Since the pandemic highlighted the lack of work-life balance most staff normally experience, workplaces have been rolling out a host of wellbeing initiatives. Yet the rise in nap pods, flexible hours and summer Fridays still isn’t cutting it for many female workers.
That’s according to new research that shows there’s been a “marked rise” in the number of women in the U.K. starting their own businesses—and for many, their sole reason for going through the stress of launching a startup during the current economic downturn is for better work-life balance.
In fact, research by Small Business Britain found that nearly 40% of female entrepreneurs said that improving their work-life balance was the biggest catalyst for starting a business.
Meanwhile, 30% said they launched firms as they wanted to choose where they worked and 25% reassessed their careers after having children.
“There has been a significant increase in women entrepreneurs across the U.K., and collectively they make a phenomenal contribution to the U.K. economy,” Michelle Ovens, founder of Small Business Britain and the f-entrepreneur campaign, said as reported in the Independent.
“Despite the many economic challenges for business owners that need to be tackled, it is uplifting to hear that most women are happier for having taken the plunge into entrepreneurship and are seeing immeasurable benefits in their lives.”
The research comes as Small Business Britain opens applications for its annual #Ialso100 campaign, which showcases a line-up of the U.K.’s 100 leading female business owners.
Women take matters into their own hands
Women founded more than 150,000 new companies last year, amidst the backdrop of spiraling gas bills, rising interest rates, and an impending recession. That’s more than twice as many as in 2018, according to NatWest Group’s Rose Review report, suggesting that the pandemic played a big factor in female founders’ decision-making.
The lockdown-induced stint of working from home gave women a taste of what it’s like to work on your own terms and juggle household responsibilities with a career. So now that bosses are mandating employees return to office, female workers in particular are making the jump to entrepreneurialism, Isabelle Solal, assistant professor in management at ESSEC Business School, tells Fortune.
“By starting their own businesses, women may indeed find the flexibility they need in order to manage both their careers and their obligations as primary caregivers for their children as well as older family members,” Solal adds.
Meanwhile, the high cost of childcare is a huge professional hurdle for women earning less than their spouses.
“For many women, the maths just simply don’t add up; they are essentially using the vast majority of their salaries to fund childcare, not seeing their children, and burning themselves out in the process,” says Lindsay Ephgrave, a PR consultant and founder of Announce PR who tells Fortune she started her own business under similar circumstances.
Meanwhile, even women who aren’t mothers can benefit from leaving behind the security of being on payroll. Experts told Fortune that founding a business can help them escape draining acts of everyday sexism, leave behind workplace traditions created by and for male workers, and have a fair shot of earning more money—as women are still at the mercy of a gender pay gap.
“Salaries just aren’t increasing in line with inflation and women have the potential to earn more in their own business than they would if they were employed,” echoes Ephgrave.
But it doesn’t come without risks
As new female founders are discovering, running your own business can open the possibilities to work as and when you want—but there is no doubt that doing so comes with its own set of responsibilities and, as Glassdoor career trends expert Jill Cotton highlights to Fortune, “being a business owner doesn’t automatically give you a better work-life balance.”
“When the buck stops with you, pressure to perform increases,” Cotton cautions. “Many business owners find themselves hustling hard to launch their ventures and the joy that began their passion project can be sucked out.”
“Running a business can be demanding and setting clear boundaries between work and home can be even more tricky,” adds Natalie Trice, a career coach. “However, you know you are doing it for yourself.”
In other words, you may even wind up working longer hours, but you get to choose when you work those hours.
Being self-employed herself, Trice recommends starting by putting a plan together and reading Amy Porterfield’s book, Two Weeks Notice.
“It sets out not only the practical elements of going it alone but also deals with the doubts and the doubters,” she adds. “You might not be able to jump ship today, but you can think about what you want to really do and how that can happen.”