Content provided by our partner Debra Getz, CDFA ~
Women now represent 30 percent of American business owners, overseeing a total of 9.4 million companies. Black women own about 14 percent of those, around 1.3 million. And that number will likely continue to increase—black women are the fastest growing entrepreneurial group in the U.S., rising 332 percent since 1997. Lack of flexible work hours is often given as a motivation for women making the transition from employee to entrepreneur, but there’s more to this meteoric rise. According to entrepreneur Kike Odusanya of My Business is Me, it has to do with a lack of opportunity.
“Black women are one of the most educated groups in North America but often times aren’t offered the same opportunities to progress in their career as their non-black counterparts, so setting up in business becomes a viable option.”
For all women, launching, running, and growing a company demands a lot of time and energy. Balancing that with demands at home can be very tough. International business coach Lisa Larter observes the challenges to achieving this balance on a daily basis. “Women have been trained their entire lives to take care of other people. There is a sense of obligation around taking care of the family home and inherent guilt in asking for help,” she observes.
To improve your balance between work, life, and family, consider the following strategies:
Limit Time-Wasting Activities
Keep a time journal. Everyone has the same number of hours available to them; how you choose to spend your time will affect what you achieve. Over the course of a week, write down everything you do and identify unnecessary activities. If mindless surfing on Facebook or constant checking of e-mails is sucking up your time, try a program such as Freedom to block out distractions for specific periods.
Outsourcing the parts of your life that you don’t enjoy doing will allow you to refocus and prioritize. This could mean hiring at work and delegating tasks to shorten your day, or even hiring someone to help out with household chores or errands. “This will create more open space in your life to decompress away from the office, allowing you to enjoy that time and be present with friends and family,” Larter says.
Overcome Your Mindset
A report in the Harvard Business Review suggests that women are socialized to be less confident, compared to men. As they age, self-confidence grows, but help may be needed to overcome a negative mindset. “Most women could use a healthy dose of increased self-confidence,” agrees Larter. “A coach or mentor helps to eliminate the voice of the inner critic most women face on a daily basis.”
In her book, “Thrive,” Arianna Huffington promotes mindful- ness and meditation as key components of redefining suc- cess and creating a better sense of well-being and work/ life balance. Used as a part of an overall “self-care practice,” together with exercise and reading, it enables you to “show up better for other priorities,” comments Larter.
Learn Fiscal Responsibility
A lack of basic financial awareness affects your ability to manage your life and work effectively. “Too many women work too hard and earn too little because they don’t have a strong grasp of income, expenditure, and cash flow,” observes Larter. She recommends that women learn the basics about money, so they understand how to create and invest their own wealth. This could take the form of succession planning or creating an investment portfolio, for example. Overcoming what Larter refers to as a “negative money mindset” is essential to maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
For black women, financial issues can present the biggest challenge to business growth. Research suggests they struggle more in securing access to loans compared to white males. Kike Odusanya agrees, adding that it’s more of an issue in industries where there are fewer women, such as tech. “Oftentimes, we are turned away for resources, but what challenges us also propels us. I call it the ‘muscle of resilience’ that black women have developed through necessity. It fuels every part of our lives.”
Make Sure It Works For You
Odusanya looks at work/life balance from a slightly different angle. “Prioritize and schedule time for the things that are important to you to achieve a sense of balance,” she suggests. For Odusanya, that means blocking off time to pick up her daughter after school every day. Unlike most jobs—where you leave after eight or nine hours—an entrepreneur’s work never ends, so it’s important to set boundaries, se says, and schedule “shelter time”—time off from work for non-negotiable things, such as time with your family.
When you’re juggling a business and a family, there are going to be some trade-offs. The key is to prioritize the tasks and experiences you aren’t willing to give up.