Study Reveals Female Business Owners Need to Set Boundaries

female business owners

You say you care about work-life balance, but do you, really?

A new survey found that while women small business owners claim to value work-life balance more than men, women are less likely than men to actually take steps to achieve that elusive goal.

Capital One’s latest Spark Business Barometer polled small business owners about various aspects of their businesses, including how they define business success.

The most commonly cited measures of success are typical ones for a business – customer satisfaction led the pack, cited by 94 percent of entrepreneurs, followed by revenues and profits (cited by 77 and 76 percent, respectively; respondents could choose more than one answer).

However, work-life balance ranked fairly high, too. Sixty-nine percent of women define success as achieving work-life balance, compared to 58 percent of men.

How Do Entrepreneurs Achieve Balance?

Forty-three percent say they take vacations, 33 percent set specific times for arriving and leaving work, and 27 percent limit how much work they take home.

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But women are less likely than men to “set boundaries,” as the study puts it, that could help them achieve better balance in their lives. The male business owners polled are more likely to set ground rules for how many hours they work, how many days they travel on business or how many speaking engagements they attend. Three-fourths of men say they set ground rules, compared to 69 percent of women.

Why Aren’t Women Business Owners Setting Limits?

After all, it could help create the balance we crave.

I’m sure some women entrepreneurs, just like some men, don’t care about work-life balance. They know that, especially during startup, you’ve got to pour almost everything into your business to help it succeed.

Perhaps others, like me, are passionate about what they do and would rather work than do practically anything else.

But there are two more insidious causes behind women’s work-life imbalance.

First, the study quotes the Bureau of Labor Statistics saying women working full-time earn 82.5 cents for every dollar men working full-time make. Maybe women feel we can’t stop working for fear of falling even further behind.

Second, many of us just plain have trouble saying “No.” (I suffer from this myself.) Most women (although this is changing a bit) are raised to be “people pleasers” and help people out; putting ourselves first feels wrong. But as the flight attendants say before takeoff, you need to put on your oxygen mask before helping others. If you don’t set boundaries around your life, business will encroach.

How Can You Solve These Problems?

Is it Time to Raise Your Prices

Especially in service industries, women may feel we have to undercut others to get the job.

If there is a legitimate reason to raise prices, go for it!

If you’re spending too much time on clients that pay too little, consider cutting some of them loose so you can go after bigger, better-paying fish.

Start Saying No!

Think about all the commitments you have coming up in the next month that you wish you hadn’t made.

When someone asks you to do something, you don’t have to reply right away. Tell them you’ll get back to them as soon as you’ve checked your calendar. Then decide if the effort is worth it to you.

Could someone else do it? Do you want to do it? Do you NEED to do it?

Eliminate low-value activities from your life, and you’ll have more time for what matters most to you.

No Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

4 Reactions
  1. That’s because women tend to be too hard on themselves. They always push themselves too far if there’s no one telling them to stop.

  2. All business owners could take the advice to say no more often.

  3. According to the 2015 State of Women-Owned Business Report commissioned by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and, women business owners rank work/life balance next to last (65 percent) of the top five key motivators for starting a business. The ability to express passion for your vocation ranked first at 92 percent.