A Question of Priorities – Do Women See Entrepreneurship Differently?

From the outside looking in, a business is a business. It exists to create products, attract customers, generate revenue, and hopefully make a profit. There are good businesses and bad businesses, but they try to do more or less the same thing.

So does it matter if an entrepreneurial company is owned and managed by men or women?

Well, according to a survey published by London-based fintech company Sumup, there are some differences. Women entrepreneurs and small business owners have, to some extent, different priorities compared to their male counterparts, and the companies they run tend to be more diverse in terms of hiring policy.

Perhaps not surprisingly, priorities differ between the sexes, but as the report also highlights, young entrepreneurs continue to face some real challenges when entering the choppy waters of entrepreneurship. I spoke with Nina Etienne, Sumup’s vice president of global marketing, about the survey results.

Sumup’s interests in the subject reflect his own connection to entrepreneurship. The company’s products are aimed squarely at small business owners. They range from hardware (card readers) to accounting, billing and online store software. As Nina Etienne, vice president of global marketing, explains, the goal of the company’s research, based on responses from its small business clients, was to understand the experience of women in business.

“International Women’s Day was coming up,” says Etienne. “We talk to our members to understand the challenges they face.”

More than 2,000 entrepreneurs, 700 of them in the UK, took part in the research. Part of the purpose was to gain insight into how women entrepreneurs could be better supported, but businesses run by men were also included in the conversations for comparison.

Why start a business

One of the traditional motivations for starting a business could be characterized as “I want to be my own boss.” Turns out this might be a bit of a male point of view. The top driver for women entrepreneurs (38%) was the desire for a better work-life balance. And with their businesses up and running, 66% of women said maintaining that balance was their number one priority. For men, generating income topped the list of goals.

But is there a disconnect between aspiration and the realities of making a business work? Talk to business owners, especially when their companies are at an early stage, and many will tell you that work is all-consuming. Instead of spending 40 hours in the office as an employee, your work week as an entrepreneur could be at least 60 hours.

The survey captures some tension here, with 31% of women saying pressure on family life is a concern, compared to just 20% of men.

squaring the circle

So can women entrepreneurs square the circle? The survey doesn’t capture that, but Etienne says women may be prepared to show more flexibility in the way their businesses are run. “To say that women-owned businesses are run more efficiently is perhaps a generalization, however I think there is strong evidence to suggest that women business owners are more open to experimenting with different policies and management styles, such as prioritizing diversity and inclusion, implement flexible work hours and remote work. This often leads to happier and more hard-working staff.”

Well, perhaps, a separate survey published by Global Tech Festivals to coincide with London Tech Week suggests that some women not only struggle to secure a work-life balance, but are also forced by economic necessity to accept more. of a job. Fifteen percent of female tech workers said they had previously been self-employed or owned businesses, but had to take on other roles to survive. Work-life balance can be a difficult thing to achieve.

inclined to diversity

Sumup also finds that women-led small businesses tend to lean toward diversity. Nearly a third of male employers saw no benefit in having diverse workplaces, compared to a quarter of women.

Businesses run by women were much more likely to hire women. Is this a conscious or unconscious choice? “In many cases, during the hiring process, job postings can be accidentally exclusionary, making male-owned businesses less likely to attract female talent. I don’t think it’s necessarily an active choice of male- and female-led companies to recruit members of their respective genders, but rather a combination of underlying cultural factors that has led candidates to seek more suitable and supportive work environments. .” says Etienne.

Etienne wants to emphasize that encouraging more women to start businesses is one of his personal passions. But there are deterrents. The survey suggests that women are much more likely than men to suffer from imposter syndrome: the voice in your head that says “no, you shouldn’t be doing this.” Men, on the other hand, tend to worry more about bureaucracy.

There is a danger of oversimplifying the interpretation of these surveys, and furthermore, the headline results may not take into account the different types of entrepreneurial businesses that emerge. For example, a tech entrepreneur seeking venture capital is likely to be heavily focused on growth and income rather than, say, work-life balance, regardless of gender. Other businesses can be formed specifically to support a lifestyle, with home/office balance at the forefront of the founder’s thinking. Again, that won’t necessarily be a gender issue.

But the findings that the entrepreneurial gender influences the way companies are run, and in terms of innovation and diversity, is probably a good thing.

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