Female small business owners are thriving. According to a recent SCORE report, more women than men opened small businesses in 2017, notably in important sectors like education and health.
All entrepreneurs face an uphill climb — starting a business is no easy feat, whatever your gender, and scaling toward long term success is even harder. That said, it’s a steeper hike for women, who still have 50% fewer funding options and earn less too.
Artificial intelligence may have started out in big corporations like Microsoft and Google, but it’s quickly become a tool that can help businesses of all sizes thrive. For women, a technological edge, fueled by machine learning and similar artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, can help even the playing field in a few key ways.
1. Wo-Mentorship & Funding
Last year I wrote for VentureBeat about an AI platform called Alice that connects women with mentors and funding opportunities. In the piece, I argue that AI alone is not enough to bridge the gender gap — but it is certainly a step in the right direction, especially in this case.
Mentorship is incredibly important for new business owners. That SCORE report I mentioned earlier confirms as much: “Working with a mentor for five or more hours greatly increases an entrepreneur’s likelihood of business success,” it says.
It can be more difficult for women to find mentorship opportunities. One reason? There is a gender imbalance among executives and upper-level leadership, and some men feel uncomfortable taking on young female mentees. Indeed, women with female mentors report the most satisfaction, albeit by a fraction. If AI can help match young female entrepreneurs with like-minded mentors, whatever their gender, they will be equipped to launch their companies and succeed.
2. Inclusive, Harassment-Free Workplaces
Artificial intelligence is also playing a part in purging workplaces of discrimination and harassment. While companies with women at the helm may be less likely to have cultures where harassment goes unchecked, it’s never a guarantee.
If AI can help female entrepreneurs create enviable and inclusive cultures where everyone feels welcome and safe, they will attract more talent and earn a positive reputation quickly.
How would it work? Software with natural language processing capabilities could scan communications or (or even “listen” like Amazon’s Alexa”) to flag harassment as it occurs. Canadian startup Botler.ai does just that with software that acts as legal council for those on the receiving end. Rather than reporting transgressions automatically (a bad idea in case of false positives), the ideal AI would be more of a support system that validates victims’ experience and gives them options on how to deal with them.
As for inclusivity, AI has been shown to remove human bias from the hiring process, allowing for a more diverse range of candidates and workers.
3. Cutting-Edge Tech & Efficiency
The best way to get ahead is to quite literally be better than the competition. If there are elements keeping female-owned business from some of the things men-owned businesses enjoy, like ample funding and high salaries, they can make up for it (and perhaps attract more investors) by being on the forefront of innovation and efficiency.
AI is great for this, no matter your gender. From intelligent CRMs to AI customer service solutions and smart marketing campaigns, machine learning and automation can be a great boon to productivity across the board. In addition, cooperative robotics and other intelligent tools can help employees refine the vital human component of any business (i.e. emotional intelligence) by automating more granular and time-consuming tasks.
With the right AI, your company could optimize both human and technical components in the workplace, all while boasting cutting-edge tech and efficient output. Whatever your gender, that’s an advantage, and while it’s not a competition, such opportunities will help women achieve the excellence they have long pushed for.