Are female founders sabotaging their own success?

three confident and smiling business women on white background

A 2014 ABS study of business owners shows that companies are more likely to be run by men than women, 66 per cent to 34 per cent. The proportion of women starting businesses has increased by only 3 per cent, from 31 per cent in the last 10 years.

Are women, in fact, holding themselves back when it comes to starting and running their own successful business?  Research indicates that this may be the case.

According to a study by the SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, women are more predisposed to inaccurate self-perceptions concerning their career progression, rating themselves more negatively than men. As a re-formed corporate lawyer who is now part of the 34 per cent of women owned businesses, I have worked with women across the globe for the past ten years, and I see this every day.

The hidden female founders’ gap

Much has been written about the unconscious gender bias, underrepresentation, and lack of professional networks when it comes to the gender gap in business. But there is a hidden female founders’ gap that has so far escaped everyone’s attention. 

  • Only 35 per cent of Australia business owners are women.
  • The gap in new business creation between men and women in Australia is 4.9  per cent, worse than the global average of 4.4 per cent.
  • Only 10 per cent of the female labour force are small-business owners, and of these just 4.4 per cent are female Indigenous owners.

These stark statistics leave many wondering: why well-credentialed, established women leaders are not getting to the next level in their business? My experience mentoring women reveals that the problem is more subtle and internal than many might think.

Women are more likely to underestimate their own abilities and be more reluctant to promote themselves or their business. When it comes to starting or running a business, the hidden yet common problem for women is their own negative bias towards themselves. Regardless of their achievements, women often fall short in their own attitude about themselves. In my experience, this is at the root of the gender imbalance in business.

There are five ways women in business can overcome their own unconscious negative bias and improve their chances of securing business success and attract greater attention and impact:

  • Women need to check themselves when their self-defeating thoughts are triggered. The key signs are a disproportionate lack of self-confidence, self-worth or self-promotion.
  • Label all self-defeating thoughts as not real.
  • Stop owning your negative self-talk as if it is you.
  • When they arise tell yourself that this is just the self-sabotaging voice and refuse to listen to it.
  • Don’t let self-sabotaging thoughts drive your actions. Commit to keeping them in check.

I believe women need to find ways to access training and mentoring opportunities that help them overcome self-sabotage and learn how to lead from their feminine leadership power.

When this happens, women are naturally more capable of transforming their passion, skills, and creativity into a business that aligns with their ethics, values, and ultimate desire for business to be a driving force for social change.