Rising to the Top:  Businesswomen’s Secrets of Success Despite the Odds

Even though women have been in the modern workforce for more than a century, we still face challenges due to genderism.

Establishing yourself as a woman in business can feel like an uphill battle—but you’re not alone in the fight. 

If you’re feeling hesitant about starting your own business, here’s some great news: Successful businesswomen share the secrets of their success readily. 

Those that have come before you want the next generation to experience that success—or exceed it. Helping current and future female leaders thrive is an important part of their legacy.


Obstacles women often face 

crosswalk "don't walk" hand signal at city intersection

For women, the workplace isn’t always straightforward—no matter your education, experience, or credentials. There are real barriers when it comes to things like the wage gap, returning to the workforce after a leave of absence, and long-established patriarchal norms.

Some things women have to navigate in business include: 


Social expectations

Like it or not (spoiler alert: we don’t), conscious and subconscious bias still exists in the workplace. For example, double standards among men and women are a common problem—and often cast assertive women in a negative light. Instead of appearing strong, women leaders are viewed as harsh and domineering. This type of thinking limits women’s roles, power, and voices. And, unfortunately, it still runs rampant through many organizational cultures.


Limited access to funding

This is something women athletes have been fighting for and vocal about for a while. And while some male athletes, actors, and executives still don’t get it (ahem, Draymond Green), female players and entrepreneurs are educating the public on why they need more funding, in addition to equal pay. In fact, President Biden met with Megan Rapinoe on Equal Pay Day to discuss the importance of this topic. 


Not being taken seriously

Subtle interactions are often easier to dismiss, but damaging nonetheless. Benevolent sexism seeps into many organizations, but can be more noticeable when women work in typically male-dominated industries or hold leadership roles. In blatantly discriminatory cases, they’re even accused of not being as smart or qualified as men, having simply obtained the position to meet a “quota.” Or others are rejected for a position because people don’t think they can do it simply because they’re female. 


Difficulty achieving a work-life balance

In addition to working full-time, many women still shoulder the majority of managing the home and childcare within their household. Finding a balance between the pressures of work and family life can be difficult, as is finding time for self-care activities. 


Fear of failure and imposter syndrome

The stakes are high for women in business. There’s a lot to contend with and the negativity of others can easily creep in, casting doubt on your abilities and accomplishments. 


Lack of diversity

Women of color face even greater challenges. In 2020, only 13 women led Fortune 500 companies, none of which were women of color. We’ve digressed. The numbers in both categories (women and women of color) have decreased since 2018. When it comes to managerial positions, McKinsey & Company reports that for every 100 men that are promoted, only 85 women are promoted, and only 58 Black women.


Businesswomen’s secrets of success: 4 tips to help you break barriers

electric sign, "Go up and never stop" with an arrow angled up

Though women have many roadblocks, it doesn’t mean we can’t achieve greatness. Some examples to look to for inspiration include: 

  • Oprah
  • Beyonce
  • Sherly Sandberg
  • Martha Stewart
  • Gisele Bundchen
  • Lady Gaga
  • Rachel Rogers
  • Vera Wang
  • Victoria Beckham
  • Arianna Huffington
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Marie Forleo
  • Rihanna
  • Kamala Harris

These women (and so many more—this list is by no means exhaustive) have broken barriers. They’ve overcome obstacles and achieved greatness. You can, too. Here are some steps these women and others have taken to succeed in business. 


1. Learn from your mistakes and never give up

Every step you take—even if you stumble—is a step in the right direction. If you make a mistake, it’s not a sign of failure. It’s a sign that you’re trying. It’s a sign that you’re learning. Take what you learn and apply it to whatever you do next. Do that and you’ll create a product, service, or business that can’t be matched. 


2. Take care of yourself

You can’t achieve what you want or break down barriers if you quit because you’re so burnt out. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but taking time to care for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs will give you the personal power you need to succeed. 

Make your self-care a priority. Schedule it into your day/week just as you would an appointment with someone important. Because you are important. You are the CEO of your life and you deserve care and consideration from others, as well as from yourself. 


3. Build a support system

Every single person that’s accomplished greatness did it with the help of a support system. For every self-made woman, there’s a supportive family, group of friends, and team of employees or colleagues behind her. 

Though it might be difficult to find in your current place of employment, you can find support networking groups online or in your community. You might also consider joining professional associations that can provide you with mentorship opportunities and career advice. 


4. Strive for the highest quality 

When creating a product or service—or simply doing your job or starting a part-time side gig—strive to create the best possible results for your customers. When you provide your customers with a great product and exceptional service, you’ll quickly impress customers and investors. 


Are you ready to start your entrepreneurial path?

electric sign, "Do something great."

While you might not even be close to getting onto the Fortune 500 list, you can take steps now to achieve your professional goals in the future. 

Starting a side gig with a company like Vector can give you the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to excel in: 

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Management

We provide everything you need (at no cost) to get your side hustle started. You can choose full- or part-time work and work remotely from the comfort of your home. All the while, you’ll start tackling goals and building your confidence, so you can also play a role in destroying the glass ceiling—for yourself and young women who come after you.  

Contact Vector to request an interview