Several local business owners say women-owned businesses still face different and unique challenges when attempting to break into the business world compared to their male counterparts, with the perceived role of women in society and belief they cannot handle multiple roles being at the heart of it.
But they are trying to be part of a wave of helping to change such a perception. There are a growing number of women starting businesses despite the fact that they say they’re still facing obstacles on the path that men beginning similar businesses do not.
“I think that women in general are viewed to have distractions in life such as home, kids, and all that comes with that. We are deemed to be maternal and that should be our only role,” said Linda Trieu, who owns both Three Hearts Apparel and Relic General Store in the Heights. “It is difficult for other to see us in different roles, and seeing that we are capable of holding these roles…people have a difficult time separating those roles and that we can do it all.”
She added that she believes men entering the business world do not face the same battle when starting one, adding another obstacle for women on top of the standard challenges of starting any business.
“I think that female entrepreneurs will always face an uphill battle when it comes to getting affirmation in the business world, and part of that is related to the doubt that women can multitask in being a businesswoman,” she said.
Oak Forest resident Sara Heald echoed the sentiment
“(Having children or a partner at home) can sometimes be viewed as a sign of weakness or a sign that perhaps you aren't as available to work,” said Heald, who has her own event planning business that she started in 2020 with two young kids at home.
There have been rises in women-owned business in recent years. A report from World Economic Forum said that nearly 50 percent of startups in the U.S. in 2021 were started by women, up from 28 percent in 2019. According to a September 2021 report from Houston television station FOX 26, there were more than 125,000 women-owned small businesses in the Houston metro area – making up more than a third of the region’s businesses.
Houston is also a top-10 business city for women-owned startups, according to the report.
“I chose a career in the events industry, which historically has embraced women,” Heald said. “There are many female leaders in the space, and I had many mentors to look up to. I would wish this for all female business owners.”
However, Trieu said there will always be some double standards and battles to fight.
“One manufacturer once told me that I should be at home watching my kids, there will always be that stigma that I should be at home,” she said.
There are several organizations with a focus on women-owned businesses in the Houston area, such as the Houston chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and the Houston-headquartered Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance.
Finding one of these organizations, Heald said, can be a big part of finding success, along with a spirit of perseverance and persistence.
“Search until you find what you are looking for,” Heald said of advice she’d have for women looking to start their own business. “Surround yourself with like-minded women who will understand your struggles and successes so you won't feel so alone.”
Trieu echoed the message of support among women business owners being necessary, and that such business owners should not be viewed differently than the men who work to establish themselves.
“Women shouldn’t look at it as a woman entrepreneur but just as an entrepreneur,” she said. “Gender should not be the reason that you are held back, there’s plenty of women out there that have been successful.”