By Megan Totka

As we’re beginning to encourage more in more diversity in traditionally male-dominated industries, there may be one important career path we’re overlooking: entrepreneurs. While the number is steadily growing, only 29 percent of business owners are women.

It isn’t that they lack the ambition. In fact, a study performed by the University of Cambridge showed that women actually display greater entrepreneurial ambition than their male counterparts. But if it can’t simply be written off as a gender difference, what is it? These are three of the most common discouragements female entrepreneurs face when looking to start their own small business.

1. False Assumptions

Assumptions can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Whether you’re facing an investor who thinks you’ll abandon your company to raise a family, or friends and acquaintances who assume that “business owner” means you’re selling makeup or jewelry out of your living room, false assumptions can be highly discouraging to female entrepreneurs. While these comments may seem innocent, consistent false assumptions can be disheartening and encourage women to pursue other career paths.

2. Lack of Female Role Models

Encouragement or the bond of shared experience can be invaluable for young entrepreneurs looking to start their own company. There is, however, a distinct lack of female mentors or role models for successful female engineers, and this can make the industry feel very lonely or isolated. This can also impact a woman’s ability to imagine herself in a similar position.

3. Common Myths

There are also cultural myths that can dissuade a woman’s ambition. If she’s consistently told that she won’t have time for her family or that her children and spouse will be harmed by her business, she may rethink her decision to start her own company. These myths simply aren’t true. Many woman experience unprecedented flexibility and freedom as small business owners, and actually have more time at their disposal.

The Future of Female Entrepreneurs

Despite their minority status, female entrepreneurs are making amazing strides towards closing the gap in the small business sector. At the Vermont Small Business Awards Ceremony on June 11, female recipients outnumbered men for the first time in the ceremony’s history. More and more municipal and government organizations are showing interest in female or minority-owned business.

If we can overcome these three pitfalls of the small business industry, we can help close the gap between male and female business owners. By encouraging diversity, we create new opportunities for our communities and for our culture at large.

For more advice on growing small businesses, visit Chamber of Commerce.

Megan Totka is the chief editor for which helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Contact Megan at and follow her at @MeganTotka.