On this Mother’s Day in the US, we recognize and celebrate the working mother: those women who transform their lives for their children, while still contributing to the work force. Of this group of hardworking individuals, female face unique challenges in the workplace entrepreneurs, sometimes dealing with fundamental issues that men may never encounter.
To this end, for the past 15 years Cartier has championed women entrepreneurs through their Women’s Initiative, an all-encompassing international entrepreneurship program that aims to drive change by empowering women impact entrepreneurs. The program is open to women-run and women-owned businesses from any country and sector that aim to have a strong and sustainable social or environmental impact. We joined Cartier in celebrating the 15th anniversary of the program earlier this year along with a celebration for International Women’s Day in Dubai.
Now, we share highlights from an interview with Wingee Sampaio, the director of the Cartier Women’s Initiative, who spoke on the evolution of the program, the unique challenges female entrepreneurs experience, and the triumphs she’s witness. Quotes were edited for clarity and brevity.
Female entrepreneurs encounter unique challenges in business
There are specific kinds of challenges. I think the most well known one is around funding. Women have a challenging time raising capital because there’s less women on the other side [as investors], so there are some biases. Often it comes from the type of questions that they receive. So something, for example, when a male investor meets a fellow male, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, what is your business potential? What is the growth, etcetera?’ Very focused on growth.
But when it’s a woman, the questions are like, ‘What are the risks that you see? how are you addressing all these risks?’ Then at the end they’re like, ‘Wow, she’s like full of risk and I’m not so sure.’ It’s a good investment, but, this is the nature. Like growth-orientated versus risk-adverse type of questions for women entrepreneurs.
But it’s not much of it, I would say is not necessarily intentional. It may just be like a bit of an unconscious bias among an investor. And of course now with the research being published, there’s creating greater awareness around this.
This is one of the reason why our program exists, because we are specifically focused on impact entrepreneurs because we believe business is an important force for good. And we’re specifically focused on the woman doing this work because despite the fact that they’re creating businesses that the world needs, they’re facing more barriers than normal to solve for these challenges.
Female Entrepreneurs feel pressured to shift their personality to satisfy perceptions of entrepreneurs
We posed a question about the behaviors that Wingee has encountered in her coaching and mentorship experience, having worked with hundreds of women through her career and the Initiative.
The most common thing I see is a little bit holding back in personality. Sometimes they feel like they have to sound a certain way in order for them to be heard and that there is a certain way to pitch. So sometimes they deviate from what their true expression is. We want women impact entrepreneurs to hold true to what their purpose is. They’re building a business around that and they want the business to resonate with investors.