Entrepreneurship and Work-Family Conflict

Mothers often face many challenges in the traditional workplace, but is this different within their families? In this article, we make a reflexion on this matter.

While entrepreneurship promises autonomy and flexibility that appeals to mothers, research suggests that work-life balance is often no easier for mother entrepreneurs than those who are employees. A study by McGowan et al. found that entrepreneurship created stress on women’s personal relationships, had negative effects on their emotional wellbeing, and resulted in feelings of isolation. Conflicts with family members were key drivers of these negative effects.

Family support, in fact, is critical to entrepreneurs facing the challenges and stress involved in starting new businesses. But business ownership for both men and women is associated with greater work-family conflict than traditional work is. Another study finds that men and women entrepreneurs achieve greater job satisfaction than employees do, but lower levels of family satisfaction. Research indicates that family-related factors impact women entrepreneurs more negatively than men entrepreneurs.

While women business owners cite personal networks as their most utilized resource, women business owners receive less help from their spouses than men business owners do. In businesses started by married men, 60 percent of spouses took on a business support role, such as administrative work, to help the business succeed. By contrast, spouses took on a support role in only 35 percent of businesses started by married women. This stark difference in the assistance provided by a spouse can make a huge difference for an entrepreneur’s workload and productivity.

Furthermore, as men are traditionally the primary breadwinners, their motivations for entrepreneurship are more likely to equate entrepreneurship with long hours and the intention of building a high-growth venture. Women, however, are more likely to choose entrepreneurship as a way to mitigate work-family conflict, particularly if their spouses have jobs that have more demanding schedules. Women who passed up a job opportunity in the past due to a lack of flexibility also are shown to be more likely to pursue entrepreneurship. This is particularly true if her spouse works full time, and if she is a mother.

Source: Krause, Alex and Fetsch, Emily – Labor after Labor Report 1, May 2016 Kauffman Foudation.