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Women And Entrepreneurship: My Statement

Posted on Sunday, Oct 10th 2010

The topic of women and entrepreneurship has been getting a lot of attention of late. Vivek Wadhwa has been leading the charge from TechCrunch. Yesterday, I read an article by Penelope Trunk on TechCrunch that argues that you cannot be an entrepreneur and bear and raise children, have a successful relationship, and have a balanced life.

I generally avoid commenting on this issue, but Vivek has often egged me on to say things, at least in private discussions. Vivek is a good friend, and I believe that he is trying to do something meaningful to help move this debate forward.

So, today, I am going to say a few things on the topic.

First, this is a very complex issue. Each woman needs to make her own choice, and it is no use saying things like “You should have children” or “You should be an entrepreneur” or “You should have children and be an entrepreneur.”

The choice is personal. Individual. It needs to meet the needs of the “person.”

I have often invited women to the Entrepreneur Journeys series and asked them to share their perspectives on the topic. Let’s revisit what some of them have said.

In my conversation with Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, we discussed the issue of identity crisis:

SM: I am personally, philosophically, against people staying home as moms because I think it leads to a huge identity crisis. It sounds like what you are doing is mitigating some of that. There is a book on the bestseller list right now called ‘In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms’. I was cringing when I saw that. [Dr. Laura Schlessinger], who wrote that book, is the top women-focused talk show host on the radio.

SS: It is really a challenge. I always try not to be a judgmental person. I can’t be in everyone’s shoes. The statement that it is best for women to stay at home is something that is just not possible for many families, particularly now. I do have friends who have chosen to stay at home with their kids. I know that they struggle with it.

SM: What do they struggle with?

SS: Giving up their adult identity, the ability to interact with other adults on an intellectual, problem-solving level. You are certainly working with your spouse on a daily basis dealing with your kids. You are certainly working with your kids on a daily basis to solve problems. However, you are missing a part of yourself that is constantly challenged. I have friends who say they have not used sentences with more than four syllables all day long. I really think it takes a toll on your brain and certainly on your identity. For me, being a professional woman is not just about being a professional woman. It is about making a greater contribution to society and being a part of the working world.

You can read Sara’s interview to get more of a sense of how she has applied her creativity to come up with a solution to the juggling mothers problem.

In addition, Julia Hartz, cofounder of Eventbrite, discusses the role her husband has played in her career as an entrepreneur.

And Therese Tucker, CEO of BlackLine Systems, talks about how she screwed up her marriage by trying to juggle her startup and her children, but she has remarried her husband and got the balance back. It’s a moving story of a remarkable woman.

Finally, Judy Estrin, one of the most successful and widely admired women in technology, and a through and through serial entrepreneur, says:

SM: I have never even thought of myself as a woman. I have thought of myself first as an entrepreneur and a professional.

JE: I thought of myself as a technologist first. When I became a leader and manager I thought of myself as a business person first and a woman second. Now when I meet young women I will go out of my way to help them, but that was never my cause. Some of that is because my mother was a very strong feminist. When I went into the workplace I probably downplayed that part because I watched my mother so actively. In her generation she had to be in order to get where she was.

Judy and her ex-husband, Bill Carrico, have founded seven companies together, including Bridge Communications, which was the essential piece in the rejuvenation of 3Com, a story you have also read here in my interview with Eric Benhamou.

All four women are successful entrepreneurs, and all of them have children. They have each figured out ways to manage the process, and each has struggled.

But they have not failed.

I saw my friend Marylene Delbourg-Delphis at a dinner party last night and spoke with her briefly on the topic. Marylene has also raised a child – Sophie, an immensely talented budding opera singer – and has had a successful career as an entrepreneur. She writes the blog Grade A Entrepreneurs, and she has a passion for the Women and Entrepreneurship issue, as well as the artist as an entrepreneur topic.

As for my own experience, I have chosen not to have children. I like the freedom and control I have over my time. My husband and I love to travel, and we share a variety of other passions including the arts, cuisine, and culture. I am balancing an entrepreneurial career, a writing career, and I still make time to dance, something that has remained important to me throughout my life.

