Think of a few successful people, the ones that you respect and have inspired you. What do they look like? Is any of them a woman?
If not, we need to stop and reflect on the female role in entrepreneurship.
Female entrepreneurship is important because women are no less creative or smart than men, yet have historically been relatively rare in leadership positions.
But these are new times and we need to do new things . Maybe we could have more advances if we had more women entrepreneurs.
“Women are no less ambitious, or risk averse, as has been said in the past. The reality is that they define success on their own terms!” says Taciana Mello.
Taciana was in conversation with me for an episode of the Octanage Podcast that I host in Brazil. It proved to be an incredible and necessary conversation about the strength of female entrepreneurship.
Learn more about her trajectory and how she transformed a problem into an inspiring project.
Vinicius: “What makes a female leader successful?”
Taciana: “In these last two years on the road, I’ve learned to listen with the intention of understanding the other person’s viewpoint, putting myself in their person’s shoes. The ability to listen is just as important as knowing how to position yourself. It is an art.
“Listening to people you work with, your audience, personal relationships are essential. You gain a lot of important information; it’s a necessary mental exercise.
“Often, we are more concerned with preparing a way of opposing the point of view of the other person, rather than actually listening to what they are saying.
V: “That’s golden advice on listening”
T: “Learning how to listen properly is hard work, and you need to start with the simplest things. Don’t worry so much about having or finding the best answer.
We worry a lot that our response needs to present an image of someone intelligent, but it’s okay if you don’t know how to answer.
“Listening brings a lot of awareness of ‘wow, I didn’t know about it’, ‘I never thought about that’, ‘I didn’t have that information’.
“Learning comes about through this important stage, listening. How many times have we missed the opportunity to increase our repertoire or perhaps have an insight through such a simple and accessible source of knowledge. Because we care too much about showing off.
“It is almost instinctive not to want to be vulnerable, to want a have a ready answer for everything, but it’s more human to recognise that you’re constantly learning, and be prepared to say “I didn’t know that”. It will hardly be forgotten.”
V: “How can one develop this competence?”
Empathy is the key
T: “Do a self-reflection exercise with humility: understand that you do not have all the answers, and practice empathy.
We tend to consider situations always with our perspective, it’s a human trait, we build the world from our experiences.
“Consciously put yourself in the other person’s shoes, try to understand that person’s life experience, and, from it, learn your own story.
You’ll become a more professional and a better person, because you gain a much larger repertoire – you actually learn from what others have experienced.
“We live in a time where it often feels that you are expected to have all the answers and you need to know a lot about many things.
“But assuming that you have all the answers is the fastest way to error. That’s why I say that entrepreneurship requires you to have a curious mind, to keep asking a lot.
V: “When I moved to London, I was restless, but that helped me learn a lot. I asked many simple and obvious questions, apparently, but they were very important for my learning.
“We need to constantly remind ourselves that we do not have all the answers, and that there is no shame in that.
The important thing is to be open always to learning more, and turn the new knowledge gained into something concrete.”
V: “How did ‘The Girls On The Road’ project start?”
T: “Our goal is to make women who want to get into business believe that it is possible, that they can do it. We arrived at this question, because of our anxiety to seek answers.
“We were living in the USA, in Silicon Valley, and we’d expected to find more business women in that region.
The number was actually much lower than we imagined. That surprised us, as we believed that that place in the world would bring more possibilities for equality. It turned out that was not the case, so we looked for reasons.
“The main reason is that women do not see other women as entrepreneurs, and end up believing that entrepreneurship is something exclusive to the male universe.
The model of having examples to refer to is fundamental – and there weren’t any.
“So, we decided to help change this scenario by telling real life stories. The problem is that women haven’t been seeing these examples, not that they lack the ability to be successful themselves.
“Women have interest, women have purpose, women’s capacity is equal to that of men. But if they don’t find examples of others achieving success, it becomes much more complex for them.
