years away from gender equality. As women move away from corporate jobs, it is important for Allies to consider women’s lived experiences in the workplace before starting their business. According to the McKinsey Women in the Workplace report:
- While women make up 47% of the workforce, they make up just 24% of C-suite positions
- Women are still paid $0.82 per dollar for comparable work to their male counterparts
- Women are promoted 14% lower than men
One of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs is gender bias. Women experience more microaggression or non-inclusive behaviors in the workplace. Here are some examples that happen to women all too often:
- Questioning her authority when the woman is clearly the decision maker
- Not being invited to social outings because people assume women have no interest in sports, drinks, etc.
- Be interrupted when speaking
- Having hijacked ideas from someone of the opposite sex
- Being confused with administrative support rather than the leader
- Didn’t get credit for their work
- People assume they are not interested in promotions or travel
- Being labeled as aggressive if the same behavior would be accepted by a different gender
See also: How men and women can work together to improve gender equality in the workplace
How Allies can help women entrepreneurs
Instead of ignoring these micro-aggressions, allies keep their radars open for these non-inclusive events. Male privilege is not a bad thing. That doesn’t mean the men haven’t worked hard to be where they are now. That doesn’t mean men don’t deserve the successes they’ve achieved. It simply means that these difficulties had nothing to do with gender.
Recognizing male privilege is a chance to be an ally for women.
Allies are also really good at these things:
- Listen to women instead of guessing what they want
- Share the burden of housework and office work (taking notes, organizing social gatherings, etc.)
- Refrain from advising them and establishing the relationship through them
- Make sure women get recognition for their work
- Interrupt the breaker when a woman interrupts him
- Bring in other allies when they make mistakes
- Find other men as allies to join the discussion about gender equality
- Mentor and supporter of women entrepreneurs
- Invest in women-owned companies
Now is the time for Allies for Women Entrepreneurs. Because women often enter entrepreneurship because of their negative corporate experiences, men can accelerate their success and create more inclusive environments in which women can thrive. Allyship is a journey, not a destination. Centuries of gender equality will not be solved overnight, so our daily actions matter.