You see, there are several key factors that we balance in this equation of life: our personal needs, a relationship, a career, and children. It is not easy to balance all of these needs, so each of us does our best to tailor a life that fits our particular priorities. For me, freedom and control over my time came out well ahead of having children. In fact, as I ordered the various items, my entrepreneurial career, my writing career, my relationship, my personal needs, my parents, friends, and extended family in India, my husband’s family and friends in Europe, our passion for travel, cooking, arts, my need to dance – all of that came out well ahead of children and the loss of freedom that entails.

I accepted, in my mid-thirties, that I will not be able to do it all, and the trade-offs I would have to make to have children are not worth my while.

Some people will tell you that you are not a complete woman if you don’t have children. I have heard this many times.

I think it is bullshit.

So, my message to women who are trying to get your arms around this issue: Do what works for you. Have the courage and the conviction to ignore the peer pressure that will definitely come your way.

Be yourself, be authentic, be who you truly are.

The rest will sort itself out.

PS: Vivek has a new post on the topic on TechCrunch: Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different. I agree. Here’s a video I did for Women 2.0 a while back, saying the same thing. Bottom line, the rules are the same whether you are a woman entrepreneur or a man. So if you really want to be successful, focus on learning the rules of the entrepreneurship game. If you are interested, try the One Million by One Million (1M/1M) program through which I have pledged to help a million entrepreneurs reach a million dollars in annual revenue by 2020.

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Great post and thank you.

Lesa Mitchell Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 8:54 AM PT

I loved it….certainly you just need to be, who you are…not who others are telling you to become.

marjansik Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 9:00 AM PT

[…] run lifestyle businesses makes women averse to running startups. This is an accurate description of some women: they just aren’t cut out for the rough-and-tumble world of entrepreneurship—which requires […]

Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different | BJD Productions Blog Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:00 AM PT

[…] run lifestyle businesses makes women averse to running startups. This is an accurate description of some women: they just aren’t cut out for the rough-and-tumble world of entrepreneurship—which requires […]

Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:01 AM PT

[…] run lifestyle businesses makes women averse to running startups. This is an accurate description of some women: they just aren’t cut out for the rough-and-tumble world of entrepreneurship—which requires […]

Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different | JetLib News Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:04 AM PT

[…] run lifestyle businesses makes women averse to running startups. This is an accurate description of some women: they just aren’t cut out for the rough-and-tumble world of entrepreneurship—which requires […]

Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different | BrettMBell.com Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:21 AM PT

Right on. Balance and choice. Great post. Btw, you may be the only Indian (married) woman I know who CHOSE not to have kids. Phew! I can only imagine the peer pressure you might have gone through and the 'complete' woman bullshit!

Kalika Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:33 AM PT

I agree with the premise that women should do what they want to do, but I am concerned about the sometimes apologetic attitude that really successful women have vis-a-vis children and being female.

It's a boon to be a woman and I do think all children are a blessing. Just want to make a point that not deciding to have children still makes you a woman of course, but having children does not mean you can't have an amazing successful career either.

Interesting post either way.

aulelia Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 11:16 AM PT

[…] run lifestyle businesses makes women averse to running startups. This is an accurate description of some women: they just aren’t cut out for the rough-and-tumble world of entrepreneurship—which requires […]

Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different : startupblock.com Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 11:48 AM PT

I think Sramana’s way of seeing the issue globally is the best approach – mostly the idea of making choices in life. It is a choice to have children (for either gender, although the implications are traditionally greater for women), and it is a choice to have a career, with both falling in a larger equation, with a variety of changing factors. I am the result of an entrepreneur mother, and I have always felt extremely lucky in that respect. Certain aspects of my childhood were certainly non-traditional: I clocked in hundreds of hours of flight time before I was ten, I spent more time with businessmen than children my age, etc… But it gave me the opportunity to learn quickly, almost innately, about what it means to be an entrepreneur. I saw early what it meant for my mother, and women in general, to dedicate herself to business, and also juggle a child. It never seemed to me, however, that she felt she was sacrificing anything by remaining a single mother, by partaking in business meetings rather than lunches with friends. She had made the decision to move forward in her career, not despite having a child, but along with having one. Now that I’m 22 and beginning to think about my own career in opera, this issue has begun to creep into my thoughts. Ultimately, what has become clear to me is the importance of feeling a sense of accomplishment rather than a regret for something sacrificed, and making the choices that will lead to this vision of success. This is true for both women and men – no matter the social pressures or expectations!

