According to the Kauffman Foundation and Dow Jones, women comprise 10% of high growth tech startup founders and 7% have executive roles. Recognizing this, Ms. Duffy has leveraged her experience and research in Gender Studies and dedicated her life to working with CWEL and narrowing the leadership gap between men and women and the first step in doing that is recognizing risk.
It’s no secret that leadership is married to risk and uncertainty. Women stereotypically have a hard time taking on that kind of risk, but all successful entrepreneurs find ways to manage, evaluate, and analyze that uncertainty. Entrepreneurship is not about avoiding failure. Failures, big and small are inevitable. Startup leadership means responding to failure to generate successes. Even though risk is easily identifiable, it can nonetheless be quite intimidating. This fear of failure has historically been the bane of many would-be entrepreneurs as it often leads to hesitancy when it comes to making big decisions.
According to Duffy, hesitancy to act is one of primary reasons women are behind in the statistics of entrepreneurship, and Wednesdays panel sought to disrupt and redefine the patriarchal definition of entrepreneur by assembling a panel of successful leading ladies These women discussed the challenges behind taking that risk and becoming successful entrepreneurs and great leaders.
Even in Doubt, Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goal
When founder and CEO of Cocomama, Sara Gragnolati, launched her startup in 2010, she quickly realized her dream of providing tasty, gluten free meals to consumers would take much longer and be more expensive she ever planned for. However, Sara realized that being an entrepreneur means you can’t be a total perfectionist hitting bumps are guaranteed to happen. It’s about taking those bumps in stride and, according to her, getting back out there!. Always remember what inspired you and stick to it.
Frustration Shows Passion
Founder of Bow and Drape, Aubrie Pagano, after pitching her online custom clothing shop for women to investors who were sixty year old men who didn’t understand the need for her women-focused service, was reasonably frustrated with her entrepreneurial journey. However, she stated, if you dont cry you arent doing it right. If your product or service isn’t something that is worth the frustration worth your tears, your passion then it’s not worth pursuing in the long term.
Be the Producer, Not an Actor
Joanna Meiseles, founder of Snip-its Salon and now Senior Director of Programs and Operations at MassChallenge, revealed that in moments of doubt she had to remember, as the entrepreneur I was the producer and best picture goes to the producer. A founder is not obligated to know how to do everything but they should recruit and effectively delegate tasks to the right people to make her vision a reality.
Own Your Physical Presence
Jacqueline Thong of Ubiqi Health admitted that for a large period of time when she was pitching her startup to investors, she was noticeably pregnant. Jackie told leaders that might be feeling insecure not to be afraid and let that 10% of self-consciousness and unnecessary worry get in the way. Own your presence, don’t let external factors affect your pitch. It’s your pitch, it’s your body – own it and don’t show any insecurity!
All entrepreneurs need to have the confidence to make their vision their destiny and in the words of Joanna Meiseles you cant do it unless you are all in.
See also John Harthornes article for WBURs Cognoscenti: Women and Startups: Don’t Skirt the Issue.