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Women Entrepreneurs: A Growing And Promising Phenomenon

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Women entrepreneurs have become increasingly common in the business world. This IVCJ article examines women's relative advantages as well as some of the obstacles that persist in today's business environment.

The topic of women entrepreneurs is of increasing interest to educators, businesspeople and government officials. Research findings have shown a high positive correlation between the level of national women's entrepreneurial activity and growth in GDP, suggesting that countries that are successful in promoting entrepreneurship among women could experience a positive impact on economic growth rates.

In Israel, as in many other countries, entrepreneurship by women is expanding steadily. There was been a rise of 52 percent in the Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) index among Israeli women in 2004, compared to 2002, and in contrast to a TEA decline of 22 percent among Israeli men during the same period. Israeli women entrepreneurs tend to be married with grown-up children, educated and achievement motivated, and they generally have high self-esteem.

Women entrepreneurs: the advantages

A refreshing new approach to entrepreneurship by women emphasizes relative advantages of women and how they can be leveraged into entrepreneurship. There is solid scientific evidence that women, on average, take a broader perspective than men do, and think contextually and holistically. They also display more mental flexibility, make more intuitive and imaginative judgments, and have a greater tendency to plan long term. These female traits are important tools for entrepreneurs.

As technology changes and globalization and competition accelerate, the business world is becoming increasingly complex and dynamic. More business leaders and consultants are drawing away from rewarding the linear, component-by-component atomistic and focused approach to business that is adequate to masculine thinking, and are now emphasizing the importance of system thinking that provides a framework for seeing the whole picture and interrelationships. The feminine propensity to look at business problems contextually and to concentrate on the whole of the issue rather than its parts, is more in tune to the preferable system thinking of today. Since businesswomen weigh more variables, consider more alternatives and outcomes, recall more points of view and see more ways to proceed, they can bring valuable innovation and creativity to entrepreneurship.

Women have a penchant for long term planning and the ability to tolerate ambiguity and changes better than men do. As competition increases, today's entrepreneur must be able to alter plans quickly and frequently. A woman's innate mental flexibility should be a valuable planning asset for every venture.

A women's talent with words and negotiations is useful in marketing the vision and product of a new venture to prospective investors, suppliers and customers. A preference for networking and cooperation with other women are also helpful in entrepreneurial activity.

Women in Israel, on average, have more formal and academic education than Israeli men have. This can help in reducing the gap caused by a long history of subordination of women in the business and military worlds. Rapidly changing technology should enable even more women to go into business for themselves - at home. Consequently, the work-family conflict can be minimized.

Women's enterprises are more likely to stay in business. US businesses owned by women have a two-year success rate of 80 percent, well over the national average of about 50 percent.

Obstacles facing women entrepreneurs

Despite the empowering approach presented above, one cannot ignore the fact that women in Israel, similar to other countries, are almost half as likely to be entrepreneurs as men. Why? In pursuing entrepreneurship, women are impacted by barriers in a similar way that they are affected by barriers in the labor market. There are internal barriers such as low self-esteem, low need for achievement and a fear of failure.

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