Sophie Delphis Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 11:53 AM PT

Yes, Sophie. Your mother has been very courageous and she is very accomplished. Among her accomplishments is you. And yes, she has made very significant sacrifices. But as we make choices, we all have to be realistic and make some sacrifices as well. That's just the reality of life. I don't look at my choices as sacrifices either. I simply look at them, as your mother does too, as trade-offs.

sramana Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 12:08 PM PT

I am also probably the only Indian woman you know who doesn't give a flying freak about what other people think of my choices. Peer pressure doesn't have any effect on me.

But it does on most people, which is why I have put the issue on the table.

sramana Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 12:10 PM PT

Right on, Sramana. I don't have and don't intend to have any children of my own. It doesn't mean I don't like children.

In fact, people often ask me, "Why? You are so great with kids, why don't you have kids?" To that I say, "That's why I am so great with kids because I don't have any at home."

But more seriously, there are plenty of children around to love and to nurture if you want to and they don't have to be your own children.

And for being a woman and working hard, here is how I've learned that. I was raised in the former Soviet Union, Russia, where women were expected to work hard and work they did.

My mom often worked two jobs just to make ends meet, despite the fact that she was a college graduate — an English major of all things — but never as an entrepreneur because entrepreneurship didn't exist back then in Russia.

My mom never saw her work as a hardship despite the fact that it wasn't paid that well by the Soviet government. There was a lot of pride and personal satisfaction in work well done and a lot of respect from her students (who were in essence her clients, if that would be her business).

So that's how by watching my mom and growing around of all the hard working women and men of my parents' generation back in Russia, that's how I've learned to enjoy doing some challenging and mentally stimulating work…. or maybe… maybe… it's just in my genes ;)

irina Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 12:51 PM PT

Great article and I, too, appreciated Vivek's fact-filled article. I'm a woman CEO with a 16 year old daughter who left me this heartfelt note on Friday: "I'm so proud of you. I grew up under your desk (she played there for years in my first start up) and I'm so thankful for that because now I know what business is. Having a job isn't about your salary or your hours — it's about what you can do to make your company successful as a whole. I also know that if your part breaks, the whole thing can fail. I'm lucky to have you and so is [your company]."

My job takes a ton of time and effort which she's clearly seen and which certainly took time away from her, but I've also had the opportunity to include her in it my adult life and company building. After she outgrew playing under my desk, I told her all about my business meetings, product and market ideas, venture financing, board meetings, employee and customer issues, and took her on business trips all over the world. You'd be amazed how her 6th grade conflict resolution training for playground monitor applied to office and board behavior too! One of the best things I did was introduce her to the young women working at my companies — they were her "village". I feel that she's wiser and deeper for these experiences.

Sramana, you're right that the personal path is the only true path. Perhaps even more true if you're really an entrepreneur — by nature, you'll create your own path and iterate continuously to optimize for the circumstances and constraints you face over time.

mychoice Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 12:58 PM PT

[…] This is a great overview of what various different women said about their diverse experiences. Source […]

Women’s choices regarding career and entrepreneurship | Smash Company Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 1:29 PM PT

Irina,

Interesting point. I am also good with certain types of kids, not all. I don't have patience with brats. But if my children were brats, I would not quite have the choice not to engage, right?

In America, parents are beholden to children in a way that I find extremely annoying. Kids seem to call the shots on what the adults will be doing.
Parents have to attend every soccer game, every concert – regardless of their own priorities, otherwise kids feel abandoned. Again, this is a type of peer pressure
that the soccer moms have created by suffusing children with their over-abundant attention.

I did not grow up this way, and I imagine you didn't either. My parents rarely came to my athletic events. They came to some of my concerts. But I did not feel abandoned or any of that nonsense.

My father was an entrepreneur, and I was very comfortable with the fact that he had better things to do than attend all my insignificant activities.

In any case, again, these are all choices that people make.

