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Anatomy of a Woman Entrepreneur

June 30, 2010

What makes up a woman entrepreneur? And is she any different from her male counterparts? A new study suggests that, although there are a few differences, entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs — whether they are male or female.

The Kauffman Foundation, dedicated to the development of entrepreneurs, set out to undercover the motivations, backgrounds and experiences of entrepreneurs — especially women entrepreneurs who are understudied.

“We know very little about female entrepreneurs and our ignorance of this important demographic is a serious blind spot in any effort to increase the total number of entrepreneurs participating in our economy,” according to the foundation’s report, The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur: Are Successful Women Entrepreneurs Different from Men?

Women Seek Networks of Support

More than 500 entrepreneurs were studied by the Kauffman Foundation. All of the entrepreneurs were from high-tech companies. The main differences, between men and women:

  • More than half the women (56 percent) surveyed, but less than a third of the men (31 percent), said they were motivated to become entrepreneurs by a company founder’s recruitment efforts.
  • Though both women and men rated their professional and business networks as very important to the success of their start-ups, women emphasized their networks more.
  • There were no major differences in the types of funding sources tapped by male and female entrepreneurs, with one exception: women (29 percent) were much more likely than men (16 percent) to secure their main funding from business partners (68 percent of women and 61 percent of men founded their companies with money from personal savings).

“Several of the identified gender differences indicate that support and encouragement from key people can especially benefit women,” according to the study.

Other Top Motivators of Women Entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs — much like men — said they were motivated to start new businesses by:

  • The appeal of a start-up culture (77 percent).
  • The desire to build wealth (73 percent).
  • The wish to capitalize on business ideas (73 percent).
  • A long-standing desire to own their own companies (70 percent).
  • Working for someone else did not appeal to them (70 percent).

Top five challenges to starting a new business, according to the women surveyed:

  • Amount of time and effort required (71 percent).
  • Difficulty of co-founder(s) recruitment (59 percent).
  • Concern about protecting company’s intellectual capital (59 percent).
  • Lack of available capital/financing (46 percent).
  • Concern about the consequences of failure (39 percent).

Women Entrepreneurs: Under-Represented

Despite making up the majority of students at U.S. colleges and universities and increased participation in science and engineering, women ares still under-represented as business founders, especially in high-tech and other high-growth fields.

“We have a robust pool of potential high-growth entrepreneurs in the women who now earn nearly half of all PhDs conferred in this country, yet few are following an entrepreneurial path,” said Lesa Mitchell, an author of the Kauffman Foundation study. “If we can respond to this study by developing programs that support women in creating high-growth businesses, the positive impact on our economy could be significant.”

In Your Shoes is created by Johnston & Murphy, offering quality shoes and outerwear for women and men. We welcome your comments and contributions.

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