9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Gender Inequalities and Policies Building II, C4.02

Female self employment as a means of avoiding or circumventing the glass ceiling?

According to research we conducted in 2008 based on data from the German Mikrozensus, German income tax data and registries into the Berlin Commercial Register on average a self-employed women in Berlin earns less than a female employee. Nevertheless there are very successful self-employed women regarding their income and the number of people they employ.

We would like to present findings from a research project that focusses on these successful female self-employeds. We raise the issue if highly qualified women start their own business to avoid the glass ceiling of gender-related negative experiences, barriers or borders as employees. We particulary consider transitions between employment and self-employment. The study is based on qualitative interviews with self-employed women and longitudinal data about the professional career histories of women from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSOEP).

Women are not as well represented as men in managerial und executive positions especially in Germany. Why do high qualified women leave the workplace to become self-employed? For highly qualified, successful female entrepreneurs we would like to discuss the thesis that starting a business is a means to avoid the glass ceiling in the labour market. The glass ceiling assumption is widely reported, but lacks scientific structured view and empirical evidence. We present findings of quantitative analysis using GSOEP-data, e.g. at which point of their professional career women tend to establish their own business and how are they doing there? Furthermore we present data from the qualitative case studies of highly educated and qualified women, most of them formerly in leading positions, who successfully set up their own business. Sensing and escaping the glass ceiling is one of the reasons, but not the only one by far. Women are motivated to go it alone from negative gender-specific work experience or an insufficient work-life-balance, but likewise by the desire for autonomy or self-fulfilment. They show a broad range of motives for starting their own business.

We would like to discuss the role of the professional life as pull as well as push factors in women?s decisions for self-employment. Can self employment help to avoid glass ceiling?