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Is self-employment harder for women?

Research has shed new light on the day-to-day challenges that face women who run their own business.

A new survey by AXA has found that female entrepreneurs have to juggle more tasks during the working day than men. It has found that irregular hours, children in the office and a higher burden of unpaid work all add up to a tougher working day for women in business.

Since the recession, the UK has seen a 38% increase in female self-employment; and home is largely where this revolution is taking place. According to AXA's study, 75% of women business owners spend three to five days of their week working from home.

While 65% of men who work for themselves stick to a nine-to-five day in their home offices; only a third of women say they do the same. And 51% of them say they have to squeeze housework into their working hours, compared to 23% of men.

Scheduling the working day around the school-run is common: half of women business owners start work before 7am or after 11am. For one in ten, a typical working day can end up spreading over twelve hours as a consequence. By comparison, the research shows that only 2% of self-employed men face such an elongated day.

Erratic working hours are the biggest source of stress for women business owners, followed by lack of boundaries between family and workspace at home. However, women are less likely to report feeling lonely or missing office life than men.

Darrell Sansom, Managing Director of AXA Business Insurance, said: 

"Our study shows that a day in business looks a lot different - in many ways a lot tougher - for a woman than for a man. Enterprise programmes will only be able to succeed in giving women the same start as men when they start addressing their family situations too. It's time we had a proper conversation about that, and let's get more research too. Funded nursery care in the first year in business, for instance, could provide that crucial breathing space a woman needs to launch out on her own."

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