Monday, 02 January 2012 17:23

Women in Small Business

Discussion started by Sally Smith

I'm not sure if this is the right group for this, but I think there's a need for a discussion about issues facing women in small business. What have your experiences been, be they good, bad, or indifferent? Have there been issues you've had to deal with, for example balancing work and family, that men in your situation haven't had to deal with?

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Steve Taylor

Steve Taylor

1043 days ago
Balancing work and family very much a reality for men just as it is for women. If you want to have a meaningful discussion on women in business, try not to build it on a foundation of myth.
Sally Smith

Sally Smith

1041 days ago
It is something that we need a serious discussion about.

But is it a myth that society still expects women to be the primary caregivers for young children? That survey after survey finds that women are expected to do more of the housework then men? That stay at home fatherhood has never taken off?

The other thing that really hits women in small business is that there's no such thing as paid maternity leave if you're a woman and a sole trader.

And balancing children with the extended hours you need to put in to run a small business makes everything extra difficult.
Sally Smith

Sally Smith

1041 days ago
On that topic: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yashar-hedayat/a-message-to-women-from-a_1_b_958859.html

Women have extra hurdles? Must be crazy.
Trish Maybery

Trish Maybery

1032 days ago
Sally, I can only speak from my own experience. Having been a stay at home mother for 15 years and supporting my husband while we ran a shearing contracting business. When it became "my turn" to do something after he could no longer shear. He would twart me at almost every direction. I worked as a commercial cleaner in a caravan park. He would hide my car keys so I couldn't go to work and had to stay home with him. After injuring my back in a workplace accident (same caravan park) it was "my fault" for returning to work. I returned to study, he would sit outside the class room in wait for me. I had my own vehicle so there was no point to it other than pure spitefulness.

After three years completing several courses, I finally opened my own business from home doing computer repairs and website design. He would call me on the mobile while at a clients house and ask me to come home and put tea in the microwave for him.

Three years later, and many other things happening, I am still running my business from home, plus working part-time to supplement our income as a tutor. Our son is taking over the computer repair side of it, leaving me to focus on the websites, training manuals & photoshop side of the business.

Hubby is finally accepting of it only after making enough profit from the business for him to purchase a boat, something he has always wanted. And now regularly promotes the business to local farmers.

So yes, it can be tough, if you do not get the support or encouragement from those around you.
Nigel Smith

Nigel Smith

1030 days ago
Hi Sally
Just my opinion, but its all subjective. We all have external influences affecting our business lives. Some more than others while some are better able and/or equipped to deal with the added pressures of life. If you feel that it will be too hard running a business while giving primary care to your children then possibly running a business at this time in your life will not be appropriate. This will be a pivotal decision for you and your spouse to make. Obviously your children will be your priority. However if running a business is also important to you both then you'll need to find a way to make it work. There's no way around it. You have to asses your options and change the way you do things.

I'm big on mapping tools for business and there's one you can use to work out your work/life balance. Try this... http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_93.htm
Its called The Wheel of Life. This will help you to work out where your priorities lie, analyze your situation, make adjustments and develop a work/life strategy for you and your family.

Its a fact of life, women are primary care givers particularly for newborn babes. If business is also important then you need to work out where your can shed or delegate some of the load. This may involve you and your spouse sharing child care, getting other family members to help occasionally, paying for child care, cutting your gym time in half, find easier meals to cook, get your spouse to cook, get a regular baby sitter, work from home, take your kids to work. We found it best to develop a routine and stick to it. Simple things. For example, every Friday night I brought home takeaway. Every little bit helps to take the pressure down.

One thing my wife and I did when our 2 children were toddlers through to high school was to stagger our child care responsibilities. Admittedly it may have been easier at that time because we were in a regional area where our kids could walk to school and travel time was very minimal, but it worked. I had to make arrangements with my staff, my wife took shifts that worked best with our plan.

Unfortunately, many of us fall into stereotypical roles within our society. Where there are biological and physiological forces at play is it any wonder men and women fall into their predominant domestic roles. Its also a cultural hangover from bygone eras. Back in the eighties (when we started our first business and family, and my wife began her new career after completing a degree with 2 babies) there was a new term coined. Sensitive New Aged Guy (SNAG). It was a bit tongue in cheek but it typified men willing to acknowledge feminism and adopt a less chauvinistic approach to life thereby allowing them to participate rationally in domestic affairs. This was an approach I had to adopt if I was going to run my own business while allowing my wife to excel in her career and raise 2 beautiful children. It was tough, we were stressed, it didn't always work, but we got through 20 years of family, business, career and social life pretty well in the end.

