How Women Entrepreneurs Can Turn Their “Weaknesses” into Strengths

March 13, 2014

12:56 pm

One thing the panelists at SXSW’s “Entrepreneuring Women” session seemed to agree on is that being a female entrepreneur can have advantages.

Though there are challenges and difficulties, some of them can be turned on their head. Take your weaknesses – or at least what people perceive as weaknesses – and turn them into strengths. Here are some insights that the panelists shared as they talked with Karen Griffith Gryga, the managing partner of DreamIt Ventures:

Being the only woman in the room draws attention. “People listen to you…because you’re a little bit different,” said Jennifer Fleiss, cofounder of Rent The Runway. Instead of feeling uncomfortable or out of place, take the opportunity to contribute to the conversation.

Sometimes, it makes sense to be less confident. When you truly don’t know what you’re doing, you should admit it – and ask for help. Terry Chase Hazell, director of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, says that women are more likely to do so. Also, she adds, women happen to be more realistic about their predictions for the future and the future of their company.

If people underestimate you, you can sneak up on them. Chase Hazell participated in a tough negotiation, which ultimately worked out in her favor. As she recounts, the other party’s response was: “Because you’re a woman, I just didn’t see you coming.”

Because female-led companies are less common, you can attract awesome female talent. Some women prefer to work for other women. Danielle Weinblatt, cofounder and CEO of Take the Interview, says that some women wanted to leave their jobs at Facebook and Google just to work for her, a female CEO.

You can be the “token woman.” Panels, conferences, and events are more sensitive about balancing the gender ratio, so women entrepreneurs can take advantage of that and find places to promote themselves and their companies, says Weinblatt – and show that they really belong there.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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