How Women-Owned Small Businesses Are Reshaping Work Culture

A laptop beside beautiful red flowers and a woman's legs and bare feet with red nail polish, wearing jeans, resting on top of the desk.

Welcome to 2024, where women are smashing the patriarchy and redefining the “9-5” workday.

The Beginning of the Working Woman Era

The 9-5 workday model originated in an era when the concept of a “working woman” was nearly nonexistent, with women primarily confined to domestic roles supporting men’s needs. However, the landscape shifted during times of increased labor demand, particularly during wartime, when women stepped into positions traditionally held by men.

The iconic “We Can Do It!” poster featuring Rosie the Riveter emerged as a symbol, urging women to join the workforce. Yet, as men returned from the war, women were hesitant to relinquish their newfound independence and empowerment gained through their involvement in the workforce and broader societal roles.

The Second Shift

Since then, women’s participation in the workforce has increased due to feminist movements pushing for gender equality. However, as women’s responsibilities have grown, so has burnout. Many women experience “the second shift,” taking on additional domestic responsibilities at home, from organizing shopping lists to making decisions impacting the household’s well-being. Women are expected to “work like a man” and then come home to cook, clean, take care of children, and the brunt of the mental workload. 

Juggling work and home becomes even more challenging when women face workplace penalties for managing the domestic and mental workload. It is frowned upon when a woman needs to leave work early for childcare or work from home to manage household responsibilities like laundry and grocery shopping. Without flexibility in the workplace, a working woman’s schedule is not sustainable.

Survival Mode

When women are expected to juggle work and home without systemic help or a strong support system, they often end up overwhelmed, burnt out, and living in a state of survival mode. This is especially the case for women of color and low economic status, as they often face additional barriers that compound the problem of navigating work and home responsibilities.

When women enter survival mode, she is living in a heightened state of stress which is particularly hard on the body. The focus becomes the immediate tasks necessary for her family’s well-being, often at her own expense. This results in behaviors such as skipping meals, relying on convenient but less nutritious options, neglecting self-care, and social isolation. This is something that far too many women have experienced, myself included.

From Overwhelmed to Empowered

Unsurprisingly, women-led businesses have more than doubled since the pandemic, as women have attempted to create their own form of work-life balance. As a multi-passionate entrepreneur, I was once juggling a full-time job and working from home while also shouldering the role of default parent. The demands eventually took a toll on me. It wasn’t sustainable to continue this way, so my partner and I had to make some important decisions about what we wanted our life to look like going forward. Instead of allowing resentment to build, we devised a plan to support our family and nurture our professional passions. This led to the decision for me to transition into full-time entrepreneurship, working from home, and making myself available for our kids’ drop-offs and pickups, despite initially facing a financial setback for our family.

Many women, like me, are brought to their breaking point and then realize they have the power to create the business and life they want. It’s become my mission to help women-led businesses grow their online presence, wealth, and impact in the world because financial wealth gives women the power to change the world for the better. In fact, women are more likely to use their wealth to help other people! Women give away twice as much of their wealth as men do and are more invested in solutions for world issues like climate change. This isn’t surprising, considering women are more likely to be impacted by social and environmental issues.

Smashing the Patriarchy One Small Business at a Time

Micah Larsen, a marketing educator for women, recently went viral on Instagram for a reel calling women’s businesses more than just a hobby; they’re “a waystation for bringing down the patriarchy.” She said that when women have access to money (because of their businesses) they have the ability to make their own decisions, be ambitious, hire and empower other women.

This made me think about how amazing it is that while women continue to fight for equality, we’re creating our own flexible careers and bootstrapped businesses that work for our current situation. Rather than burning ourselves out from doing 60% more unpaid work than men (on top of our paid work), we’re creating profitable and flexible jobs.

Transforming Gender Roles and Building Inclusive Workplaces

Flexible work schedules benefit people by improving work-life balance, reducing commuting stress, and increasing job satisfaction and efficiency. Employers can garner valuable insights from women-owned small businesses that are embracing a departure from the traditional 9-5 model. This shift improves talent attraction, retention, productivity, and cost savings and contributes to a healthier workplace.

Smashing the patriarchy and creating flexible work environments doesn’t only benefit women; it allows men to step away from traditional gender roles and fosters authenticity. This societal shift focuses on inclusion and equality, opening doors for men to become more involved fathers and more emotionally available partners and reducing toxic masculinity. By challenging norms and creating adaptable workplaces, more businesses will see the widespread benefits of an equitable work culture.

To all the women making bold decisions to go into business for themselves, keep going!

Feminist Marketing

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