Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Work-Home Role Conflict in Female Owners of Small Businesses: An Exploratory Study

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Work-Home Role Conflict in Female Owners of Small Businesses: An Exploratory Study

Article excerpt


A critical problem faced by female entrepreneurs is the tension that exists between their personal lives and career pursuits.(1) This tension may be viewed as a form of interrole conflict in which the role pressures from the work and home domain are incompatible.(2) In short, involvement in one role becomes more difficult because of involvement in the other role.(3) The social and psychological significance of this topic is enhanced by the continued growth of female-owned firms relative to the growth rate of male-owned firms.(4) In fact, the number of women-owned non-farm sole proprietorships increased by 62 percent between 1980 and 1986, far outstripping the 41 percent increase among all non-farm sole proprietorships over the same period.

Work-home conflict literature suggests points of concern.(5) The extent of work-home role conflict for contemporary female business owners has received little attention. To date, most entrepreneurial and small business studies have not fully explored the variables influencing work-home role conflict. The existing work-family role conflict literature has a distinctive non-entrepreneurial slant, in that it deals with women who are employees rather than owner/managers, and often employs samples that are predominently male.

Accordingly, the general purpose of this study is to probe, in greater depth, the content and nature of work-home role conflict for female small business owners. Specifically, this study will:

1. Identify the extent of work-home

role conflict experienced by female

small business owners.

2. Determine the impact of relevant

variables expected to affect this

conflict. These include: business-related

factors (number of hours

worked, business satisfaction,

perceived financial health of the

business, and number of employees);

family-related factors

(happiness in marriage, marital

status, and size of the family);

and personal factors (perception

of self-worth, life satisfaction,

education, and age).


General issues of work-home conflict have been addressed in previous research, and a number of critical relationships have been noted. The findings indicate that time pressures, family size and support, job satisfaction, marital and life satisfaction, and size of the firm are important variables affecting work-home role conflict.

Time Pressures

Time pressures bear prominently on the level and extent of work-home role conflict. Quite naturally, as more time is spent on work roles, less time is available to be devoted to home and family roles. It is expected, and previous studies have reported, that work-home role conflict is positively related to the number of hours worked per week.(6) Yet these studies have not dealt specifically and exclusively with female small business owners.

Family Size and Support

In addition to time pressures, family size also affects work-home role conflict. Keith and Schafer reported higher levels of work-family role conflict for larger families.(7) Not surprisingly, parents of younger children (presumably more demanding of parental time) experienced more work-home role conflict than did parents of older children.(8) However, Beutell and Greenhaus noted that large families produce conflict primarily for women whose husbands are highly involved in their own careers, and thereby devote little time to the family.(9)

In addition to family size, the degree of family support appears to be an important factor affecting work-home role conflict. Holahan and Gilbert reported that support from family members can help reduce or relieve perceived work-home role conflict.(10) Yet, family support for female entrepreneurs may be limited. …

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