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From a young age I never bought into traditionally held beliefs that being a female rendered me any more or less capable in various roles than being a male (with the obvious exception of childbirth). With this thinking I successfully blazed trails and held leadership positions in male dominated environments in both a personal and professional capacity well before entering the world of entrepreneurship. My book “Path of the Lion” is not titled “Path of the Lioness” for a very good reason. The gender of the entrepreneur is largely insignificant to the tools it teaches. The analogy of the male lion is simply about placing leadership positioning within an entrepreneurial environment, into context.
However, I am a woman and having run my own businesses for the past 17 years there are things that I have learned about being a woman entrepreneur that I would like to share;
1) Working mostly from home somehow seems to give our families the impression that they are more entitled to arrive home from school and work “tired-out” whilst we are expected to carry on with whatever needs doing regardless of how hard we might have worked during our day
2) No matter how much we might contribute in earnings to the household, we get to fold the undies and socks and do all other menial housework tasks. The odd hysterical melt down might galvanize the family into action for a short time but these spurts of housework assistance seldom last very long
3) School and university holidays require twice as much energy to juggle kids’ social schedules whilst continuing our working commitments
4) We feel guilty when our children have to wait a bit longer to be picked up from school, need to pack their own school lunches from time to time or fall ill whilst we are travelling
5) “Laptop separation anxiety” is a very real phenomenon and holidays away from a good wireless connection can be our worst nightmare
The bad news is this is just the way it is and I don’t think its going to change anytime soon. There are just some ingrained male/female: “your job/my job” genes that, whilst there are exceptions, make up the vast majority of our family structures.
The Good News
The good news is that having walked this path for 17 years, whilst raising two incredible children and cherishing a strong marriage, I have some perspective to offer my fellow lady entrepreneurs about how the above can become more of a necessary phase than an unavoidable reality;
1) Being a female entrepreneur offers us the best of both worlds. Whilst we get to go out and conquer the world during school hours and any other hours we can find, we also get to be available to our children. I attended the majority of school events and was nearly always available to visit the doctor and hold my kids hands when they needed it.
2) Whilst I take nothing away from the incredible mums who stay at home to bring up their children, (my amazing mum included), having an entrepreneurial mother instills a lot of independence, self belief and practicality in our children. They don’t just learn from what we tell them but from what we actually go out, do and experience. Whilst traditional ways of dealing with life’s challenges might have some value, our kids need to know more about what works in today’s world and a qualified opinion about what might work in tomorrow’s.
3) In my view, children learn valuable coping skills from watching how we deal personally with our failures as well as our successes. The more we share our experiences with them, the more they will learn.
4) In many cases we also build something tangible which might offer our children a longer-term security if they take an interest. Alternatively, we can offer firsthand experience to assist them to build their own business. This alone is an incredible offering, considering that all economists agree that the future health of our economies worldwide will depend upon successful entrepreneurship.
5) Once we are past the flat out, nerve wrecking phase of building the first business, we can choose to pay for someone else to fold the undies
6) Communication and compromise, as with all family issues are the keys to juggling entrepreneurial commitments with family commitments. My husband accepted years ago that holidays were just never going to work unless he allowed me 30 minutes on my laptop at the beginning of each day. I built businesses that require me to do very little, which made me far more available to my family than many other working mothers. They understand that for the structure to work I have a monitoring system in place that requires daily attention. It doesn’t take long, but it must happen.
7) A family that fully understands the cost and value of what we do is not only very supportive to our needs as an entrepreneur, but they also feel part of our success which, in my family, has really made it all worth it
My message is that as women we have incredible value to offer our families as successful entrepreneurs. We should never allow the gender views of others to influence our belief in what we are capable of and how we should go about it.
Author: Sandy Geyer – internationally renowned author and speaker, and owner of training practice EnQ. Click on the link for more information www.enqpractice.com