Female Entrepreneurs 40 and above are getting a bad rap.
How do I know? Because I am one. And I work with a lot of them. But, I'm not complaining; just making an observation.
And it isn't just female entrepreneurs, but women in general. Because in the workforce, once you attain a "certain" age, it's almost as if you begin to disappear from the planet. Unless of course you happen to be a celebrity. And, even in that arena there's a challenge.
I love my younger sisters in the trenches. I'm encouraged by them and I'm thankful for them. I understand the need to market to millennials and younger. These are the women who are coming into the ranks of entrepreneurism daily.
Yet it appears there is a continuing groundswell to inform women "of a certain age" that it's time to step back and let the younger generation take their place. And I'm just here to say, I'm not done yet. Not nearly. In fact, I really think I'm just getting started.
A casual scan of the internet would lead you to believe that most successful entrepreneurs are men in their 20's or that they started then. Marketing-speak is directed to that primary demographic and honestly, it wears me down. I get tired of being told I need to act like a man to have true success.
I personally think that's a load of garbage. And today, I want to address it.
A Few Statistics About Female Entrepreneurs
It isn't hard to quickly recount the names of famous female entrepreneurs. Just a few of them are women like Oprah, Arianna Huffington, Coco Chanel, Angie Hicks and Rashmi Sinha.
To be fair, the term "entrepreneurship" covers a wide-range of opportunities. You will find women in every form of business creation: from the one who begins a sideline direct marketing business, to the craftswoman creating products for sale on Etsy and Shopify, to the online information creator, coach, consultant, or virtual assistant, all the way to the woman opening new doors in the tech world. Each of these areas requires specific skills and information, so, I'm not about to try and paint a broad stroke of one-size-fits-all here. But here are some generalized truths, gained from life experience and research.
Some of the Numbers
- Women typically create a new business alongside their other life responsibilities; whereas reports indicate men often create a business as a result of a layoff from a traditional position.
- The average age of a new female entrepreneur is between the ages of 40 to 60.
- Women typically start their own business often as a second or third profession. They have been left feeling dissatisfied with their previous careers and have decided to take control over their options.
- Up to 75% have had successful careers in the traditional job market.
- 30%+ of all U.S. based businesses are majority-women owned. This rate continues to grow at twice the rate of any other segment of society.
- Women-owned businesses tend to be more philanthropic and gender-balanced when hiring. They also tend to create better benefits packages if that is part of their business model.
- Female entrepreneurs account for 1/3 of all entrepreneurs world-wide. 10%+ of all women are thinking of starting their own business.
- Female entrepreneurs tend to create associations in order to establish solid business networks.
- At least 2/3 of all women who begin their own business, state family reasons as a primary motivating factor. As many as 70% are married when they begin their entrepreneurial journey and as many as 60% have at least two children.
- Recent University studies show it is more difficult for women to be perceived as competent and their ideas as investment worthy. Therefore, it remains more difficult for women to get funding and startup capital. This causes women to be more creative in the ways they source funding for their enterprises. More often, their seed money comes from their own personal savings.
What This Means for the 40+ Woman
While many women begin their entrepreneurial journey to create an alternative primary income, a majority simply want or need to create an additional revenue stream.
As women age, it is the unfortunate truth that, even though we have a vast reservoir of experience, skill and know-how, we are often seen as less-valuable in the marketplace. As companies have down-sized, jobs have moved out of country, and technology has replaced people - the need to find an alternative income source has become even more important.
Whether because of a more traditional family model where children are growing and leaving the family nest - or because of a choice to have children later - women age 40 and up are in transition. As she comes closer to age 50 and above, other life events begin to have an impact. Aging parents, retirement, and health all begin to play a greater role in the decisions and choices that can and must be made about employment and income.
The days of "retiring and never working another day in your life" are all but over. Even those who planned well have witnessed the truth that the buying power of their investments is weaker. Catastrophic life events can quickly wipe out your savings. The need for a "side-hustle" (a term I personally dislike) is not just a nice idea...it is almost a necessity.
A recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the peak age for self-employment for women is age 66! The same report says that 20% of workers age 51 or older were self-employed and that 1/3 of them moved into self-employment after the age of 50.
As women, we are more likely than men allow a fear of failure keep us from pursuing our goal of self-employment. Though nearly 50% of women say they are capable of being an entrepreneur, nearly 1/3 who saw opportunities would let that fear stop them.
How do we overcome the fear factor, the money factor, the ageism factor and the gender factor in order to become successful entrepreneurs?
