The confidence gap holding female entrepreneurs back

In this article, Sophie Baron, Founder of Mamamade, explores the confidence gap holding female entrepreneurs back.

It might seem surprising that in 2022 we’re still wondering why more women are starting up businesses – or rather, why it still seems to be a bit of a rarity to find a woman doing so successfully. Well, here’s my theory about why women seem to be hesitant to break into entrepreneurship: The Confidence Gap.

Here’s a stat for you: According to The Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurs, only 39% of women are confident in their capabilities to start a business – compared to 55% of men. And because I know you’ll ask – the study also found that women have just as much talent, education, ability, and experience as those men – it’s purely a lack of confidence that holds them back.

Frustrating, right?

But given how we’ve been socialised from a young age, given the cultural and societal expectations imposed on us, like being encouraged to be ‘good’ and amenable, this really should come as no surprise.

Not only that, but girls of my generation were often told that being ‘too loud’ or ‘too confident’ were negative and unbecoming traits, and when we dared to be confident, that was interpreted as ‘arrogant’ or ‘masculine. The list goes on.

But it’s well within our power to change the narrative and challenge societal expectations so that female entrepreneurs are able to thrive in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry.

So, in keeping with this year’s IWD theme, I want to use this article as an opportunity to share my experiences, struggles and learnings. It’s my hope that by doing so I can motivate and inspire others who might be going through something similar.

There is a fraud among us…

Imposter syndrome can be experienced by anyone, but as a woman, it is seriously magnified – we continue to undervalue and underestimate our potential!

Research conducted in 2019 by British bank Natwest found nearly two-thirds (60%) of women have considered starting their own business but haven’t due to feelings commonly associated with imposter syndrome. Not only is this a huge missed opportunity, but it is also preventing progress.

Imagine if that 60% felt empowered and confident to start their own business? While confidence has never been something that’s come naturally for me, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight, I’ve learnt that it’s a constant, iterative learning process, achieved one small step at a time.

My relationship with doubt

Early on in my Mamamade journey, I suffered from some serious self-doubt, or since we are on the topic, imposter syndrome would be a more fitting description. In addition to holding me back, it began to hold the business back too.

Rather than asking myself whether what I was doing was right or wrong, I spent a great deal of time seeking validation from others. As a result, I started to lose sight of my original vision, and became confused in my thinking. Looking to others for validation did more harm than good because the bottom line was and is no one knows my brand like I do. But, at the time, I failed to trust my own voice and expertise.

There are so many stories of businesses raising money with just an idea and nothing to show for it, but I already had a product people were buying, a community and audience. So, why was I so worried?

Simple. It was self-doubt: I was crippled with self-doubt!

Nobody tells you that in order to build a successful business, not only does it require lots of effort and resources, it requires self-belief. This is not said enough!

Know your worth

It’s all well and good talking about the importance of confidence, but that doesn’t really help anyone. So, here are five of my top tips which you can put into practice:

  • Focus on yourself – If you look at yourself through others’ lenses, you will never develop confidence within yourself. At the end of the day, everyone is too busy being focussed on what they are doing themselves to care what you are doing – so get busy watering your own grass, and stop looking to see if it’s greener elsewhere.
  • Make friends with failure – Failure is no catastrophe, it needn’t be feared. While developing a healthy relationship with failure can take time, once you stop fearing it, everything becomes a whole lot easier. Step into the fear and do what you want to do anyway.
  • Affirmations – I always felt like a bit of an idiot repeating stuff like ‘I am confident’ out loud, but as time went on, I began to see the positive impact it had on my confidence. Feelings come from thoughts and by changing our thoughts, we can change our feelings.
  • Visualisation – Visualise what success means to you. When you’re laser-focused on your vision, it’s easier to operate from a place of confidence and harder for people to knock you down. It can also help you see what the future might look like if you take certain risks or make changes in your life.
  • Fake it til’ you make it – there’s a reason this phrase is used so much. Remind yourself that most people, if not everyone, don’t really know what they are doing. Courage comes from doing things even when you’re afraid of them and the more you do something outside your comfort zone, the more confident you become.

Some of my habits and limiting beliefs have taken a long time to unlearn. Whether that’s:

  • Not believing I am capable of negotiating.
  • Not having the confidence to make certain demands or set boundaries.
  • Believing myself to be bad with numbers and money.

All of these are things that most men are more comfortable with, which always made me feel like I was out of my league. That was until I learned that it was me who decided what league I play in and how it’s run. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: all of us can decide what league we play in and how it’s run – we owe it to ourselves and womankind!