You and I have made the choice not to have children and focus elsewhere.

sramana Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 1:29 PM PT

Yes, I too had that experience growing up of being very much around and in the office of my parents who had a business together. I think it breeds a different sort of value system.

sramana Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 1:32 PM PT

[…] Interesting: As for my own personal experience, I have chosen not to have children. I like the freedom and control I have over my time. My husband and I love to travel, we share a variety of other passions including the arts, cuisine, and culture. I am balancing an entrepreneurial career, a writing career, and I still make time to dance, something that has remained important to me throughout my life. […]

Not having kids | Smash Company Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 3:01 PM PT

Sramana,

This interesting post discusses issues I think about often. I am grateful because I was raised by parents who were a stable presence but not overly involved in their children's daily schedules. My mother was a teacher, a job she loved and felt was her calling. It also happened to be a job that combined more easily with raising kids than some other jobs. She did other work, such as private tutoring and working at a grocery store during vacations, but her schedule enabled her to go back to work soon after having children. She, too, made trade-offs. For example, she put off going back to school to get a master's in math education, which was her ultimate goal and something that she did not live to do. From my conversations with her, though, I know that she was happy with her choices and her life. As you point out, it's a personal choice. And if a woman can say that she is happy with her choices, that's a good thing.

But it's an overgeneralization to say "In America, parents are X . . ." or "In America, children are X . . ." I have found that wherever one goes, there are parents who spoil their children or are too involved in their children's lives, and there are children who have unreasonable expectations of their parents. It is certainly not unique to the United States, perhaps especially not for families in more modest circumstances where staying at home with the kids is not an option. I think the important thing is to be good role model for kids by living full lives, which we can see from your interviews and other work on this issue is something that many women in the United States, whatever their nationality, are doing.

Melanie Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 6:11 PM PT

You are right, Melanie. There are many parents everywhere who spoil their kids and are over attentive. And there are many kids everywhere, including in America, who are good role models, and raise children with the right expectations and the right discipline.

Thanks for calling me on this.

sramana Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 7:29 PM PT

As one great Indian yogi puts it, humans have certain needs – Social, Emotional, Economical and Physical. Each human need to decide if any of them are just passing needs that you don't need in the long-run. If you really need them, then marriage and raising children matters.

Dhana Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 7:53 PM PT

Entrepreneurship is in fact getting a huge boost from mothers who want to balance their work and personal life. These are women who want everything in life and have the patience and the determination to make it work. I know a lot of women who work from home and also take care of their kids. Some venture out into businesses that are close to what they always wanted do like dancing, fitness, yoga, food etc. They have taken breaks to raise children and moved back into the business world as easily. They utilize these breaks to understand what they really want to do, learn something new and do something new. You get immense satisfaction when your startup grows up into a big business. A baby is just like a startup, you raise it the right way, it will give you immense pleasure…and reliving your childhood through your baby really completes you. You understand yourself better. I know quite a few women who have decided not to have babies but find them to be great stress busters. I also love travelling and I have traveled more after I had my baby. There is no reason why babies should stop you from doing what you really want to do. For some time, they sure do but that phase ends sooner than you know. There was a time when I used to tell my married friends that they should put off having babies for as long as they can but now I don't. It is an extremely enjoyable and satisfying experience. By raising a good human being also, you contribute to the society. The set of values that you pass on is of immense value to this society.

Jyotsna Popuri Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 7:54 PM PT

Jyo,

You are absolutely right that entrepreneurship is a good way for women to get back to a professional life after taking time off to have children and raise them through the early years.

As for adding value to society, there are many ways of doing that. Children is just one of them, and those who raise good human beings certainly do contribute to society by doing so.

My point is, society is full of habits and stereotypes, and few people have the internal conviction and courage to oppose those habits and expectations.

And with all due respect, I am not sure you understand the challenges of entrepreneurs playing in the league that I play in.

sramana Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:04 PM PT

This comment doesn't seem to have much logic to it. Yes, there are multi-dimensional needs that human beings have. Social, Emotional, Economic, Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual, Artistic … but I don't understand how that leads to the conclusion that marriage and children matters. If somebody doesn't want to be married, she should be free not to be married.

Swami Vivekananda wasn't married. Nor did he have children. Sri Ramakrishna was married, but didn't have children. These great yogis must have been clueless if we were to follow your logic here!

sramana Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:10 PM PT

I am not saying human should marry or not. Its definitely a personal decision. I don't know much about the western world, but at least in India, people get married and raise children, just for the sake of it. And when you ask 'why did you marry' – they don't have any clue. On the other end of the spectrum, people refrain from marriage, only to be found lonely (emotional) and start yearning , and thus marry late and raise kids. All I am saying is, marriage serves certain human needs. I am all for freedom of choice. People should just realize what marriage offers to a human, and choose what they want out of their lives.