“Where stories can help change this scenario, we go after them, we demonstrate what these women have been achieving in different environments, meeting different difficulties and obstacles, and overcoming them.
“That was how this project was born, with the aim of trying to help resolve this problem and start changing this scenario, this mentality, this attitude of business women in relation to female entrepreneurship.
V: “This inspiring project came about because our interviewee decided to listen to others and understand better about this situation that bothered her.
We must not accept any longer the kind of mentality that diminishes the importance of women in the job market. We need to be inspired and celebrate examples of female entrepreneurs.”
Objectives and results to female entrepreneurship
T: “Fernanda, my partner, and I, interviewed 334 women over the 15 months from July 2016 to October 2017, in 24 countries, on 5 continents.
Our goal was to put together a documentary and write a book combining Inspiration and Action for women to start on the path of entrepreneurship.
“We chose countries for their relevance to this objective: diversity and representation.
We went into cultures with more established women entrepreneurs, with strong performance, to other places with virtually no performance, with varying degrees of economic development and availability of resources.
“Inspiration is essential, but you cannot walk alone: we want to offer the first steps and opportunities for women who want to pursue the entrepreneurial path.”
V: “What did you find the most difficult time as an entrepreneur?”
T: “It was when we doubted our own ability to achieve. Fernanda and I launched ourselves into areas in which we had no knowledge: cinema, film, recording equipment and interviews.
“Our initial self-confidence was strong, we felt sure that we had the capacity to go after the necessary training and information.
“We were not afraid to learn something new from scratch. The issues that we faced were those that other entrepreneurs shared with us. I knew I had an idea, but I didn’t have the knowledge and it didn’t stop me.
“I froze for a moment, but the next moment I realized that I had the ability to go after what I needed, so I educated myself, asked for help, talked to people. Today there is no shortage of resources to learn what is needed. We did it!
“The only thing that can stop us is to doubt ourselves. We will never be completely sure about any initiative, especially outside our area of expertise. But if you have a project and believe, others will believe and help.
V: “What are the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs around the world?”
T: “It is difficult to develop an idea, to attract investment. Patience and resilience are essential. If you don’t have it, life gets infinitely more complicated. That goes for both men and women.
“But women entrepreneurs face additional adversity. That’s a known fact. It’s not us talking, we did not bring anything new.
Research studies have proved that there is still the issue of sexism in the process of raising financial resources.
“Business women need to prove themselves much more under questioning. Studies show that investors are much more demanding when interviewing a woman.
“When we were in Australia we heard something very interesting that sums up the prevailing mentality.
“An entrepreneur shared a frank conversation with us with an investor, and he said the following: ‘When we evaluate a man, we always evaluate what type of entrepreneur he is, what his style is, what his characteristics are.
When an investor evaluates a female, however, he asks himself: can she really be an entrepreneur?“In Brazil, China, the United States, Cuba, Portugal, Russia, Kenya, or India … the challenges for the female entrepreneurship are the same.
What changes is the intensity and resources available to overcome them. Some women achieve fantastic results, and that is what needs to be said: this is how we transform the entrepreneurial environment around us.
V: “Why are more women turning to entrepreneurship?”
T: “If we do not change the arguments, we will not change the narratives – women do not go into business just out of necessity.
“We are all sensitive to opportunities, and this is the origin of many enterprises led by women.
“Women are no less ambitious, or risk averse, as has been said in the past. The reality is that they define success on their own terms!
V: “Regardless of these difficulties, there are successful business women who have followed the entrepreneurial path.
“This is the message that The Girls On The Road wants to deliver: the difficulties for women are real and visible, but they can be overcome.
“The situation seems absurd and unrealistic, but unfortunately the facts still exist and we cannot ignore them. We are committed to female entrepreneurship.
When we give voice to incredible women like Taciana Mello, we reflect, and are surprised by the feminine strength. We have no choice but to take action and recognize how women can dominate entrepreneurship.
The full podcast episode (in Portuguese) is on Octanage https://octanage.com/e029.