#024: Why So Many Women Struggle in Business — and What to Do About It

Summary: In this episode, my pal Coach Jenn Lee shares some very valuable insights on why so many self-employed women struggle — along with a few great ideas for breaking out of this damaging cycle.

I remember when one of my female colleagues first told me about the struggles many self-employed women face. It was about 10 years ago.

"Yes, there's discrimination," she said. "But much of it is self-sabotage. We just weren't brought up like men. We're not supposed to be driven and assertive."

I was shocked.

Yet the more I talked with other women freelancers and entrepreneurs, the more I realized that this is a huge issue.

We've addressed this issue before here at the Academy. In fact, Dianna Huff's detailed post a few years ago is one of the most shared articles on our website.

But in this week's episode my pal Coach Jenn Lee shares a few more insights on the issue — along with a few great ideas for breaking out of this cycle.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Why do many women struggle in businesses?

Jenn talks with many amazing, smart, articulate, creative women who struggle in business. By making just a few adjustments, they won’t have to struggle as much.

What changes do women need to make?

Two kinds of changes:

1. Small maneuvers.

2. Mindset changes.

Give us an example of a maneuver

Women have a hard time talking about money, especially solopreneurs. We’ll talk about process, product, benefits, results, hours of work and the contract, but not money. That has to change.

We need to say the price.

How do you build the confidence to do that?

1. Understand that your old way of pricing won’t work anymore.

2. Understand the value you deliver to the client.

Don’t worry about how your prices compare to the competition. Focus on the return on investment to the client.

Give us another example

Women tend to say yes to everything, and then resent it. Saying yes to the wrong client drains our energy, time and creativity.

As women, we feel obligated. We’re caretakers. We want everyone to come together. Save those impulses for charity work.

clicktotweetWhen someone says no to your proposal, it doesn’t mean you’re overcharging.

It doesn’t mean your work isn’t worth the price.

When clients say no to your price, ask them what their priorities are. Give them a price for that. It doesn’t need to be a straight yes or no conversation.

If you reduce your pricing, the client will recommend you to others who’ll also want cut pricing.

Tell us about the importance of women having a concrete vision for their businesses

People, especially women, do too much dreaming and not enough scheming. They have vision boards, bucket lists and grand ideas of what they want their business to be. But they skip how they’re going to make it happen.

You need to have a plan. Talking to a bunch of people about it doesn’t mean it’s going to work out.

How much of this has to do self-doubt?

Jenn sees a lot of people who say they can’t charge more until they get another credential or land the right kind of client. Nobody cares. Prospects just want to see your work. You have to open your mouth and ask for the business.

Always go back to the value you’re providing the client.

Tell us about mindset shifts

Women question their ability to do things. They constantly compare themselves to other people.

But it doesn’t matter what others are doing. Your goal is to get closer to who YOU are. Look to others for inspiration but don’t compare yourself.

Some women in the success industry sell the dream of “this is what you want.” But is this dream right for everyone?

Go back to your personal vision of your business. Not everyone wants to make a million dollars a year. Not everyone wants to be on TV or write a novel.

When we don’t have a clear vision of what we DO want, we get pulled into what other people think we should want.

Sometimes we have an amazing personal life and just want a part time profession. That’s okay.

Some of us get a great deal of joy from our profession and want to spend more time working. That’s okay too.

clicktotweetNever hold yourself to someone else’s perception of who you should be.

Who you are should always start with you.

Talk to us about the mindset of being emotionally tied to an outcome

When men don’t make a sale, they get frustrated or make adjustments. They don’t question what’s wrong with them as human beings.

Women take things personally. We get emotionally tied to outcomes we don’t have control over. Detach your personal value from outcomes. You can only influence outcomes, not control them.

Talk about the fear of success

Sometimes, we’re afraid of what will happen if things DO work. How will I juggle my family and work life? Will my husband support me? Do I want to travel? We worry we’ll lose our “mom, wife, gal-pal” badge if we succeed.

You need to plan, but you don’t need to be 100 percent prepared. You can figure out some of the logistics as you go.

What books or authors do your recommend on this topic?

On mental and emotional shifts:

Martha Beck, author of Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, Finding Your Own North Star and Steering by Starlight.

Marianne Williamson, author of A Year in Miracles, The Age of Miracles, The Gift of Change and Healing the Soul of America.

On business:

Tory Johnson, author of The Shift and founder of Spark and Hustle.

Jenn’s newsletter also has great, clear messages on this topic. Sign up at coachjennlee.com.

You can use your passion, natural skills and strengths. None of us are far away from where we want to be. It’s not a big shift.

Where can people learn more about you?

Coach Jenn Lee on Facebook
Coach Jenn Lee's website


  • Susan B. Bentley

    Yes to the nth degree! I'm developing presentation skills workshops for women as I got so fed up with it always being women who were self-sabotaging their own presentations, either by downplaying themselves at the beginning or end of their presentation or just not feeling they'd be 'good enough' to put themselves forward as a speaker. I'm liking Coach Jenn and hadn't heard of her before so cheers for the new voice Ed!

  • Lieselotte

    This is a great episode. It feels like it was right produced for me. Thank you, Ed and Jenn Lee!

    • edgandia

      Glad you liked the show! Thanks for listening.

  • rac speal

    It's funny that you mention how women are not "supposed to be" driven and assertive. I'm reminded of when I was in elementary school, a small group of boys went up to complain to the teacher (a male) that I was too competitive.

    I happened to overhear them as they asked the question, but it didn't stop there. They told the teacher to dare me to do something (can't remember exactly what it was), and of course, I took the dare immediately 🙂

    Just mentioning that story because I wonder how often women are "punished' for being equally or more competitive than men.

    • edgandia

      Great question! I hope we're seeing less and less of that old-school expectation.

  • Sandra

    So many great points here and I found myself nodding throughout the interview. This is one episode I'll have to refer to again. Thanks for sharing your insights, Jenn!

    • edgandia

      Thanks, Sandra! I agree that Jenn made some excellent points here. She speaks very honestly about this important topic -- something I don't normally see out there.

  • This was a great episode, Ed, and one I really needed to hear. And thanks to Jenn Lee too!

    • edgandia

      Thanks for checking it out, Jessica. Great to hear the message was timely for you.