McHENRY – Julianne Baron was able to chaperone her children’s field trips, coach sports and be her daughter’s Girl Scout troop leader.
That’s one of the reasons she started her insurance agency 21 years ago.
“I scared my husband to death,” she said. “When we got back from our honeymoon, I said, ‘I’m going to start my own business.’ I figured the wedding money would be my backup. If anything went wrong, it would get me by. Well, I didn’t need to touch those gifts.”
Since then, the number of women-owned businesses has grown, hitting 7.8 million firms in 2007, according to a Survey of Business Owners by the U.S. Census Bureau.
About 28.8 percent of all American companies are women-owned, and of those businesses that are owned by both men and women, 45.8 percent of them have a woman in the primary ownership role, according to the report.
Women also are starting their own businesses at a greater rate than men, although on average, their businesses are smaller than men-owned businesses, according to the National Women’s Business Council.
About 68 percent of women-owned businesses earn less than $25,000 a year, compared with 48 percent of men-owned businesses, according to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners.
Diane Aubrey Dunlap became an independent sales director for Mary Kay in August 2000, mostly because she wanted to get the product at a discount.
Two years into teaching high school chemistry and biology, she realized she was making more selling Mary Kay part time than she was teaching. She decided to give up her teaching job and focus on running her own business.
“I’ve got a 4-year-old and ... a 2-year-old – very active little kids,” Dunlap said. “I want to be around for them. I like taking them to their events. I like witnessing their lives. I love being able to take vacations when I want to.
“If I want to go and bring them up to a water park midweek, I don’t have to ask anybody for the day off. I can just take them and sprinkle Mary Kay into different parts of the day when I can work.”
Although owning her own business gave her flexibility to be involved in her kids’ lives, Baron says it takes a lot of discipline.
“My friends always say, ‘You can get the laundry done and the dishes done,’ and I tell them, ‘The dishes that are in the sink in the morning when I come into my office are the same dishes that are there at 5 p.m.,’ ” she said.
A 2011 report by the Working Mother Research Institute asked career-oriented, at-home moms what factors contributed to why they decided to stop working.
Forty-four percent pointed to taking care of their kids; 35 percent cited the cost of child care; and 26 percent said their salary did not justify the cost of working.
The institute recommends that businesses adopt family-friendly policies, including flexible work hours or more predictable hours.
“It’s not just for child-rearing,” said Kay Rial Bates, the president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce. “Some women just want to have a more flexible schedule. They want to be able to do it when they want to do it.”
Flexibility isn’t just a priority for women.
A July survey by Mom Corps, a career development firm, found that 73 percent of working adults said flexibility is one of the most important factors they consider when they’re looking for a new job or picking a company.
Dunlap mentors other women who are independent contractors with Mary Kay, and said many of them keep their full-time jobs because of health insurance and perceived job security.
But even if her employer had offered flexible hours, Baron, whose two kids are now teenagers, doesn’t think she would have stayed.
“I really believe that I wanted control of my own destiny, how my family would be raised, how I would work, what hours I would work,” she said.
By the numbers
The 7.8 million companies owned by women make up nearly 30 percent of all U.S. firms, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The survival rate for these firms is 78.2 percent.
Women-owned firms bring in an average of $153,000 in receipts, or 27 percent of the average for men-owned businesses. That gap is closing, the National Women’s Business Council.
They employ 7.3 million people nationwide, according to a 2006 report by the Center for Women’s Business Research.