According to the American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, there were over 8.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States in 2011. Though the number of new businesses increased 34% from 1997-2011, the rate of women-owned businesses increased 50%--a rate 1 1/2 times higher than the national average. Women-owned businesses actually tend to do better, in terms of employment and revenue, than their male-owned counterparts.
Some of these businesses were small and some were large. Some were in more conventional fields such as organization services and health care services, and some were in typically male-dominated fields such as construction. The report didn't investigate the reasons why women started these businesses, but if you're thinking about heading in this direction, there's a pretty compelling reason you and other women might want to pursue your own business: flexibility.
If you're an employee, much of your work/life conflict (or absence of it) depends on your boss. He or she sets your schedule and determines what assignments you'll take on. If you need time off, whether or not you get it probably depends on if it's convenient to your boss/co-workers/clients.
If you're a business owner, you don't have to crawl your way up the career ladder. You can make as much or as little money as you want, and spend as little or as much time as you want on work. If you want to take the afternoon off to watch your daughter's soccer game, you can set up your email to automatically tell people you're out of the office, and away you go. No more office politics! No more sitting around wasting time on Facebook while you wish you were home! Your kids can even help you stuff envelopes or make phone calls. With email and Skype, you can even work in your bathrobe and no one will know the difference. Right?
Of course, the same things that make business appealing can also make it frightening. You don't have to rely on someone else to get ahead, but you do have to rely on yourself. You can be around your kids more, but they might interrupt you while you're working. No one will tell you what projects to take on, but you're going to hunt them down yourself.
In the future, I plan to blog about business ownership more often, so watch for updates both to the blog and to the site. In the meantime, remember that when it comes to family-friendly work, you're only limited by your imagination (oh, yes, and by a few laws and lack of money and lack of knowledge, but don't worry--more information on those very limitations coming soon).
Plenty of women have started businesses and become successful, so why not you?