Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Women's Side Businesses

Maybe the reason is Girl Scout Cookies, or perhaps it's bake sales or lemonade stands. But the fact is many women have side businesses in addition to a full time job (or being a stay-at-home Mom). Many of these are sales positions with franchises like Mary Kay, Tupperware, Pampered Chef or Usana, to name a few. Others are novel ideas for customized personal services, for example creating memories, preparing taxes or organizing. A key success factor for many of these businesses is leveraging the networks that women have - at work, at school, in the neighborhood.

What is it that makes us devote our precious spare time to a side business? Is it that we still need to earn extra pin money to cover the cost of child care? Is it a hobby that generates personal gain as well as satisfaction? How long do side businesses typically last before they give way to other more pressing occupations?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Paths to Entrepreneurship

"Yoraba taiju no kage" - "Select the big tree for your shelter". I heard this Japanese proverb yesterday at a panel discussion organized by the Japan Society of San Diego and Tijuana, from Dr. Hiroyoshi Horikoshi, for many years head of Sankyo Research Labs in San Diego. It can also be translated as "if you are to serve, serve the powerful for your own good".

Dr. Horikoshi was seeking to explain why Japanese culture discourages entrepreneurship - to get on in life people are advised to go work for big companies or the government rather than take a risk and work for a small company or start-up.

How many entrepreneurs got started out of necessity, after a lay-off? Are there others who have tasted life in a major corporation and decided it is not for them - opting out for their own reasons? Is there a trend for students fresh from universities to reject the corporate path and head out on their own?

Opting Out - Review Part 2

In her book "Opting Out", Pamela Stone asks the women who quit work to stay home with their families about their plans to return to their careers. Although most say them want to return at some point in the future, a majority express a tremendous loss of confidence about their ability to cope and compete in their former careers. A number consider changing careers to enter one of the more caring "traditional" women's jobs such as teaching.

In Stone's sample, several women took on transitional work in the form of consulting projects to bridge the break from a full time position. A common experience was for these projects to "fall into their lap" from a previous employer. This was certainly my experience after being laid off last year. I wonder whether independent consulting is limited to periods of transition, or whether it is possible to create a new career long term as a consultant, keeping to one's original profession but becoming your own boss with the flexibility to set your own work schedule. Can women survive and thrive as independent consultants or do the pressures of entrepreneurship entail ever longer working hours?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Opting Out - Review Part 1

Pamela Stone's book "Opting Out - Why women really quit careers and head home" makes fascinating reading. Stone interviewed 54 women in their 30's and 40's who quit successful careers as lawyers, accountants, doctors, researchers, etc to become stay-at-home Moms to uncover the reasons why. About one in ten white, college educated women aged 30-54 stays home, and the proportion of these stay-at home Moms has remained fairly constant over the last 20 years.

One key insight was that expectations have risen both for what it means to be an ideal parent, with today's intensive parenting style, and also what it means to be an ideal employee, working long hours, extensive business travel and being available 24/7. These twin societal pressures can make it very difficult to feel successful both at work and home.

While these expectations impact both working men and working women, it is women who end up working the "second shift" when they get home, picking up the lion's share of responsibility for housekeeping and childcare, because "someone has to do it". Interestingly a vast majority of the women in the study viewed their husband's career as more important than their own, even though these women themselves had been very successful. The husbands also got a free pass on their share of housekeeping and childcare.

Watch this space for part 2 of the review.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

2020 Vision for Corporate Women

Where will executive women be in 2020?
What are the drivers for future change?
In the next few posts I'm going to explore some of the Social, Technology, Economic, Environmental, Political and Personal Values trends we see today as potential predictors of our future path