IAN FERGUSON: Obstacles still in the path of women in business


Ian Ferguson

Over the past century, women have made great strides in politics, civic society and business. There are no longer relegated to home and restricted careers. Female entrepreneurship is now a common occurrence. Despite this fact, being a woman in business today comes with many obstacles, but it may also bring some unique advantages and opportunities. By navigating challenges and taking advantage of opportunities that come their way, women can go further in business.

Overcoming these obstacles requires an acknowledgement of them. This week’s column identifies some of the recurring issues stacked up against the female entrepreneur:

1 Defying social expectations

The prevailing assumption is still that successful entrepreneurs are male. The men still dominate this space and it can be quite unnerving for a woman trying to make her mark and establish her presence in a man’s world. Global statistics indicates that roughly 30% of small businesses are female. Thankfully this number is growing rapidly.

2 Accessing funding

A 2014 Babson College report found that less than 3% of companies with venture capital funding had female CEOs. In this All Boys Club, it becomes increasingly more difficult for women to raise capital in funding their business enterprise. These challenges exist in the initial phase of business development as well as expansion phases.

3 Struggling to be taken seriously

At one time or another, most women CEOs find themselves in a male-dominated industry or workplace that does not want to acknowledge their leadership role. Oftentimes the presumption is that… “she is living off her father’s, husbands or grandfather’s reputations”.

4 Owning your accomplishments

The communal, consensus-building qualities encouraged in young girls can leave women unintentionally downplaying their own worth. Our staunchly patriarchal society very seldom acknowledges women as leaders. Many women throughout the generations have struggled with this mindset.

5 Building a support network

A robust support network is essential for entrepreneurial success, so it’s no surprise that many women business founders claim to have no mentors in business. With the majority of the high-level business world still being dominated by men, it can be hard for women to blaze their own path and facilitate the introductions and connections into some of the more elite business networks.

6 Balancing business and family life

Parent entrepreneurs have dual responsibilities to their businesses and to their families; finding ways to devote time to both is key to achieving that elusive work-life balance.

While men can wick away quite casually for the business conference or the late nights building the brand, most mothers would give second thought to leaving their young and vulnerable children without their watchful eye and supervision.

7 Coping with fear of failure

Failure is a very real possibility in any business venture. Women are usually more vulnerable and prone to being locked into poverty. The deep loss for business failure perhaps impacts women more deeply and wounds them more soundly. The road to success is paved with losses, mishaps and mistakes, but it can still take you where you want to go as long as you don’t lose sight of your ultimate destination.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@coralwave.com.


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