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Gender Perspectives on Self-Employment Focusing on Work - Life Balance and Working Conditions
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Health Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3374-268x
2018 (English)Other (Other academic)
Physical description [en]

Stream Convennor

Abstract [en]

Political decisions and influences steer individuals toward greater entrepreneurship and self-employment (European Commission, 2004; Verheul, Wennekers, Audretsch, & Thurik, 2002), and for example the increasing share of women in self-employment has been a major development in the world economy since the 1980s (Ahl, 2006). However, knowledge about self-employed individuals’ work and living conditions from a gender perspective is limited (Brush & Brush, 2006), since still today, women are underrepresented in self-employment and also widely ignored in research about self-employment. Additionally, the political agenda concerning self-employment is to a great extent set in a masculine norm (Holmquist & Sundin, 2002). This lead to great gender inequality in self-employment and thus, we need to unravel the unwritten rules and norms related to starting and running one’s own business.Reasons for choosing self-employment may vary but seem to be linked to gender role expectations. Men more often than women cite work-related reasons to become self-employed (Marler & Moen, 2005). Fathers are less likely than mothers to report family reasons to choose self-employment (Hilbrecht & Lero, 2014). Rather, they emphasize employment opportunity, job control and high job satisfaction for choosing self-employment (Ibid.). Mothers of young children choose self-employment as a way to manage the “second shift” and more often than fathers use self-employment as a strategy for work-life balance (Marler & Moen, 2005; Walker & Webster, 2007). However, self-employed individuals seem to experience more conflict between work and family than employees (Johansson Sevä & Öun, 2015; Nordenmark, Vinberg, & Strandh, 2012), even though the variation is large. The phenomenon often labled work-family conflict is ‘a form of inter-role conflict in which the role pressures from work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect’ (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985). There is no cocensus on whether men or women reort higher levels of conflict, but clearly gender norms are important for perceptions of work-family conflict (Hagqvist, 2016). Self-employed individuals, due to more job control, seem to be able to distribute their time better than employees (Nordenmark et al., 2012). Meanwhile, self-employed individuals state that they are always on, constantly developing the company, marketing, seeking new opportunities or worrying about income (Hilbrecht & Lero, 2014). Possibilities to successful combine work and family demands when self-employed also differ depending on economic resources. Self-employed persons who experience dependence on clients and few possibilities to adapt working hours and amount of work experience work-family conflict more often than self-employed persons with low dependency on clients but high autonomy (Annink & den Dulk, 2012; Kunda, Barley, & Evans, 2002). Thus, the benefits gained by choosing self-employment as opposed to organisational employment may be outweighed by costs that can affect the ability to balance work and family (Bunk, Dugan, D’Agostino, & Barnes-Farrell, 2012). Also, the ability to fend of conflicts between work and family is ingrained ingendered constructions and experiences of balance among self-employed individuals (Loscocco, 1997).The fact that self-employment is based on a masculine norms is reflected in studies of working conditions. Working conditions of the self-employed are often characterized by high work load (Stephan & Roesler, 2010) and working more hours per week than the average employee (Eurofound, 2014), especially among men (Hagqvist, Toivanen, & Vinberg, 2016). However, being self-employed has also been related to a situation of high control, in terms of entrepreneurial autonomy and decision making, and the allocation of time and other resources for each of the work tasks (van Gelderen, 2016). Work characteristics function as a recourse for one person and a demand for another (Annink, Den Dulk, & Amorós, 2016). As the typical working conditions for self-employed are masculine (Connell, 2008), it can be stipulated that they are foremost a resource for men and not women. Thus, we need emphasise the role of gender in working conditions among self-employment.Some studies have employed the well-known job control-demand-support model (Karasek & Theorell, 1990) to compare working conditions of the self-employed with wage earners, but results have been contradictory. In some studies, self-employed individuals were found to have more control but also more demands than employees (Nordenmark et al., 2012; Stephan & Roesler, 2010), and these factors explained, at least in part, differences in work-family balance and well-being but also job satisfaction between the self-employed and wage earners. Other studies have discussed the so called “paradox” of the self-employed meaning that although there is clear evidence that the self-employed have more demands, more risks and responsibilities for business success vs failure, and higher work-family conflict, they also often are more satisfied with their job and life in general (Obschonka & Silbereisen, 2015). Several ideas have been brought forward to explain this paradox. For example, it may be that the self-employed are less restricted by organizational regulations or agreements with unions, and thus, there job control differs from that of employees not only in terms of its amount, but also its meaning. This may for example also include employing sub-contractors to do extra work, or being able to work anywhere and at any time. Others suggest that several important factors are overlooked when only studying control and demands, since for instance, it has been found that self-employed with and without employees differ (Johansson Sevä, Vinberg, Nordenmark, & Strandh, 2016), or that conditions vary depending on the economic cycle. The overall financial situation of the business is another salient factor: those in needs for clients and contracts do not find self-employment offers them a lot of freedom and feel forced to work even during free time and vacation days (Annink & den Dulk, 2012). Meanwhile, there is a gender gap in amount and perception of availability in and spillover of work, which is linked to provider status norm (Loscocco, 1997). Clearly, when studying working conditions of the self-employed, the scope has to be extended beyond aspects such as control and demands related to work tasks, to include also questions pertaining to the economic situation (e.g. threat of bankruptcy, business prospects such as security in amounts of clients and contracts) and the overall size and conditions of the business (e.g. number of employees, sector or occupation), but also developments over time (longitudinal studies). Also, perhaps most important, evidence on gendered working conditions in self-employment is still scarce and needs to be put in the spot light.This stream aims to foster a discussion and dialog on the role of gender in self-employment with a focus on working conditions and work-family balance. We welcome multidisciplinary contributions on the following topics:

- Research focusing on motivating factors for men and women to become self-employed.

- Studies of gender identities in self-employment

- Research employing a gender perspective when studying work-family balance for self-employed individuals.

- Studies emphasising the role of gender in working conditions for self-employed individuals.

- Research taking new angles to inquire how working conditions, business circumstances and resources differ for women and men in self-employment.

Place, publisher, year, pages
2018.
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-34506OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-34506DiVA, id: diva2:1250866
Available from: 2018-09-25 Created: 2018-09-25 Last updated: 2018-09-25Bibliographically approved

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