Last week the world celebrated International Women’s Day. Despite the many inroads women have made into the business world, women still face many challenges. This is true for women in more traditional jobs, and especially so for women who have chosen the entrepreneurial path. Having one’s own business is often viewed as a way to balance the multiple demands a woman faces while still providing her with the opportunity of a fulfilling (and ideally, lucrative) vocation. As ideal as this sounds on paper, the real journey is fraught with challenges.
Women in business, whether in their own businesses or in a career face a unique set of challenges that are not shared by men. Women feel different kinds of responsibilities and process those responsibilities in ways that can leave her feeling overwhelmed, burned out and guilty causing many of them to give up on their dreams.
Common Challenges for Women in Business Face
- My Own Assumptions & Expectations : “The Super Woman Complex”One of the most common difficulties the women whom I have coached have to contend with what I call the “Super Woman Complex”. While modern life has provided opportunities for women to be successful in any sphere of life, including business, it hasn’t necessarily provided the support structures or the tools to enable women to balance the responsibilities of motherhood, family, business and self-care.
Fuelled by media as well as socio-cultural expectations of the roles as mother and nurturer, women create extremely high expectations of themselves and the load with which they should be able to cope, most of these expectations are grossly unrealistic. The pressure comes in all forms; the pressure to look beautiful at all times, to be the ‘perfect’ mother, to maintain friendships and social connections, to perform at work, be a sexual goddess and to pull this all off by themselves without being labelled a bitch! Women who are single parents place even higher expectations on themselves, as I can attest to from my own experience. In an attempt to do it all themselves, women find themselves feeling overwhelmed, guilt ridden, burned out and ultimately as though they have failed.
- The Assumptions & Expectations of OthersThough the specifics may vary, role definitions are alive and well in all cultures. The assumptions and expectations about who and what it means to be a women are conditioned into us and those around us from the moment we are born. As a female entrepreneur, one is not only faced with the challenge of one’s own expectations of oneself; women also have to contend with the expectations and assumptions placed upon them by their cultural and social worlds. For women in more conservative societies, this poses a major difficulty. Societal expectations may range from highly conservative expectation that women should not earn an income, to a less severe mind-set which dictates the kinds of entrepreneurial ventures that are “suitable”. Women who display the courage to step outside of these norms frequently face subtle and not so subtle pressure to conform.
- Kids need me, hubby needs me, and business needs me!
Many women find fulfillment from home making as well as from business ventures which can lead to internal conflict and a feeling of being pulled in too many directions at once.
Women frequently put themselves last on their priority list and women entrepreneurs can be particularly bad at prioritising their personal needs. The feeling of being needed relentlessly can suck the joy out of a venture that had been uplifting.
Women report finding it difficult to delegate owing either to their anxiety about letting parts of the process go, or to the attitudes of others towards receiving instruction from a woman. I find that women are often unsure of the distinction assertiveness vs aggressiveness and the ‘bitch’ label haunts us subconsciously which making assertiveness difficult to master.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
There are a couple of techniques that women can implement to ensure that they are getting the level of fulfilment they deserve from their multiple roles.
- Systems and ProcessesWhile it may take a little bit of extra time to design a process or a system upfront, over the long term, adhering to a process is a powerful way to reduce internal noise levels, ensure high quality output, both in the home and outside it, and eliminate stress.
Systems need not be complex. Your smart phone has plenty of resources and apps in it that can streamline your world. Simple changes such as putting your keys in the same place every time you walk in, keeping a live shopping list and limiting grocery shopping to a weekly exercise, or a time efficient travel route which incorporates stops at the shop will free up more time than you think!
- Enrol a team aka it’s not all on you!Generally speaking people are collaborative in nature, it is a basic survival instinct programed into us, plus people like to help. Inviting people to assist you is a wonderful way of paying it forward; you empower them to feel purposeful and valuable. By inviting people to partner with us, we can manage our own reluctance to delegate as well as manage any potential resistance to instructions from a woman.
Also, don’t underestimate the small team members in your world. We do our children a great favour by enrolling them in the running of the home and making them accountable for their part in the family. Believe it or not-it’s not all your job! If you want to raise strong independent young adults (and save yourself from burnout), give them responsibilities like making their own lunches, keeping their rooms tidy and packing the right school books/equipment. Very quickly they will master the art of self-management, taking a load off you.
- If you aren’t making it about you, you can’t make it about othersThe standard pre-flight safety briefing cautions passengers, in the unlikely event of a loss of cabin pressure, to place their own oxygen mask on before assisting children and other passengers. Selfish though it may sound, the reason for this is obvious; without your own oxygen mask you will become incapacitated and not only incapable of assisting anyone, but needing assistance yourself!
The same is true in life; to be truly effective in the world we must take care of ourselves first. The impulse to people please, to stretch ourselves too thinly, to overwork or put ourselves last is a tough one to manage. I cannot emphasise this enough; if you are not investing in yourself, if you are not saying no when you need to, you will find your resources depleted, leaving you not only unable to give your best in service of others but possibly even burnt out and needing help from others.
It is not a selfish indulgence to make it about you first, it is a requirement. So,; enrol in courses that bolster your skills as a parent, a person and a businesswoman, gift yourself a Coach or a Therapist, take up hobbies that fuel your creativity. Without these you will not be able to change the world as effectively as you want to!
You are entitled to and capable of living the fulfilling life you dream of. While equality for women is still not yet fully entrenched in the minds, hearts and structures of all; there are many things that you can and must implement so that you can leave the legacy of your choosing. For assistance with systems, coaching or business development, contact the team at crAzy always wins today, we are on your team.