Leading with vision: The impact of women in entrepreneurship

In a world where the dynamism of startups is redefining the future, women’s leadership in entrepreneurship is a beacon of innovation, diversity, and societal progress.

María José de la Maza

Embracing gender equality in entrepreneurship serves dual pivotal roles: it enriches the startups and entrepreneurship ecosystem and plays a significant role in social change by boosting women’s representation and impact in the business world.  

According to the latest GEM report, fewer women consider entrepreneurship (1 in 6) compared to men (1 in 5), with only 1 in 10 women starting a business versus 1 in 8 men. This gap is even higher in Europe, where only 8,3% of women intend to launch a company, of whom only 6,1% follow through. 

Many women juggle with self-doubt, questioning their skills more than men do. Their cautious and skeptical approach to risk and self-assessment, frequently underestimating their own capabilities and setting very high expectations for themselves, contributes to a significant gender gap in perceived readiness for business. It translates into fewer women (52.1%) than men (61,9%) feeling prepared to start a business. However, their representation in the startup and business world is slowly increasing, with women entrepreneurs representing 1 in 4 high-growth entrepreneurs globally in 2022.  

Women's cautious approach to risk and high demands on themselves increases the gender gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem

Moreover, despite all the challenges, women-led ventures frequently outperform their male counterparts, highlighting the significant impact of female leadership on business success. By encouraging them to venture into entrepreneurial and leadership roles, the business ecosystem benefits from their unique perspectives and strengths by creating more dynamic and successful startups and businesses.  

Gender equality enriches startups, enhancing overall performance. Addressing and reducing the gender gap and empowering women to overcome self-doubt and risk aversion will lead to higher success rates in their ventures and a fairer, equitable, and inclusive society. It also enhances creativity and problem-solving within the startup, leading to innovative and effective solutions through a richer mix of ideas, strategies, and problem-solving approaches.  

Moreover, women’s leadership significantly strengthens team management and customer understanding, which is crucial for developing unique and responsive products and services that better address market needs and demands. It’s also fundamental to improve employee loyalty and guarantee the company’s sustainability over time.  

Bridging the gender gap: Women leading startups

Startups are known for their fresh, agile, and flexible nature, giving high importance to tangible results, which align well with the qualities and way of thinking often brought forth by women. Unlike traditional corporate environments where power and recognition might dominate, startups thrive on tangible outcomes and values that resonate with women’s leadership styles. Women tend not to look for power, money, or recognition but rather other types of values that are much more aligned with startups. Despite these compatibilities, the women’s entrepreneurial journey is often hindered by self-imposed limitations and societal biases, despite their proven resilience and leadership skills.  

Gender equality enriches startups, enhancing overall performance

Are women “less entrepreneurial” due to external barriers and self-imposed limitations? Yes, in terms of mindset, not if we refer to their capabilities. Women’s high self-demand, low self-recognition, and risk aversion often make them less entrepreneurial than men. However, women possess distinct skills that are highly valuable for managing startups, like resilience, allowing them to overcome obstacles, and listening and leadership skills, making them excellent founders and managers.  

Women often feel more unprepared and hesitant to take risks or leave stable jobs for uncertain ventures than men, which is a clear obstacle to starting their entrepreneurial journey. Even in this day and age and all the advances made in this area, the misconception of women being less capable than men, especially in high-stress and demanding situations, persists within our society.  

However, more and more investors are looking for diversity in their portfolios. This diversity refers to a variety of industries, solutions, products, services, and even the diversity among the founding team’s profiles—which relates to their skills, profile, and, of course, gender.  

Empowering female leaders and entrepreneurs

Building women role models is crucial to inspiring and promoting entrepreneurial culture among women. Highlighting the achievements of successful women entrepreneurs will empower others to chase their business dreams. This not only contributes to reducing the gender gap but also strengthens the overall entrepreneurial ecosystem, showcasing successes and encouraging a new generation of women to step forward with confidence.  

The key actors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem have an active role in enhancing women’s entrepreneurial journey. By establishing mentorship programs, they create a supportive network where aspiring entrepreneurs can gain guidance and support from experienced women leaders, facilitating connections, sharing experiences, and fostering collaboration. In this regard, many programs exist, such as the diversity leadership projects (Proactiva, Progresa, Promociona and Counselors) in which the CEOE and Esade work together to enhance women’s leadership. On the other hand, the eWorks accelerator supports new entrepreneurs in making their business ideas a reality.  

Additionally, increasing the visibility of women entrepreneurs who highlight their achievements through events, awards and media serves as inspiration for others and, of course, it is key to improve access to financial resources through specialized grants and microloans.  


For women on their entrepreneurial path:

  • Don’t let over-analysis paralyze you: take action. The real test of your idea’s success is through its execution; launch your project and adjust based on results, not just predictions or fears.  
  • Share your ideas and learn from real-world feedback to refine your vision and strategy. Use your network to gain different perspectives and insight; it might give you clarity on aspects you might have overlooked. It will not only broaden your understanding but also enrich your vision, making it more robust and adaptable to the realities of the market.  
  • Seek and connect with partners who share your values and complement your skills. The alignment of purpose, values, personal objectives, and concerns among the founding team is key to a startup’s success.  

For all women in their professional and personal lives:

  • Embracing self-belief is fundamental: believe in yourself. Acknowledge your worth and abilities and show this confidence to the world.  
  • Cultivating a personal brand is essential. It will allow you to distinguish yourself in a crowded marketplace and showcase your unique values, skills, and visions. It will be a powerful tool to build credibility, attract the right clients and partnerships, and position yourself as a leader in your industry.  
  • Prioritize effective communication and networking. Don’t isolate yourself in your work. You’re the expert on your potential, so showcase your talents and actively seek opportunities. Remember, success hinges on relationships and seizing opportunities within the ecosystem — don’t passively await chances. Instead, actively pursue and capture them.  
  • Change and collaboration are a catalyst for growth in individuals, ecosystems, and businesses. But remember, you are not alone; teamwork can transform any challenge into an achievable goal. Look at these relationships as strategic alliances that maximize your potential to navigate obstacles more smoothly.  

And never forget… If you have a dream, pursue it with all your might. It’s not just about professional success but also about achieving personal fulfilment and happiness.

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