In thinking about American Business Women's Day on September 22, I'm filled with gratitude and inspiration. The U.S. certainly has its share of gender inequality, but as a former school teacher turned women's entrepreneurship coach and CEO of my own company, I know it is possible for women to transform their entrepreneurial visions, aspirations, and energy into reality.
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And yet, according to a recent TechCrunch article, only 17 percent of new business endeavors have female entrepreneurs at the helm. Women are still in the entrepreneurial minority.
Just as women are good for the world of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship is good for women. It offers an unprecedented chance to take control of your career and tap into your unique gifts and passions while earning more money and enjoying greater freedom.
Many women dream of doing just that, yet wonder: "Can somebody like me, with just the spark of an idea, actually start a business and make money?"
The answer is a resounding yes.
However, starting your entrepreneurial journey may require challenging some of your core beliefs. Maybe you were told that work can't be fun or that you have to be "realistic" about what's possible. Maybe you were encouraged to be nice, to be quiet, to minimize your accomplishments, and to dim your own light.
One common core belief I encounter in coaching women entrepreneurs is the idea that a woman must curb her femininity in order to be successful in business. In the competitive, dog-eat-dog business environment, women must adopt the hard edge, appearance, and mannerisms traditionally exhibited by men to be great workplace leaders and entrepreneurs.
The reality is that, as women, our unique feminine qualities can become our greatest business assets:
Women are gifted at prioritizing the needs of others. We have an intuitive understanding of how to create meaningful connections and exceptional working relationships with clients and colleagues.
This is I what I refer to as a "cooperative advantage." The emphasis is on cooperative as opposed to competitive. By prizing collaboration over competition and contribution over greed, women are able to leverage communities and relationships as valuable entrepreneurial resources.
According to The Huffington Post, 64 percent of donations are made by women, globally speaking. Indeed, women are innately aware of the needs and challenges of our times, and we often feel a deep sense of social responsibility. We have the opportunity to build businesses that champion much-needed social change and give back to our communities.
From working with women entrepreneurs for the past decade, I've found that once our needs and the needs of our families are met, we tend to lose interest in generating more money. When we adopt humanitarian causes or service-based missions above and beyond our immediate client bases, however, we rise above our typical income levels. Now, we have reason to generate more. This positive cycle gives impetus to our entrepreneurial prowess.
Throughout history, women have been accused of people-pleasing, avoiding conflict, and perpetually putting others' needs before their own. But guess what – these very qualities are why we now excel in business! With a good dose of awareness, we can leverage our people-pleasing tendencies into powerful skills that help us attract clients and keep them.
In leveraging our unique feminine qualities, we may not start the same types of businesses as men, and that's okay. We're starting businesses because we want balance between our careers and our families. We're starting businesses because we long to be the masters of our own schedules and we want to express our creativity and our true selves at work. We want to share our deeply innovative gifts with the world. We want to work for ourselves on our own terms without compromising who we are.
This, too, is possible. The women I've worked with have built successful and sustainable businesses on their own terms as authors, health practitioners, consultants, coaches, manufacturers, retailers, real estate agents, day spa owners, healers, clothing designers, aspiring public speakers, restaurant owners, and much more.
Through these initiatives, they have claimed their financial freedom and self-determination. Most importantly, they have thrived.
This American Business Women's Day, my advice is this: Hold onto your idea, believe it is possible, and bring your whole self – flaws and feminine qualities included – to the table.
Sage Lavine is the CEO of Women Rocking Business.