What Does The Next Generation Of Women Entrepreneurs Look Like?

They don't belong to a specific age group, they're in every industry, and their motivation may surprise you.

When Oakland, California-based entrepreneur Jenn Aubert looked at her bookshelf, she had lots of books on business and social media, but noticed all of them were written by men.

Seeking to supplement her library with books by women business owners, Aubert visited an online forum for women entrepreneurs and asked three questions. Who are you reading? Who are you following? Who are your role models? Many of the responses she received were marquee names of male leaders you’d expect: Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs.

Who are the women in the entrepreneurial community, flying under the radar? she wondered. Who are the role models women are learning from? To answer these questions, Aubert interviewed 100 women entrepreneurs, learning what motivates them, how they define success, the biggest obstacles and challenges they’ve faced, and how they achieve balance.

Those interviews appear in Aubert’s book, Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch! "I wrote the book for myself," she says. "I have my own business, and I’m an avid reader."

Before becoming her own boss, Aubert was an executive recruiter, and she put those skills to use in finding her interview subjects. She combed lists of top entrepreneurs from Fast Company and other publications, and reached out to female speakers at tech conferences. To ensure the process remained organic, Aubert asked each woman for the names of five women they admire with whom she should speak.

We asked Aubert to describe the next generation of women entrepreneurs. Here’s what she said:

They’re at various stages of their careers.

"The number of women entrepreneurs is growing," Aubert says. "They’re not a particular age." They’re women right out of college, women with their MBAs starting tech companies, and women in their forties and fifties deciding to discover their passion who want to explore a different career, she says.

"Technology has gotten easier and more accessible," Aubert says. "It’s a lot easier to create a website or hire a freelance technologist." She also points to the growth of crowdfunding platforms and increased access to funding that helps with starting a business. "It’s easier to start a business now than it was 10 to 20 years ago," she notes.

They’re not motivated by money.

In her research, Aubert discovered a common theme among the women she interviewed: they aren’t motivated by the "typical trifecta" of money, power, and status. Rather, they’re motivated by "the need and desire for freedom, to call their own shots, explore what excites them without having to ask for permission, [and] explore their creative side in a way that feels authentic," Aubert says. While women want to provide for their families, they also want to give back and positively impact the lives of those in their communities, she notes.

Aubert’s research also revealed the importance of role models. "From a personal development standpoint, [they’re] so invaluable for a person’s development," she says. It’s not about trying to emulate one person or mimic what they’re doing, she says. Instead, one can observe lots of different people and try on different qualities and traits to see what resonates with them. "There are such amazing women doing remarkable things in every industry all over the world," Aubert notes. "You can learn from them."

[Image: Flickr user Hey Paul Studios]

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  • Catherine Basu

    Insightful read! I just completed an interview series where I chatted with female entrepreneurs about how they fit fitness into their busy schedules. I was looking to have them inspire others, but they truly inspired me, too! It's an exciting time for sure :)

  • Virginia Jamieson

    Awesome article Lindsay. Motivating. I love that you examined this subject. Thank you!

  • Great article! I am entrepreneur and I am support ing latam women entrepreneurs since I I founded NXTPLabs, a seed found an accelerator program for hight potential entrepreurs.

  • workrel

    Fully agree, you can learn from those that have had success. It's one of the most effective ways to accelerate ones's own success - to learn from those doing remarkable things.

    As we see millennials continue to enter the workforce, we are going to see an increase in entrepreneurship in general. Millenials want more flexibility and are opting to work from home freelancing which is a great option.

  • Kristin Pothast

    Also, Megan Hunt is a huge reason why I finally started my own business, in addition to the desire for creativity and self expression in what I do. Also, I find that working for someone else automatically places a wall in front of me that is labeled "You shall now pass". I'm far too driven to have any sort of limits placed on my destination.

  • Kristin Pothast

    I follow Princess Lasertron, aka Megan Hunt. She's a rising star for sure, and she is constantly stunning me by her intelligent discourse on feminism, social justice, and entrepreneurship.

  • Women helping women is key! Love this article and absolutely recommend Jenn's book "Women Entrepreneur Revolution." It's ideal for women AND men.

  • Love this! I think the shift away from the "traditional" definition of success says it all. One driving force I would add is the desire to Pay it Forward. Women helping and supporting women is a key to change. Thanks for writing this Lindsay and I will be sharing it!

  • Thanks Lindsay. As a female entrepreneur I'm always looking to make connections with others with shared experience. The motivation factor is big for my business, which is a social enterprise that focuses on helping our customers avoid unwanted exposure to chemicals in their cleaning products. Businesses like ours view money as (an important) part of the machinery that keeps the business going, not the goal. I will check out Aubert's book!

  • Dolly M. Garlo

    Great article Lindsay. I find the motivations of women that you mention only increase as they reach mid- and late-career. Then there is a whole other world of possibilities for fulfilling those motivations. I'm writing a book focused on women at that stage (one of the stages when entrepreneurship is a chosen means to that end!) and would love to compare notes with you! Thanks.

  • I'm a woman entrepreneur, I've just recently launched my efforts. I would agree with her point that women may not be motivated by money. Certainly its in my top 5. But being able to call my own shots and contribute what I know I can now are my driving reasons. Who do I look up to? Well finding local women mentors is difficult, but I love reading interviews and comments from Angela Ahrdents and Arianna Huffington. I think they represent what women can really do in the business world: turn industries upside down and connect with people in a deep and meaningful way: they're disruptive by making business approachable and human.