5 Top Challenges Facing Women Entrepreneurs

11.6 million, $1.7 trillion, 9 million. No, these aren’t the latest government figures. Each tells a story about U.S. women-owned businesses. They number 11.6 million (99.9% are small businesses), they generate $1.7 trillion in sales, and they employ nearly 9 million people. Clearly, women are doing it for themselves and their employees. But like all business owners, they face obstacles along the way. Here are five challenges women entrepreneurs face along with ideas on how they can be overcome.

Access to Funding

A 2019 study by PlanBeyond reports the No. 1 concern for female owners of small and medium businesses was lack of funding. That’s troublesome for start-ups as well as established businesses managing cash flows or seeking to expand. 

Part of the issue is the size of loans granted to women. A Northeastern University study found that women were awarded smaller loan amounts than men with similar businesses. It’s thought that women tend to ask for lower loan amounts. Increasing the loan request will likely close that gap. 

The good news is there are funding sources just for women-owned businesses. The Small Business Administration (SBA) will guarantee loans made by participating financial institutions. That reduces the perceived risk to lenders making access to capital easier. There are also federal, state and private grants available to women-owned businesses. Here’s a list of  12 top small business grants along with helpful tips for applying.

Soft Marketing Skills

The PlanBeyond research also found that 39% of the women entrepreneurs surveyed said they lacked marketing expertise. That was 24% higher than their male counterparts. Women felt confident about the quality of product or service they offered but were less certain about how to get the word out.

There are a number of resources that can help. This 7-Step Guide from TheEveryGirl.com details how to create an effective marketing plan. There are also several blogs that are constantly refreshed with marketing ideas for small businesses. Crowspring.com suggests these 16 blogs offering helpful marketing tips and tricks.

Being Taken Seriously

Alison Gutterman, CEO and president of her family-owned small business recalls having difficulty earning respect as a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry. While some of the pressure came from her male counterparts, she also had to confront her own negative self-talk. Gaining confidence was key to taking herself seriously—so others would too. To achieve that, she joined several women entrepreneur groups. 

Here’s a list of seven Facebook groups aimed at female small business owners. Each represents an opportunity to affirm you’re on the right track and to position yourself as an authority in your market.

Balancing Business and Family

Nearly 58% of small business owners work at least 50 hours a week. That makes it difficult for anyone to achieve a healthy work-life balance. So it’s no surprise entrepreneurs who are also parents find it particularly challenging. That’s especially true for women who shoulder most family responsibilities in their household. 

The International Journal of Creative Research Thoughts found that women who devote at least 30 minutes to activities which reduce stress are more equipped to manage the work-life challenge. 

Inadequate Support System

Just because you’re in business for you doesn’t mean you have to do it all yourself. But finding the right support system can be challenging. Inc.com reports that almost half of all female founders cite the lack of available mentors as holding them back. 

That’s why organizations like SCORE are helpful. They can help you find female mentors with small business expertise. SCORE reports that small business owners who receive three or more hours of mentoring report higher revenues and increased growth.

Running a business can be difficult for anyone. But there are unique challenges for women entrepreneurs. If any of these resonate with you, consider whether these ideas can help better manage them.