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:
"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.
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."