Addressing the Stereotype that Entrepreneurship Is Masculine
Some people held a stereotype that entrepreneurship requires an approach they think of as “masculine” and were biased against women entrepreneurs as a result. In response, some women tried to act like that stereotype or worked harder than their male counterparts in order to overcome the effect of the stereotype. Some people still believe this to some extent. However, the stories of real-life successful entrepreneurs dispel the myth that only one personality type or gender can succeed. Alternative responses to barriers caused by this bias include the following:
- If you hold this stereotype, become familiar with the many different women who are successful leaders in biotech and rebuild your idea of what entrepreneurial success requires. You can develop a more accurate internal model of successful entrepreneurship that is both effective and congruent with your self-identity. Focus on the skills needed rather than gender stereotypes. Highlight the strengths you have, and get help with your weaker areas. Skills associated with entrepreneurial success (e.g., assertiveness, negotiation skills, internal locus of control) that are not part of your personality can be learned in a way that fits your personal style.
- If you encounter others acting according to this stereotype, you can challenge it, document unfair decisions and actions based on it, and request change.
Ideas for Addressing Bias Against Women Scientists
Some women entrepreneurs choose not to try to compensate for bias and say they would not want to do business with biased individuals. Whether you are willing to compensate for the bias you encounter against women in business is a personal decision. If you are interested, try the following recommended compensations from successful women entrepreneurs:
- Some women scientists have recommended taking male graduate students or partners to meetings with potential investors in case the investors are so biased that they will not hear your ideas or trust your abilities because they come from a woman.
- To compensate for bias that affects how well self-promotion is received:
- Frame your accomplishments in terms of progress on major projects.
- Ask others to advocate for you. For women, self-promotion may be better accepted by biased parties if it comes via a third party, such as a recommendation.
- Talk about what your team accomplished first, and then describe your specific role.
- Emphasize the benefit of your accomplishments to the organization.
Tips for Addressing Barriers
How can women change or go around barriers to entrepreneurship for women life scientists?
Several barriers involve skills that you can develop through training and experience. Alternatively, if it is a skill that you do not need every day, you can hire someone to handle it.
We asked life science entrepreneurs how to address the other barriers for women biotech entrepreneurs. Here are their responses:
Reframe barriers as challenges and opportunities.
- For example, instead of viewing the difficulty of finding childcare as a barrier, you can focus on how being an entrepreneur can give you the freedom to set your own schedule and even have your child’s daycare at your place of business.
Developing and using these skills and characteristics considered important for entrepreneurial success can help you overcome barriers.
- Show leadership ability, including an ability to inspire and execute.
- Find a strong motivation. What is your passion? For example, a passion for entrepreneurship can be driven by wanting to make a difference and do good, not just to acquire more money.
- Develop excellent communication skills, including negotiation skills before you need them.
- Be willing to work hard.
Consider looking for a woman mentor and women partners.
- A group of women graduate students in the life sciences described their most helpful mentoring and networking experiences as being those with women entrepreneurs and more advanced scientists.
- Some women feel uncomfortable being the only woman in a workplace. One advantage to founding your own company is that you can decide to have women partners and hire women to work for you.