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More and more women are becoming entrepreneurs: from the outset, midway through corporate careers, and as they face retirement

Working women are getting better and better at taking care of themselves financially, through becoming entrepreneurs. In fact, new research is showing that more professional business women than ever before are blowing Corporate Dodge and leaving their employee positions to become their own profit centers. Others are starting their own businesses at the very beginning of their careers.


Still other women are ending their corporate and business careers to develop their own organizations and businesses, making enough money on their own to contribute to or even totally fund their retirements.
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Everywhere I look, women are starting micro businesses—selling jewelry, make-up, food supplements, eBooks, stuff on eBay or they are becoming personal trainers, freelance editors, offering massage or other related health-care services. Blogs are helping these new business owners, often giving them the voice the need.

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Glass Ceiling Be Damned; Time For Jumpin’ Ship

Interestingly, The Nation recently reported that a number of women, faced with unequal pay, are opting out of the workforce in increasing numbers. Apparently, between 1993 and 2006, the number of college-educated women in the workforce fell by a tenth of a percent a year, and by 2008, the workforce had 1.64 million less college-educated women than it should have, if women had not been leaving at a significant pace, their story states.

These numbers feel right to me. I left a corporate journalism career (after working for various publications) years ago, tired of discrimination, and deciding I would be better off doing my own research, writing, and self-publishing my own work. Just yesterday, I was sharing this experience with a young woman who was thinking about leaving her current job as we talked over lunch about the old boy network. “Develop your own niche business and you’ll be happier and more successful,” I advised. 

Another friend, after recently experiencing job loss, confided she is not going to look for any more “jobs,” but plans to set up her own sales company. I gave her my blessings, too, knowing they will both succeed because they are skilled, smart, motivated, and VERY sick and tired of jousting at work with white men (young and old) who typically work less productively, but have it easier getting raises and climbing the corporate ladder.

Sure, some things are slowly getting better as the Women’s Movement marches along to a tired drummer. However, it is not happening very fast, and many women are (as Fannie Lou Hamer once put it) getting “sick and tired of getting sick and tired.” They are telling researchers they don’t appreciate the sex role stereotyping that still goes on, along with frequent lack of opportunity, poor mentoring, glass ceilings and other issues that still have not disappeared, even with support of The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Wasn’t the workplace support to become more open with possibilities for women and others? More fair?

(Fannie Lou Hamer, a heroic African American woman who lived in rural Mississippi, was a devout civil rights leader who  brought the 1964 National Democratic Party’s convention to a halt, as she and her Democrat colleagues tried to take Mississippi’s official delegate seats for themselves. As Democrats, they were sick and tired of being “represented” by white, male Dixiecrats, a short-lived segregationist party. I write about Mrs. Hamer in several of my Mississippi civil rights books and I think her “sick and tired” quote is great.)


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About my two friends…

Undoubtedly, when they retire, if they follow through with their current plans to leave their current careers and go into business for themselves, they are sure to have more money and end up with careers they can take into retirement. They will not have a glass ceiling staring them in their faces, and they will not be spending time with office politics or be the subjects of discrimination, hostility, bullying and stereotyping.


Further, they will not have to face the possibility of upcoming reproductive rights battles, at least directly. Damn. I remember those days when I couldn’t get a job unless I promised not to get pregnant. Or when I could not get a job because I had a child. Will Arizona really succeed in requiring that women tell their employers why they are asking for birth control?

Apart from the obvious concerns, such as the inherent disparity in women’s pay in this country and the general brain drain of educated women dropping out of the workforce, I wonder if anyone is tracking how many women are not so much leaving the workforce as reinventing it, like my two friends.

From my own experience, and from watching family members, friends and co-workers, it is truly becoming harder and harder to maintain a work-life balance as the hours (and often, commuting time) creep up.  Hey, it is easy to bring home a lap and do some work while the rest of the family is out fishing, going to Saturday festivals and generally having a great weekend! It is too easy to slip in some free hours for a boss’s financial and career gain. Been there…that.

Certainly, this happens to men, as well. However, just when you are feeling a little empathy for the guys, remember who typically does most of the child-rearing and household management besides doing their outside the home, money-generating jobs. Add to this, the rising costs of childcare and many women find their entire paychecks are going to pay for daycare. (Men usually do not count daycare as their expense.)


This is not a new observation, that women absorb enormous costs when they work outside of the home, but raises are not being handed out generously, these days, and the cost of daycare only goes up, so it is practically silly NOT to leave the workforce under these conditions, observes Cedar Burnett, writing for Salon.

“If you’re working long hours for less pay than your husband, and your entire monetary contribution is sucked up into preschool, employment outside-the-home seems like an exercise in self-flagellation rather than actual need.”


Women-Owned Micro Businesses Growing in Numbers

So, once these college-educated women leave the workforce, what are they doing?

I do not know what you are seeing, but some of the women I know are starting micro businesses–selling jewelry, make-up, food supplements, eBooks, stuff on eBay or they are becoming personal trainers, freelance editors, offering massage or other related health-care services. Well-written blogs are often the driving force behind these new opportunities.

Burnett reports that “…legally, or not-so-legally, women are increasingly working 10-40 hours a week outside the traditional workforce model–in addition to raising their children. Are the statistics tracking this? At least for the cash-economy jobs, almost certainly not.”

I am convinced this entrepreneurial model will only gain in popularity as younger women start having their babies and as women get fed up and move out of corporations—and as more and more women retire. Unable to find meaningful, well-paying part-time work, educated women “raised to defy tradition” should gravitate toward alternative self-employment.


“Even without children, if the choice is to work 40-60 hour weeks in a competitive work environment (that is, if they can even find a job) or try and craft your own business, many women of all ages are going to say goodbye to the confines of the traditional workforce.”

Looks like some true career shape shifting is definitely underway, by women who are just starting their careers, women already in the midst of corporate careers who are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” and by women who are smartly moving into retirement, wanting to start their OWN successful businesses, for a change.

So what do you think about this? Are you an entrepreneur newbie? How is this working for you? Please share your thoughts and comments.

Thanks, Susan 


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