Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Time For Jumping Corporate Ship? More Women Becoming Entrepreneurs, and Happy About It

Looks like some true career shape shifting is definitely underway by more and more women who are 1) just starting their careers, 2) already in the midst of corporate careers, and 3) who are moving into retirement and starting their own successful businesses.
Still too often faced with unequal pay and related discrimination, women are opting out of the workforce in increasing numbers, says a recent report by The Nation. 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.
These numbers, as distressing as they may seem, feel right. 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 articles and books.
Recently 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, I advised, "Develop your own niche business and you'll be happier and more successful."
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. She received my blessings, too; I know 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 work less productively, but often appear to have it easier getting raises and climbing the corporate ladder.
Sure, some change has arrived as the Women's Movement slowly progresses. But this march too often follows the beat of a tired drummer, and change does not happen fast enough. Hence, many women are - as civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer once put it - "sick and tired of being sick and tired," reporting 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?
(If you never heard her name, Mrs. Hamer, was a heroic African American social activist in rural Mississippi in the mid 1950s and 1960s, was a devout civil rights leader who bravely brought the 1964 National Democratic Party's convention to its knees as she and Democrat colleagues tried to take Mississippi's official delegate seats for themselves.These party members were sick and tired of being "represented" by white, male Dixiecrats, a short-lived segregationist party.)
About my two friends...
Undoubtedly, if they follow through with their current plans to leave existing careers and go into business for themselves, they will surely 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.
They will not have to face the possibility of upcoming reproductive rights battles, at least directly. (Remember those days when you couldn't get a job unless you promised not to get pregnant? Or when you could not get a job because you had a child? Will Arizona really succeed in requiring that women tell their employers why they are asking for birth control?)
Apart from obvious concerns, such as the inherent disparity in women's pay 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.
It is not a surprised 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."
Once these college-educated women leave the workforce, what are they doing? Some 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 - besides raising their children. Are labor statistics tracking this? At least for the cash-economy jobs, almost certainly not."
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," Burnett states. From my own observations and experiences, I believe that she is absolutely correct.

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