Note: This is a guest post by Carol Coultas, business editor of the Portland Press Herald, who attended Monday afternoon’s Maine Startup & Create Week panel on Women and Entrepreneurship.

If you were in the audience at the Women and Entrepreneurship session, you were likely swinging from inspiration to frustration as the panelists countered their enthusiasm and passion for their enterprises with a heavy dose of pragmatism.

Kristen Gwinn-Becker, founder of HistoryIT, a local software company that digitizes and makes searchable databases of archival material, told the crowd of about 60 that she was incredibly grateful to be doing what she loves, but to grow a successful startup you need to be honest about your capabilities.

“That’s the key – acknowledge what your strengths are,” and cultivate talent from elsewhere to fill in the gaps.

The other Maine entrepreneurs on the panel, Cyndi Prince, developer of Loo Hoo dryer balls in Camden, and Shauna Causey, vice president of marketing for UpGlobal, a Seattle-based nonprofit to foster entrepreneurship, offered similar advice.

Prince suggested you learn to roll with the punches — set priorities, but remain flexible. Casey urged women to believe in themselves and their abilities and start challenging each other by asking, “Why wouldn’t you do it?”

They acknowledged there’s still a lot of ground to be covered before women reach parity in the startup community. The percent of women-owned businesses hasn’t increased dramatically in 30 years – from 24  percent in 1984 to 29 percent now, according to American Express Open report.

One of the questions posed to the panelists was whether they agreed with a Forbes article that outlined why 2014 would be the break-out year for women entrepreneurs. The consensus was it was mostly a marketing ploy, but with an upside. It gets people talking and that makes diversity a top-of-mind in startup circles, said Casey.

“The real problem is there aren’t women in capital, not in venture capital,” she said. “We’ll have a our ‘break-out’ year when women pitch to other women.”

One observation shared by a few people on social media was the lack of men in the audience.

Bobbie Carlton, a PR specialist who traveled from Boston for the conference tweeted: “I continue to worry that this kind of segregation hurts us.”

Justin Steele, a local software engineer and part of the Rwanda Bean Co. team that won Portland’s third Startup Weekend, tweeted: “This panel is so needed because there are only 4 men in the audience.”