University Of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
The alternative career woman: The rural home-based business, enterprising women and female empowerment Tracey Forbes University of Aberdeen email@example.com At the heart of this research is the rise of the home-based business (HBB) as an alternative to the more familiar high street venture. HBB’s represent a numerically significant proportion of total business (Breen and Karanasios 2010) and are evidence of a vibrant and growing trend worldwide (Tandrayen-Ragoobur and Kasseeah 2012). Self-employment statistics released in August 2014 (ONS 2014) reaffirms earlier claims of a consistent upward trend in self-employment, observable in the UK since the late 1990’s. Although men still dominate the self-employment population (ONS 2014), women represent two thirds (64%) of the ‘homepreneurs’ in the UK (Enterprise Nation 2014). Dismal economic conditions, high rates of unemployment and the perpetual discrimination against women in the mainstream labour market are all said to be driving women to look for alternative employment opportunities (Tandrayen-Raggobur and Kasseeah 2012). Women’s frustration at discriminatory behaviour is said to be mounting (Weiler and Bernasek 2001). The association between high job satisfaction and low valuation, evident among women, now appears to be in decline (Rose 2005). This has led some researchers to identify female labour market dissatisfaction as an explanatory factor for a change in attitudes. Young women are said to favour a return to a traditional gender role; a role whereby they once again, operate predominately in the private sphere of the home, as housewives and primary care givers to children (Fortin 2005; Dench 2010; Johnston et al 2012). This research seeks to ascertain the extent to which these business examples challenge any claim of a ‘retraditionalisation’ of gender roles emergent in contemporary society. Whilst these business examples may not fully discredit these claims, they do suggest an oversimplification of the female response to labour market discrimination. The growth of the HBB within the rural location adds further interest. Home-business ownership appears to be high among rural return-migrants and in-migrants (Bosworth 2006). These individuals appear to take the capital they acquire, within the urban setting, and apply it to develop a business venture within the home (Newbery and Bosworth 2010). Whilst we have some understanding of the value the labour market places upon female employees, via wage differentials between men and women and returns to skills, we have little understanding of the value women place on their own worth and how they come to identify their career potential. We have little understanding of how women experience discrimination and how they respond to it. These business examples may well provide us with valuable insight into these experiences. The female-owned rural HBB might provide evidence that women are not passive victims of discriminatory labour market practices, nor are they content to reassume a traditional gender role, but instead they recognise their employment potential and actively seek to deploy their capital within the context of business activity centred upon the home. The findings of the research are based upon analysis of data, derived from in-depth interviews with 44 female HBB owners, living in remote rural and accessible rural locations in Scotland. Prior to the interview participants were asked to complete a questionnaire, designed to collect biographical information, including levels of education, employment experience and current business interests. The information provided enabled participants to be assigned to one of three groups - rural ‘remainers’, ‘in-migrants’ and ‘rural returners’ and gave an indication of their access to various ‘forms of capital’ (Bourdieu 1990). The interview explored a number of areas of interest, including the factors that led women to start up and develop a business from home, the challenges they had faced, the advantages of working from home, the pros and cons of working for self as opposed to working for an employer and how they viewed the future, both in terms of their business and in future employment prospects. The findings confirm an association with rural migrants and home-business development; 75% of interviewees identified as return or in-migrants. Returners had the highest levels of capital in the form of educational qualifications - educated to degree level or above. Those with the highest levels of education had established successful careers, which they later abandoned in favour of self-employment. The majority of women gave some account of the failure of the labour market to provide satisfactory and/or sufficiently rewarding paid employment. The positive experience of working for oneself was a recurrent theme in the majority of interviews, with women stating they could not work for an employer after running their own business. What appears to happen is the emergence of a second career. Many of the return migrant women started a business based around an awareness of a gap in the market, and awareness that they possessed the skills to fill that gap. Others developed a business around an activity or interest they had in adolescence; activities that they had abandoned in favour of those which would form the basis for their early careers. The emphasis now is on the quality of their working life, rather than on quantity. They sought to acquire a regular income but also to gain intrinsic rewards, including a sense of self-worth, a sense of achievement, the ability to develop their full potential, whilst taking ownership of their own labour. The home becomes a space where women can more fully nurture their career potential and personal growth, alongside the responsibilities of home and family life. Whereas access to some forms of capital varied between groups, low levels of social capital in the forms of networks, deemed necessary for business development, was universal. The women overcame this restriction through the extensive use of social media and cooperative business practices between female HBB owners, resulting in the formation of communities of support. The research findings provide some understanding of entrepreneurialism in relation to women, where the emphasis is on ethical trading and concern with customer satisfaction and quality control, rather than simply making money and expanding the business. However, this does appear to impact on their ability to maximise earnings and subsequently the value the customers and the women themselves place on certain skills. References Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bosworth, G. (2006) Counter-urbanisation and Job Creation: Entrepreneurial In-Migration and Rural Economic Development. Centre for Rural Economy Discussion Paper Series No. 4. [Online] Available from: http://www.ncl.ac.uk/cre/publish/discussionpapers/pdfs/dp4.pdf [Accessed 20th June 2013] Breen, J. and Karanasios, S. (2010) Growth and Expansion of Women-Owned Home-Business. International Business and Economics Research Journal – Special Edition, Volume 9, Number 13. [Online] Available from: http://www.cluteinstitute.com/ojs/index.php/IBER/article/view/651/637 [Accessed 9th January 2015] Dench, G. (2010) What Women Want. Evidence from British Social Attitudes. London: Hera Trust. Enterprise Nation (2014) Home Business Report. [Online] Available from: https://www.enterprisenation.com/homebusiness [Accessed 11th December 2014] Fortin, N.M. (2005) Gender Role Attitudes and the Labour Market. The Outcomes of Women Across OECD Countries. Oxford Review of Economic Policy. 21(3): pp.416-438. Johnston, D.W., Schurer, S and Shields, M.A. (2012) Maternal Gender Role Attitudes, Human Capital Investment and Labor Supply of Sons and Daughters. IZA Discussion Paper No. 6656. Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor. Newbery, R. and Bosworth, G. (2010) Home-based business sectors in the rural economy. Society and Business Review, 5 (2), pp.183–197. ONS (2014) ‘Self-employed worker in the UK’. 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