Five reasons self-employment is great for women

7 min read

18 July 2017

Self-employment may not be for everyone, but there is no denying the benefits that women can experience from becoming their own boss.

It’s often said that self-employment ends up being a particularly rough deal for women, because you don’t get the kinds of benefits that’d be on offer if you were an employee in a larger corporation.

It’s true that by running your own business you miss out on things like paid maternity leave, generous holiday allowances, private healthcare and a company-provided crèche. When you’re in charge of your own show, all of these things come at a cost and you’ll be the first person to feel the effects of this.

But with self-employment levels in the UK reaching record highs, and the number of women in work at an all-time peak, surely there has to be something about self-employment that’s making more and more women turn to this mode of work?

I certainly think so, and here are my five reasons why.

(1) Ceiling? What glass ceiling?

Ever noticed that in many industries, there are high numbers of women at the bottom of organisations, but never at the top? I have so many friends who began their careers with impressive jobs working for blue-chip companies, but who never managed to master the slippery climb up to a managerial role.

There’s an abundance of reasons as to why this is the case, but to my mind it comes down to highly masculine working cultures in well-established organisations, as well as the problem of raising children (if you have them) when you have fixed hours and annual leave.

But when you’re self-employed, you are your own boss, and you don’t have to deal with many of the gender-related challenges that are so often faced by women in the workplace. Granted, you’re starting small, but the sky really is the limit when you’re in charge – just look at Ariana Huffington’s story if you’re in need of inspiration.

(2) There’s more protection than you think

Both women are concerned by the fact that when you’re self-employed, you effectively have no employment rights – this is often a big worry, especially if you have a family to support.

But that’s a reality which is rapidly changing. A recent study by the RSA explores how groups of self-employed workers all over the world are coming together to create private and network-based solutions to this problem.

For example, some Dutch self-employed workers have established their own sick pay funds, which they pay into privately, and are regulated informally. It seems to be working wonders.

This could be the future of employment for many of us, and it offers the security of standard employment rights without any of the red tape that comes with being on someone else’s PAYE roster.

On the next page, read how family life and the pay gap fit into self-employment for women.

(3) It takes the pressure off having kids  

I don’t actually have children, but I have many women friends who do, and having kids is often one of the main reasons why they feel they haven’t progressed in their careers as much as they’d have liked.

Being employed by someone else can often feel like you have to choose between your job or the kids, and if you choose the kids it can often seem like you’re not taking your job seriously enough.

But when you’re self-employed, you don’t have to answer to people in this way, and you can choose to put either your job or your kids first as and when you need to (for example during school holidays). This makes self-employment the killer combo for modern mothers. Result.


(4) It fosters creativity and business success

How many times have you been stuck in an office with a complete lack of energy and inspiration?

Conventional business set-ups are now widely recognised to dampen productivity, and sadly many firms are taking their time to catch onto this. When you’re self-employed, you have the flexibility to give your mind the freedom it needs to make good business decisions.

Women are notoriously more concerned by what other people think of them than men are (although this phenomenon is definitely more down to culture than it is nature).

This means that we often make decisions based on our perception of others’ opinions as opposed to what’s best for us in the context of our job – for example staying at our desks for longer than we should do.

Self-employment is therefore the dream gig for women: having the freedom to dictate your own workload without judgement completely rids us of that pesky (and time-consuming) anxiety.

Feeling lethargic? If you have no meetings and nothing’s urgent, you can go for a run or a change of scene.

Less on your to-do list than usual? You can openly do something different or give yourself a break, without the judgemental presentee-ism of everyday office politics.

(5) Pay gap? Try pay rise 

With studies showing that women are still lagging behind in the gender pay wars, self-employment does a lot to rectify this problem. Simply put, we are in charge of our own wages: if we manage to generate the business, we get to pocket the cash.

Ladies, what more could you want?

Monika Juneja is the self-employed founder and MD of her consulting firm, Fortitude Dynamics