Women entrepreneurship: Nurture vs Nature vs Exogenous

This article is the introduction to a series of personal insights on women entrepreneurship from a male allyship perspective.

By Romain Tordo, Co Founder, EVE List

During the past 10 years I have been fortunate to be part of several Board of Directors of start-ups, and an advisor in two investment funds.

Through these different positions, I had the opportunity to meet several women entrepreneurs and CEOs. I followed them closely from ideation to round B and advised them in this process .

I noted many common traits amongst these exceptional individuals which I didn’t encounter in their male counterpart.  In this article , I would like to introduce some of these traits and a few personal remarks (my pure opinion based out of personal experience).

Is there anything such as “women” entrepreneurship?

Let’s start with listing the core common traits and behavior I encountered..

  • Every women entrepreneurs and CEOs I worked with were extraordinary executives and delivered consistently better results than their male counterparts.
  • Women entrepreneurs I met worked harder than most men I worked with.
  • They were better at creating strong relationships with external partners.

Similarly there were common traits in the ones who failed to launch a venture/product successfully..

  • Front of the class syndrome :Once transferred in the product creation process, the bright student is hesitant to launch an MVP because it’s never good enough. 
  • Not “perfect” or not ready syndrome: They believe that if you don’t know every aspect of business management, then you should not start it. 
  • They don’t have a support group or environment: Women have less access to female leaders, less allies in their surroundings to sponsor them, open doors or simply mentor them, than men. Women entrepreneurs are still a minority, and therefore do not have peers to share with the journey of launching a business.
  • Male allyship: Men are often threatened by the idea of a wife/sister/partner who might be financially independent through entrepreneurship.

Initial thoughts

My initial observations (unresearcherched/ biased/ uninformed) all come from direct personal experience. Although the cannot lead to generalisation, they align with well researched behavioural trends.

Better results

Depending on the data set analyzed, Female led companies outperform male led companies by 15 to 20%.

Female entrepreneurs are outliers. The necessary effort to achieve these positions are such that it results in extraordinary beings (overachievers).

It makes me wonder how much of that greatness is innate and how much is being stretched by adversarial experiences and acquired through friction with their environment. 

Work harder

Since women entrepreneurs are outliers and dealt with a sub-optimal social poker hand, they compensate with mind numbing work ethic.

They often push the boundaries of work acceptance and sacrifice personal life space to the point of  physical and psychological exhaustion.

Social skills creates better business partners

Every company in hyper-growth needs strong partnerships benefiting everyone involved. Female leaders have been better at creating such partnerships in my portfolio of clients.

The gap between male and female is so wide that it makes me wonder if male and female leaders have different definitions of partnership

Most male leaders I work with, look at partnership in a win it all approach. Each meeting leading up to the partnership is a battle that needs to be won by one side of the table.

The results are short term partnerships which doesn’t create any value and often destroys it . 

Every female leader I worked with  entered in  partnership to be beneficial to everyone involved. And they didn’t mind drafting new agreements if the partners didn’t see the value for themselves.

The results are multi-year and multi-dimensional healthy partnerships.

Social expectations

In an economical system designed upon patriarchy principles, female leaders face many social barriers when they think of starting a business. 

  • They face lenders’ trust issues when it comes to their ability to execute on  their vision. 
  • They have to overcome the notion of being the sole expected source of nurturing in the family.
  • They tend to over stretch themselves to cover every aspect of their home responsibilities on top of building a business.
  • They frown upon using external help to hand over the private sphere responsibilities.
  • The receive little support from their partner to take over these responsibilities.

Risk aversion

In the face of fear of failure, women seem to overestimate the drawback of risk taking compared to their male counterparts.

Male focus on the potential upside in case the venture succeeds while female entrepreneurs focus on what they could lose if the venture fails.

Such approach to risk taking is beneficial in a post market fit organisation where it is important to protect the company value and be resilient during financial downturn.

But this approach can be detrimental for startups and hyper growth companies where each decision should be bold to ensure the best potential outcome for the company. 

This behaviour brings us back to the title of this article – is risk taking a learned, acquired or an innate trait ?

Let’s keep exploring

Each post will dig deeper into the why of the strengths and limitations I encountered in the boardroom with female leaders. 

I would like to invite women entrepreneurs to contact me to start the conversation (especially if you disagree).

Join us in one of our podcasts or AMA sessions with our community.