Female Founders: Have More Courage

by Catrin Jörgens

Professionally successful, self-confident, financially independent, adventurous (at least when travelling), a marathon runner... BANG! The job is no longer thrilling and we start to question many things: is there a midlife crisis around the corner? And can digitalisation in 2020 help?

This crisis is common among men over 40, we all know this scenario: They buy their long-awaited sports car and usually fall in love again. However, more and more women seem to be going through this phase of life as well. It is almost as if, at least in this matter, men and women have reached equality. But instead of sports cars, many women use this phase for a better cause, to reinvent themselves – to develop on personal and professional levels. The FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) positively describes this phenomenon as opting out: women dare to quit at the peak of their career to reorient themselves. It’s not because they are frustrated – it’s because of their desire for self-determination and meaningfulness.

Why Now?

We belong to the generation, in which we can witness modern women with various possibilities and opportunities, who are brave enough to pursue them. Women have studied, gained experience abroad, made a career, had children deliberately late or not at all. So, it’s a relatively carefree phase of women’s lives.

But then we wake up one morning and ask ourselves: Is that all there is to it? We have just reached the middle of our lives. Questions, such as: ‘What have I been working so hard for?’ and ‘What do I want to do in the next 20 years?’ pop into our heads. Success, self-determination and fulfilment take on a whole new meaning. Many women use this phase to transform their lives, to dare doing something completely new or to pursue a business idea. Women such as Maike and Tina.

The Digital Revolution as a Springboard

The rise of the digital world started the rise of the opportunities for women to start their own businesses and to lead a self-determined, independent life. As Sandra Pabst says: “Women  – finally start your own business!”

But Sandra Pabst also points out, that women, especially in Germany, often miss to take advantage of this trend. According to the German Start Up Monitor 2017, the percentage of female founders was just 14%. Looking at the other European countries, the situation depicts itself quite differently; for example, the share in Great Britain is already 30%. So, there is a lot of upside potential.

Although financing is still more difficult for female founders than for their male counterparts, it has never been easier to start a business than today –partly thanks to digitalisation. All you really need is a laptop, a good idea, a fast internet connection and your own four walls. The financial means are relatively limited to get started, but social media channels help to precisely address the target group and market the idea.

If you take a look at the stories of successful female founders, there are a few factors that help starting a thriving company. These include: burning for your ideas, thorough market analysis, listening to feedback, networking, perseverance, looking up to inspiring role models and self-confidence. This applies to both women and men, of course.

Why Are There Still Fewer Women Founders?

When you talk to Maike (who is now, after 13 years in large corporation, in the start-up phase of a plastic-free cosmetics brand) and Tina (the mother of 3 children & a co-founder of Shiftschool), one of the main qualities they mention is that you should bring along or at least cultivate: COURAGE.

Courage – To Create Something New

Beginnings are difficult, but it is all about taking the first step. At this point, it helps to first listen to yourself and ask: what do I really want to do? What is my goal, what will fulfil me? The idea of founding a company, often comes up while trying to find a solution for your own career or when turning an interest you have been pursuing for a long time into a profession. Maike managed to take time out from her job and leave her comfort zone. Listening to inspiring podcasts or online coaching sessions are also a great way to help you deal with your personal goals. We should also not forget the wealth of our own know-how and expertise that we already gathered and which we can use as our advantage. After all, we have gained many enriching experiences in the past. If you don’t want to quit your job immediately, you can also take a further training course as a Digital Transformation Manager, which is offered part-time by the Shift School and introduces topics such as skills, mind-set, networking and balance.

Courage – For Networking

For some women, this is still difficult, as we like to solve our problems on our own. However, a network can help to generate new ideas that we would not have come up with on our own, or you get to know someone who knows someone who can help you. Networking platforms are ideal to present ideas, to exchange them with other female founders and to extend the reach. The more open you are, the more you get back, Maike and Tina tell us. Platforms such as Global Digital Women or conferences like Projektin also help with this. But Tina warns us not to take everything personally. There will always be people who will have a different opinion and you have to decide for yourself how much attention you want to give them.

Courage – For Making Mistakes and Not Giving Up Because of Them

Women tend to be perfectionists, however, this is not compatible with the start-up culture. If the first idea doesn’t work out the way you thought it would – it doesn’t mean that that’s it, it just means that things can get even better. What Maike found in her start-up phase, is that you learn something new every day and it’s important, because it opens doors you hadn’t thought of opening before. According to the guiding principle: try, fail, iterate. In addition, becoming aware of what strengths you have and what you can do better – this attitude helped Tina to focus on important strategic tasks. It is okay not to be an expert in every field and to get help.

Sounds easy? Well, bad news – it’s not. It’s almost like the feeling when you fall in love. On one hand, you feel the euphoria to create something new, to try it out and learn exciting things. But then, there is also the other feeling of fear: is that really the right thing to do? Is this really a good idea?

The more you think about it, the more arguments against doing it will come to your mind. Tina and Maike recommend to start rather than just think about it. Mistakes are part of the process and are also important and inevitable. The willingness to learn and to think of solutions instead of always reaching for perfection helps on the way to fulfil your dream.


 The timing could not be better. New digital technologies offer us so many new possibilities to reinvent ourselves and to realize our ideas and visions. Something new can only be created when we leave our comfort zone. Courage to move forward is crucial here, because doing nothing won’t get you anywhere. After all – what is the worst thing that could really happen?


Catrin Jörgens, Female Founders

Catrin is a traveller, yogi, marketing expert and she is interested in everything that changes the world for the better. She wants to creatively shape the future and to combine mindfulness with entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour. It’s important to her to be constantly inspired and to find authentic role models who encourage you to drive positive change.

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