Part of the answer lies in the trend surrounding the creation of alliances and organizations. There are numerous ones to consider. Whether you are looking for local support or want to be part of a larger group, a quick scan on Google can help you find something. For my part, I belong to the National Association of Christian Women Entrepreneurs (NACWE).
And, because of personal frustration at locating a group of women to network with, I created my own group - Christian Women Entrepreneurs in Fort Worth (FWCWE).
One of the great things about having an entrepreneur mindset; if it doesn't already exist - we just create it!
Education and Training
In my own research, I've discovered the #1 complaint from female entrepreneurs is that too much of what dresses itself as help to begin or grow your business, is really a lot of fluff and self-promotion.
Many women who market to women use the same tactics and language of men marketing to men. Somehow, we are supposed to believe that we have to "behave like a"bad-***", throw in random swear words and typically act like one of the boys to even try to break the success code.
Unfortunately, that seems to be a continuing trend from my early days of arriving in the land of "be-your-own-boss." What little information was out there was directed toward men. There were few resources that taught about the skills required to build a steady, consistent, profit-building business.
More currently, we find ourselves in the guru age of the six- and seven-figure system, and still have little common-sense, seat-in-the-chair, how-to-get-it-done information. And I suppose if could be argued the consumer audience is to blame. Many want/need to make income now. But anyone who has been at it awhile knows the entrepreneur road is more of an "in it for the long term" beast.
The Unique Character of Women
You see, I think women are like lace. Our lives are interconnected. Rare is the woman who can separate her work from her family from her faith. I don't know how they do it frankly.
I've made it my goal to provide information that has a balance of skills, mindset and spiritual growth for those very reasons.
Like you, I want and need skills development that doesn't pat me on the head - but doesn't assault my senses.
I believe the market is wide open for women who want to train women to be powerful entrepreneurs.
We need women to teach about tech, finance, marketing and development - and every other thing!
I love it when I can find someone like Jen Lehner who teaches marketing in a way that I get. I so appreciate how Chalene Johnson recognizes her primary audience is building their business and creates different levels of price-point and products to support them as they grow. I'm thankful for groups like iBloom and NACWE that support women in their faith and their business. And even though I'm not a "girly-girl" in my marketing style, I'm a rabid fan of Mimika Cooney and her stock photography geared toward a female market.
Though the FWCWE group, I've met women building businesses of all types. Some are real estate agents and insurance agents. Some are in Direct Marketing. Many represent one or more companies. Some don't consider their passion-project as a business, but want to learn how to share the information. Yet, we are teaching one another. Making each woman stronger. Bringing more revenue into our homes and into our community.
Why Does It Even Matter?
When I consider all of the statistics and my own personal life experience, I've come to a few conclusions. Maybe you'll agree. Maybe not.
- Women 40 and above typically are not considered hireable for traditional 2nd or 3rd career options.
- We are living longer, healthier lives. The average life expectancy of a woman is 81 years and increases every year. At the age of 40, a woman has at least 40 more years to make an impact in the community at large.
- Women are often responsible for the care of parents, a spouse or both as we age.
- We are crazy-smart and highly valuable. Unfortunately the marketplace doesn't recognize this truth.
- To compensate for gender and age bias, there is a need to collaborate with other women in order to get the resources, education and support we need and deserve in order to build a successful business.
- Entrepreneurship, working from home, and self-employment are not our "only" options to create financial growth and stability. They are the best option for women.
- We need, want and deserve resources geared toward the way women interact, think and view the world at large.
- It's time for this under-appreciated group of women to stand up and take their place in the marketplace.
- We need to educate younger women on the incredible opportunities, support them to create business, and help alleviate the fear that failure is an end.
For years, my primary aim has been to elevate the position and esteem of entrepreneurial women. Whether 20, 40, 60 or 80 - women have an unending well of resources to pour into the world.
I want to share their stories - your stories - of success and failure, reinvention and restoration. My own story shouts about all of those things. I bet yours does as well. I call it our HeartCode - the unique path our life has taken to bring us to today.
I challenge you to shed the fear and put on the garments of purpose. Stand up with your vision and put it out for the world to see. Link arm in arm with other women who are in the journey. Transform the world you live in - and the world coming behind you.
Love your laugh lines and worry creases. Show off your gray hair. Stand up strong.
We are waiting for you.
Live At Your Best! Live Inspired!
Image Credit: Susan Osborne, SheBuildsABusiness.com
Gary Vaynerchuck posted an incredible video on YouTube about this. I'd love to post it here, but the language is pretty rough in a few places.