One final comment. Don't be too hard on us men. We open your jars, dig your garden beds, get up on the roof to fix the TV antenna and, while I'm not condoning war, we have protected our families on many front lines around the world. Many of us are still chauvinists unfortunately. Its a trait we carry from one generation to another.

Google 'sensitive new aged guy' for more info on this.

Trish... ! You bought him a boat!! Well there's more than one way to skin a cat and if it took a boat to get him round then kudos to you for thinking outside the box.
I commend you on your sheer determination and courage in the face of chauvinism... lol
George Deriso

George Deriso

1025 days ago
Sally, I applaud your courage for asking a question all of us should have to answer to. It's bigger than women in small business, of course. It's really about women around the world in all walks of life. In business, a small portion of the issues are addressed by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, in this recent video interview: http://bloom.bg/xfWKK3. Most governments are run by men. Only 4% of the Global 1000 companies are led by women. In the U.S., only 2% of the Fortune 500 companies are led by women. These facts are not because women are incompetent or somehow incapable - it's because they are not widely accepted in leadership roles. Yet when they are welcomed, they make a staggeringly positive difference. I recommend reading "Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women" by Anne Moir and David Jessel, two British authors who have spent years poring through the enormous corpus of research on the physiological, emotional and psychological differences between the genders. It likely will be unsurprising to you that it turns out that both sexes are necessary in co-leadership postions in order to assure the highest level of success. Keep up the great work, and keep asking "why?"...
Sally Smith

Sally Smith

1025 days ago
Wow, some interesting responses here!

Trish, wow it's shocking that all that happened to you. Great to hear you stayed strong! Nothing says "I told you so" quite like success... Or a boat!

Nigel, what happened to the SNAGs? At the risk of showing my age, I remember the late '80s when SAGs were everywhere. It seems to be a phrase that has slipped from our vocabulary. Anyway, good to hear that there's some of you still out there!

George, I'll see if I can track down that book when I have a chance, it sounds interesting. 4% is shockingly low!
Nigel Smith

Nigel Smith

1024 days ago
George
Interesting data, and I agree. However I will take you to task on your comment that "...it's because they are not widely accepted in leadership roles."

At a grass roots level I think women have been well represented in business for many decades now. Evidence demonstrates that women are well accepted in business life. The disparity in the upper echelons of business, I believe comes more from complex cultural forces within our society attributed to women themselves as well as the biological differences which dictate that women give primary care to children. Some women forgo their biological urges in order to forge a career within their profession. Many, however, succumb. This natural attrition of women from the work force creates this disparity. There are literally far fewer women contenders for corporate positions due to the fact that most drop out and find it difficult to get back in. Men would suffer the same if they took 10-15 years off to raise a family. I think the point that Sheryl Sandberg makes is that women must learn stay in the game. She says that many women are self-defeated long before they actually make a decision to opt-out for a family and then less inclined to re-enter. This may be more down to how our brains are wired differently than discrimination.

At the end of the day is this forum about whether women can make it to the top of the corporate ladder or how women can develop competitive small businesses. From an SME perspective I feel focus should be on the special needs of women with families to enable them to excel at business. Also, how women react to the same market, social and economic forces as men will determine their relative competitiveness.
Nigel Smith

Nigel Smith

1011 days ago
Australian Businesswomen's Network is a really great website for women in business in Australia.
www.abn.org.au

Although this is really a good site full of great business info for anyone regardless of gender, I can't help thinking this approach is a little elitist and imo goes a little way to reinforcing the gender bias. Much of the information from this site is general and can be found in other gender generic business sites, however I do believe it provides great inspiration and role modelling from women business leaders.
Nigel Smith

Nigel Smith

958 days ago
Renowned architect Zaha Hadid recognized for breaking architecture’s glass ceiling. "Her views on sexism in the profession are, unsurprisingly, candid."

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/design-architecture/zaha-hadid-recognized-for-breaking-architectures-glass-ceiling/5618?tag=nl.e660
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