If you spend a lot of time daydreaming about the things you COULD be doing, the books you’d write, the adventures you’d have, the ventures you’d launch if only you had the time, space, money and/or confidence, you’re in great company. The world is full of amazing women who hide their light under a bushel for fear of messing up and getting it wrong.

And as founder of the Business Book awards it strikes me that we have a problem. Or several even. Why do so many fewer woman than men start their own business or write a book about their experience and expertise?

That was a question I was faced with when I founded the Business Book Awards in 2017, and our first set of winners – excellent books by brilliant authors – were all men.

One third of the 150 entries had been from women authors, and less than a third of books that the judges (50/50 female and male business experts, publishers and authors) shortlisted were women. Only 27% of small business owners are women. Only half as many women as men feel able to commit to important projects that could change their lives but also carry some risk.

I surveyed 50 women entrepreneur authors to ask them about their careers, their businesses and writing their books. What they told me overall was that women feel they are up against the ‘6 Cs’ both in business and in publishing:
Confidence – women have less confidence than men in their own abilities

Criticism – women are fearful of judgement and criticism – with justification

Caring – women have to factor in caring responsibilities and feel selfish taking time out on their own projects

Cash – women are more risk averse and worry about investing time and money in a business or a book

Credibility – women lack credibility with external organisations like funders and publishers due to unconscious bias

The Club – women lack the role models, mentors and networks that men have access to. They don’t know where to get support and are nervous of ‘putting themselves out there’.

As I unpacked my interviews with the women entrepreneurs for my book, A Book of One’s Own, a set of 10 Women Archetypes stepped off the page.

The first three Archetypes have protective roles, but their caution can sap women’s self-confidence about making changes or taking on a big project.

The Risk Assessor is on constant alert for potential downsides to any action. Women are more risk averse than men because they are better at assessing odds. But we need to confront our Risk Assessor and ask what the risks are of not taking on a project or making life changes, and constantly bear those potential losses in mind.

The Impostor represents the female tendency for perfectionism and a fear of failure. In general, men will consider themselves qualified for a job if they think they can do at least 60% of it; women will disqualify themselves if they believe there is 20% of the job that they can’t do.

The Twin – the phantom male twin we all have – often teams up with the Impostor to make women feel disheartened when they are ignored in meetings, have their ideas taken over by men, or feel excluded them from male-dominated social events and networks.

Even when we confront these first three archetypes and move ahead with a bigger role or risky project, three more Archetypes can ambush us.

Big Sister feels indispensable and responsible for everyone’s well-being, professional and personal, in business and at home. Sometimes our big-sisterly need to care for everyone can prevent colleagues and family members from stepping up and taking responsibility for themselves, and freeing us up to get more done.

The Angel is a deep-seated siren call to women from an ancient archetype. She epitomises what your great grandmother, grandmother or even your mother may have considered the pure spirit of womanhood – self-effacing, supportive of others, especially men, and totally selfless. Our own Angel has to be thanked for her service and put into retirement – as many times as she turns up.

Cinderella struggles with too little money, too much housework and childcare and finds it hard to make inroads at the networking ball. Women returning to work after maternity leave or balancing a demanding family life need to ask for support both at home and at work and not accept the brunt of domesticity or their career being derailed.

Another three Archetypes represent the female superpowers that enable us to rise above the worriers and the ambushers.

Miss Moneypenny (wo)mans the front desk of your mind, is your day-to-day manager, critical thinker and in charge of conscious thought processes. She and the Librarian, who works in mysterious ways in the subconscious recesses of your mind to access unknown information and send messages through intuition and creative thoughts, can co-ordinate the female ability to multi-task, time-manage and balance the impossible.

The Mentor is an important and under-used resource in women’s lives. While men often have access to institutional mentoring – drinks with the lads, socialising on the golf course – women often feel the lack of role models and support networks. We need to find both our internal guide and other experienced women who can sponsor and encourage us to become…

The Hero: the woman who overcomes her challenges to achieve her goals, mentors others and adds to the sum of respect for all women.

Being aware of these Women Archetypes and the ways in which they can undermine our confidence, surreptitiously ambush us or enable us to focus and manage our multi-faceted responsibilities, makes it easier to manage our tendencies to negativity and self-doubt.

It’s important to recognise these patterns in our thinking and behaviour if we want to free ourselves up to make those dreams come alive. As the acclaimed author Virginia Woolf said at the beginning of the 1900s: “A woman must have money and a room of her own to write” and the same could be said of entrepreneurial women, or any of us who have an unfulfilled dream. We need to make the space and find ways to carve out the financial backing – if not now then some time in the near future. Because we’re all capable of it if we put our minds to it – we ARE good enough and have that Hero within us.

As Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One’s Own: “No need to be anybody but oneself.”

Lucy McCarraher is the Founder of Rethink Press and the Business Book Awards, and a speaker and mentor. She has written 12 books, the latest is A Book of One’s Own – A Manifesto For Women To Share Their Experience And Make A Difference.

You can download a poster of all 10 archetypes to keep in sight and therefore in mind, here.

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