For female would-be entrepreneurs, these challenges make it difficult to pursue a potentially rewarding career path. In the United Kingdom, for example, 15% of businesses are led by women, yet women account for only 7% of entrepreneurs in science, engineering or technology fields.
“Women don't ask for opportunities and they undersell their abilities and expertise,” says Sharon Vosmek, chief executive of Astia, a non-profit organization in San Francisco, California, that supports women-led, high-growth companies in technology and the life sciences around the world. Often, she adds, women miss opportunities because they don't know how to take advantage of their scientific credentials.
When it comes to pitching business ideas, women are often less aggressive and more cautious than men — which can be interpreted as a lack of confidence, undermining the pitch. Women are also “more open to a discussion about the cons as well as the pros of a potential business — which can make an idea look less attractive to an investor”, says Joanna Horobin, president and chief executive of Syndax Pharmaceuticals in Waltham, Massachusetts.