Women in leadership roles, especially business leaders and entrepreneurs, are frequently stereotyped based on their gender. It is critical to develop your leadership skills in order to be the best boss your small business deserves.

Women in leadership roles, especially business leaders and entrepreneurs, are frequently stereotyped based on their gender. It is critical to develop your leadership skills in order to be the best boss your small business deserves.

 

Women-owned businesses – especially women of color – are the fastest growing segment of businesses. Despite this inspiring statistic provided by the U.S. Senate’s Small Business Council, women entrepreneurs still face many challenges.

If you identify as female, there is a good chance you are already aware of the unfortunate prejudice against women in leadership roles. You might have even experienced it yourself during your journey as a small business owner. “Women in authority positions are viewed as lacking the assertiveness and confidence of strong leaders. But when these women display such characteristics, they are judged negatively for being unfeminine,” says Dr. Tetyana Pudrovska, author and professor at the University of Texas.

We asked Opportunity Fund’s new CEO, Luz Urrutia, about her experiences as a woman entrepreneur – from overcoming personal challenges to advice to other business owners.

Manage Your Career, Know Your Strengths and Use Them Unapologetically

Luz Urrutia mentions that a lot of women “do not ask for what they want and are not intentional about developing a plan that will lead them to the leadership positions that they are fully capable of attaining with the proper mentoring and direction. As a result, they leave their careers for others to decide, ending up as spectators of their own professional future instead of the active participants they should and deserve to be.”

Some stereotypes about women are that they are more social, better able to connect emotionally, and excel at nurturing relationships. These attributes are not a disadvantage or handicap to being a great leader. In fact, this Gallup study reports that employees who work for a female manager are more engaged on average than under male managers. Despite the stereotype that men make better managers, women’s emotional intelligence and leadership styles translate into a more satisfied and productive workforce.

If you find that these attributes match the way you interact with your employees, don’t change! Don’t be afraid that your emotional intelligence is a detriment to your leadership. It is a powerful skill to inspire and connect with your employees, and workers who feel valued and appreciated are more productive and dedicated.

Connect With Women Business Leaders and Learn From Each Other

Because there is a significant unbalance of men and women in business leadership positions, you might feel isolated from other women at the top.

Finding a mentor or a sponsor can be especially hard as a woman in a leadership role. Luz agrees that finding role models can be tough but important to developing yourself and progressing in your career.

Look at this list we’ve put together for you with six amazing resources for you to find a mentor,  connect with your peers and access business development centers that will help you develop your leadership skills. This blog also publishes bi-monthly events posts, so check back regularly to find networking and learning opportunities for you as a women entrepreneur.

Take the Initiative in Your Own Business

Once you’ve found a mentor or a sponsor, networked with other women entrepreneurs, and attended leadership seminars, it’s time to bring it back to your small business.

Luz offers a few suggestions for encouraging gender equality that will bring long-term benefits to the business and to other women who may look to you as a role model.

  • Show commitment and get men involved: When employees see higher-ups prioritizing gender and racial diversity, they are more likely to be committed themselves to see the value of diversity.
  • Invest in employee training: Unconscious bias training works best when it doesn’t only raise awareness of bias but also directly encourages people to avoid thinking of others in a stereotypical way.
  • Give your managers the means to drive change: Small businesses need to make sure managers have the know-how to support women’s career development. You can also invest in formal mentorship and sponsorship programs to provide additional guidance to your female employees. Lead your business towards gender equality.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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