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When we look at the challenges women face in entrepreneurship today, the discussion often involves the tech sector as a whole. This misses a deeper problem.
Although women are making gains in B2C startups, with women-founded Stitch Fix and Eventbrite going public in the last 12 months, women remain further behind when it comes to starting B2B companies. A 2018 analysis by Quartz that looked at the top 351 male- and female-led startups since 2013 found that only 2% of female entrepreneurs are founding B2B companies, compared with 12% of men.
As general partner of an accelerator that focuses its efforts in B2B, I see the barriers preventing women from making the leap to become founders — especially in the software as a service (SaaS) market, which is expected to reach $186 billion by 2024, most of it with B2B companies.
Differences in Mentoring and Coaching
Before they become founders, many B2B entrepreneurs gain the insight to start their companies by working at larger companies. However, in these prior roles, men and women often receive different information, mentorship, and coaching, meaning they will have varying knowledge and skills as they look to establish their own companies.
When founders come to me, I ask them about the kinds of mentorship and coaching they’ve received in their careers. Frequently, men have received coaching around business strategies and tactics, while women are coached on navigating internal politics, building confidence, and presenting themselves in the workplace. Often, women are taught how to fit into the work culture, with less focus on how to use their own strengths to get ahead.
It’s understandable how this happens. Women often face different challenges due to office environments and leadership dynamics and naturally seek guidance from mentors on how to face these immediate challenges.
But it’s crucial to make sure women receive as much tactical and strategic training as their male peers in order to be prepared for leadership roles in the long term. Without these insights, women are not in an equally advantageous position to start companies that solve enterprise challenges.
What Managers Can Do
Managers can reverse this trend by establishing lists of critical skills that all employees should be coached or trained in, so that training is equalized across genders.