In business relationships, respect is paramount. When a businessperson — be they owner, manager, customer or colleague — feels at a disadvantage for reasons not under their control, such as gender or youth, it lends credence to the notion that respect is not simply a matter of earning it.
A pair of surveys indicate that both in Idaho and across the oceans, most young entrepreneurs fear their age keeps them from being taken seriously. Similarly, women entrepreneurs in particular find their gender impacts how seriously they’re taken at work, even in cases of multimillion-dollar earnings.
An international survey of more than 25,0000 respondents aged 18 to 40 across 35 nations found young business people consider their age an obstacle to success.
The survey reported in June, commissioned by Herbalife Nutrition and conducted by OnePoll, found that 62 percent of young entrepreneurs fear age hinders them when trying to launch a new business. Sixty-five percent said they’re hesitant to start a new business because they feel intimidated by their lack of experience.
That sentiment was even stronger here. The survey found 66 percent of Idahoans 40 and under worry they won't be taken seriously when starting a business because of their relative youth.
Yet in line with the American entrepreneurial spirit, many nevertheless view this as a completely surmountable challenge. Some even see youth in business as an advantage.
Six in 10 (63 percent) said they’re better at adapting to new technology than are other generations.
Forty-five percent said they’re more likely to have fresh, unexplored ideas.
Forty percent of those 40 and under who want to open a business said they’re “less afraid to fail” than other generations.
However, the majority agreed that a “few” (ideally, seven) years of relevant experience before starting their own business would help. Americans generally believe the best age to start a business is 30, compared to a global average ideal age of 28.
The survey also found that 63 percent believe their generation faces unique challenges when starting a business, compared to older generations.
Women in the workplace have for years perceived similar obstacles. Ask most businesswomen with a few years behind them; they’ll tell you they can relate to the old adage that a woman must speak twice as loudly to be heard half as often.
This, despite the fact that American women own 12.3 million businesses that employ 9.2 million people and generate nearly $2 trillion in annual revenues, according to 2018 research by American Express.
A study reported in 2019 conducted by Babson College and Bank of America found that female business owners, like their younger counterparts, often don't feel they are taken seriously. Using in-depth interviews with 30 women who own businesses with annual revenues of more than $5 million, the researchers explored why. The results revealed three main misconceptions:
• Market misperceptions: Women entrepreneurs’ competency and market knowledge is routinely disregarded, including market opportunities they identify.
• Network exclusion: Women entrepreneurs often experience limited, gender-based access to established social and business networks, creating less access to knowledgeable mentors and capital expansion.
• Managing expansion while underfunded: Barriers to start-up and growth capital create new, ongoing challenges, including constraints on funding for recruitment, access to new markets and overall expansion.
Many women said they "had their leadership position questioned due to their gender." Others said people make outdated and unfounded gender-based assumptions, such as that a mother is running the business out of her home, just for fun, or just to supplement the family income.
Such assumptions make it harder to find or convince potential investors of the business’s value. Increasingly, women-owned and women-run businesses merit being taken seriously as a formidable part of the economy. The American Express report stated that between 2014 and 2019, women-owned businesses had increased revenues by 46 percent over the previous five years, and the number of women-owned businesses grew 21 percent.
Networking with others facing similar challenges can be very powerful, advise experts.
The young entrepreneur survey results can be viewed in an infographic at: Bit.ly/36b3AQd
Read the full white paper “Beyond the Bucks: Growth Strategies of Successful Women Entrepreneurs” at: Bit.ly/2UZ7fP7
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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.