Women have come a long, long way – from staying at home and not being allowed to work, to commanding the respect of colleagues and clients all over the world. But what effect does a chaotic home life have on a working woman? Interestingly, recent research suggests that married women are more likely to be successful entrepreneurs than single women. The assumption is that, because women with partners have more financial support and help with family and household responsibilities, the pressure and demands of starting a business are easier to manage.
Yet married and single female entrepreneurs have different challenges and different advantages. How they manage and leverage these, respectively, will ultimately determine how successful they are in their careers, says Joanne van der Walt, Sage Foundation Programme Manager for Africa.
According to The Hidden Factors: SA Women in Business research report carried out by the Sage Foundation and Living Facts, 70 % of those who had their own businesses were married or living with someone, and this may provide them with support, both financially or otherwise. While 28 % of those without a business said their family commitments didn’t allow them to start their own companies, the reasons for why were diverse – from income security all the way to the ability to save.
“There are other possible reasons why women with partners may be more successful entrepreneurs. Juggling home and work life forces them to organise and prioritise and therefore achieve a better work-life balance. They’re also likely to be better at compromising and communication – two essential business skills,” Van der Walt says.
Marylou Kneale, founder of Living Facts, says women who have a supportive spouse or partner have a “built-in infrastructure” that they can rely on. “A supportive spouse or partner can provide emotional, financial, family, administrative, as well as logistical support. Our research suggests that more women with partners/spouses are able to ride the ups and downs that come with having one’s own business than those who are single, because of this support network.”
A Case for the Single Entrepreneur
Due to the massive demands that family places on many people’s time and attention, some married women may perhaps also feel guilty that they are not devoting enough time to their businesses or their families – and
that’s one area where single women have the upper hand (assuming, of course, that they’re not single mothers).
“With more time on their hands, single women can focus exclusively on marketing and growing their businesses. They also have more time for social activities, which means they’re often able to network more than married women or those with families. This allows them to make smart connections that could help to scale their businesses,” Van der Walt says.
Although single women don’t have the security of a second household income – and therefore have to be more frugal with their money and settle for beans on toast some nights – they do have more flexibility when it comes to taking risks, because they don’t have to worry about the impact that risk will have on loved ones if it doesn’t go according to plan.
Help for Hire
But there likely will come a time when the single entrepreneur will need support – especially if she’s a single mother.
“Single women have to work to build the ‘infrastructure’ that many married women are able to rely on,” Kneale says. “This could be a financial advisor or financially astute colleague they can trust, an administration assistant, and an au pair or family member to help with the family. These supporters could be permanent or only called on when needed. There could even be trade exchanges made – your services for someone else’s specialities. Not only will it spread the load the entrepreneur carries, but it also provides an emotional network of support when times are hard.”
Ultimately, married and single entrepreneurs are both after the same thing: to make a success of their new business ventures. And both might feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day or there isn’t enough money in the bank to make it happen fast enough.
The key to success in business is having strong support systems – both personally and professionally. For all women, whether married or otherwise, the world of business is a tricky one to survive in, so this Women’s Month, remember the strength of women. After all, in the words of Michelle Obama, “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.”