"Family-related issues" – sometimes said to be more meaningful to women entrepreneurs than to their male counterparts – might not be all that consequential to their business growth intentions . According to Professor Laurent Lapierre and M.Sc. in Management student Ruoxi Xia, what seems more relevant is whether or not people important in women entrepreneurs’ lives, whether they happen to be family members or not, want them to grow their business.
We investigated how family-related experiences of women entrepreneurs, including their work-family conflict and work-family enrichment, relate to their intentions to grow their business. Work-family conflict occurs when family roles and work roles are incompatible with each other (such as having less time for family activities because of business-related obligations). Work-family enrichment refers to experiences in one role making it easier to perform well in the other role (such as acquiring knowledge or skills at home that are also useful on the business front). Previous research suggests that women entrepreneurs are more likely than their male counterparts to be influenced by family issues when making business growth decisions. Intention to grow is a key determinant in whether the business succeeds. To further study this issue, we examined whether women entrepreneurs who experience less work-family conflict and more work-family enrichment are more willing to grow their business.
Our target population was Canadian female entrepreneurs who run and own (or co-own) a business having less than 500 full-time employees, and have family demands, such as having at least one school-aged child, or living with a partner/spouse, or providing weekly care to elderly parents/close family members. In total, 116 women entrepreneurs meeting those criteria participated in our study by completing an online questionnaire. The average participant was 46 years old and had 15 years of work experience in her business’ industry. Almost half of our respondents ran a business that was five years old or less. Most devoted 45-54 hours per week to their business and had 1 to 9 full-time employees.
Overall, we found little association between women entrepreneurs’ experience of work-family conflict or enrichment and their business growth intentions. However, we did find that the more women entrepreneurs believed that important people in their lives wanted them to grow their business, the more they were willing to grow it. While important people may include family members, such as one’s spouse, they may also involve people outside of the family, such as clients and business partners.
To the degree that a woman entrepreneur wishes to more easily grow her business, our findings imply that she should strive to surround herself with people whose opinion she values and that would be encouraging of her business ambitions. These people may include family members as well as people outside of her family.