I constantly read about how challenging it is for women to become entrepreneurs. I consider myself lucky to not have faced major challenges in managing my business, and how blessed I am to be from a country that supports women and entrepreneurship.
However, if I tune in to my favourite blogs and news sites, it is not uncommon to read about unequal pay, sexual harassment, and unpaid maternity leave issues that many women around the world face.
One of the challenges that women entrepreneurs also face is how they feel that they have to negotiate or validate their services worth harder; this is a topic that I have come across in many women in business blogs.
An acquaintance of mine runs an events management business in Abu Dhabi, and often ends up providing a service at a lower than intended price. She does not feel confident enough to set the price higher, or she would feel shy to negotiate pricing especially when negotiating with men.
I can imagine how such incidents, and others such as sexual harassment and dealing with obnoxious vendors, could make women entrepreneurs want to give up, and stick to the security of a 9 to 5 job. But this should not stop you.
Here is what I have learned through my many encounters with women entrepreneurs from around the world about fighting through the challenges we women face in business. I hope that you will find some of them useful.
Don’t let unfamiliarity deter you
The beauty of being an entrepreneur is that you will often sail in uncharted waters. As my sister and I were about to launch a new business, we were warned about how many of the business owners in our field were men and that may present a challenge as we compete with them. But it only made us want to do it even more.
We knew and were confident that what we were going to launch wasthe future, so we buckled up, and worked harder on setting it up. Do not wait for change to happen, or that the right environment would somehow be created so that you could create your business. Evolve, or you will never grow.
Know your services' worth
I cannot recall the number of times my female business friends would call to discuss a proposal of their services fee. A common question they always raise is: “You don’t think it’s too much, do you? I just don’t want to turn them away!” When it comes to money, women become extra sensitive, and this is something that is not culture-tied. They just think about it once or twice, before sending the proposal out to their prospect clients.
It is true that your clients would pay amount X, which sometimes may be a large amount, but they are also paying it for an exchange of a service, which often includes long working hours, thought and dedication, so don’t feel bad about it.
But also beyond money, know your services' worth. Don’t accept any offer just to make ends meet. Be true to what you are passionate about, and also value your time. Set working hours, and also dedicated break times and holidays. My weekends are sacred, and I do not work after certain hours or during special holidays no matter what. You owe that to yourself. Take a break to relax, and unwind, as not doing so would only backfire against you.
Lead by example and support each other
What I tend to hear from many other women entrepreneurs is how women in business do not support each other. Though my mentors have been men, I do support aspiring female entrepreneurs. I introduce them to business acquaintances, provide them with a work experience, or simply help polish their work CVs. But the most important thing that I believe women entrepreneurs need is faith in what they want to offer the world, and I have personally seen how one person’s faith in an entrepreneur can do wonders, and help launch amazing businesses that make our world better.
Own being a woman
The final advice I will leave you with is to own being a woman, because at the end of the day if you are truly passionate about what you do, if you are determined to make a difference, if you will dedicate your time and effort to ensure that your vision sees the light, then it does not matter than if you are a man or a woman. The great thing about this is that both passion and success are gender neutral, so you might as well just go for it.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi.