Men are twice as likely to be entrepreneurially active (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, UK Report 2011). There are many contributing factors as to why this may be the case, but what role does confidence play in it all? I have a theory...
As someone who is passionate about business and start-ups, I regularly attend events where I meet people who are either in the early stages of running a business or wanting to start a business soon. The more events I attend and the more people I speak to, the clearer it becomes; the majority of men, weather the idea and execution of a business is good or not, have a general confidence to what they are doing. In some cases arrogance admittedly but not always. In fact it is usually a genuine sincere confidence, belief in themselves, that there will be a way, that their business is a great new product or service that can better the world and that there are possibilities. As a result they put themselves out there, ask for support, push forward and take the risk to try. Many fail and many succeed but taking part doesn't seem to be a barrier.
On the other hand many women, have just as much passion and undoubtedly skilled development of their business idea, but are so frequently held back by insecurities (weather conscious or not). With thoughts like: 'I might not be good enough', 'it probably won't work' or 'maybe I just don't have the skills'. This is of course a massive generalization, but is none-the-less a significant pattern that is undoubtedly worrying. This led me to ask myself, are we, as women underselling ourselves to the extent that a confident man with a 'worse' business idea, would have more success due to sheer confidence levels?
It seems fairly obvious that women, on the whole, would be less confident about starting a business as a result of decades of sexism and women being seen as less than equal in the workplace. However it shouldn't be shrugged off, as the repercussions are vast. This year I think I will have literally met 100's of talented women wanting to start their own business that won't due to a lack of this seemingly crucial confidence-arrogance mix. If we could work on addressing that, I think it would have a marked impact for the nature of startups and go some way to leveling out the number of female business founders and owners.
To start your own business from scratch you do need a certain amount of confidence and possibly a touch of arrogance (even if it is faked). Confidence in your idea, confidence that people will buy what you are offering and confidence that you are the best person to deliver results. Genuine confidence comes from knowledge and experience, but when starting out you often have neither. It seems men, as a group, have a society-induced talent for getting past this and going for it anyway.
So what does all this mean? Do women need to be more confident and or arrogant to make it in business? I hate to say it but I think so! Well, I don't think they NEED to be but if there was a general injection of this confidence-arrogance mix it might help more women to start and grow their own businesses. Perhaps tonicity is a better word for it. On one hand it can help to be unsure, to question your ideas and to think things through before acting. But this becomes a problem if under-confidence stops you from actually taking those crucial first steps to launch a business. Don't get me wrong there are many confident women out there but most of them are confident because they have skills and experience to back it up. The kind of jump in head-first attitude seen (and arguably needed) to start and grow a business is one that I think some women could do with more of, myself included.
The far bigger question of how to install the much-deserved level of self-belief many women would benefit from in starting their own business remains to be answered, but ask yourself this... If each woman who had a genuine business idea and plan that wanted to make it happen, went for it. In the way that significantly more male equivalents do, how many more female founders would we have today and how many more young women would be inspired to follow in their footsteps?
Founder, London Jewellery School