Women, atleast in India, until 50 yrs ago, got married for several needs, 2 major reasons – social and economical. Society didn't accept an unmarried women or women without kids, and they didn't have the means to make a living and have to depend on someone (husband). These 2 don't need anymore.

Dhana Monday, October 11, 2010 at 3:23 AM PT

This is a fantastic discussion – I struggle with this everyday. I think you have to define 'succeed'. I am tired of the definitions of perfection that are attuned to both entrepreneurship and motherhood. One of the reasons american children are so unbalanced is that their parents fear of failing at parenting, as at everything else, has pushed parents to do things that are unhealthy and unbalanced, from breastfeeding to playdates. I think there has to be a new norm, and it has to be a norm that defines success and balance differently. Do my children get as much time as me if I was a stay at home mom? No. Do they get a better picture of the world, a view of work ethic, a glimpse of a competive and can-do spirit? Yes. Time is relative. I would much rather they remember me as someone who was engaged in the world as someone who was 'always around'. The idea that working and being a parent always affords only a negative choice is incorrect – it's just another choice.

judy schmitz Monday, October 11, 2010 at 3:44 AM PT

I am a man, so I have zero expertise on the topic. However, it is sometimes easier for an outsider to provide a different perspective.
The notion of "complete woman" is a myth. It is an emotional catch phrase that people use without really thinking about it.
If one defines "complete" as a well rounded having experience and expertise in all facets, then everyone is incomplete; man included.
We all specialize, in areas that interest us or those we put deliberate effort to pursue. Even then our skill level may be just mediocre. What is important is you try hard to pursue your dreams, results are secondary.

Mukul Mehta Monday, October 11, 2010 at 6:48 AM PT

Hi Sramana,____You have brought forth the arguement in the best possible manner. I myself am writing on Women Entrepreneurs. Till now i have interviewed around 10 women entrepreneurs who are very much married [first marriages have survived!], 8 out of 10 have children AND are running their start-ups too. So, taking the arguement 'that you cannot be an entrepreneur and bear and raise children, have a successful relationship, and have a balanced life' sounds weak. I invite all the readers here to read interviews of these budding women entrepreneurs, who are juggling and balancing many responsibilities at the same time. http://accentors.blogspot.com____

v_mridula Monday, October 11, 2010 at 8:49 AM PT

I agree with you that human beings are essentially not programmed to be alone, and being with someone generally makes people happier.

I gave you the example of Vivekananda because some people do make unorthodox choices because they have a different vision of life than normal.

And since we're having this discussion in the context of entrepreneurship, we need to include this sort of exceptional choices, since entrepreneurs tend to be somewhat different thinkers than normal people. They tend to be more unorthodox.

sramana Monday, October 11, 2010 at 8:51 AM PT

Completely agreed. We specialize and we make decisions about how we define success. Those decisions are what determine the vital equation of happiness.

sramana Monday, October 11, 2010 at 10:12 AM PT

Mridula, You bring an interesting perspective from India where (a) marriages survive more often (b) the extended family support network is much stronger. Besides, the service network (cooks, nannies, maids) is more affordable. All that makes for an even more conducive environment for women to thrive as entrepreneurs while also raising children.

sramana Monday, October 11, 2010 at 10:15 AM PT

The post, the video, your voice! Thank you for this. Especially the last 30 seconds of the Women 2 interview. You're absolutely spot on. Passed it along on Twitter (@gwenbell). My hope is that many women and men make their way over today to read what I believe will be a resource, in months and years to come, to other entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-to-be.

gwenbell Monday, October 11, 2010 at 10:25 AM PT

Thank you Gwen, for your very kind words. Look forward to working with you further.

sramana Monday, October 11, 2010 at 10:52 AM PT

Sramana, THANK YOU!!!! Fantastic wisdom and perspective, very refreshing to hear!!

Deborah Turton Monday, October 11, 2010 at 12:13 PM PT

Sramana,

Excellent article! I believe choice and balance are 2 very important ingredients to live a happy life. What to choose and how to balance are personal decisions. I’m so happy that you have made a choice to comment on this issue and provided a well-balanced view. Thank you!

Lishan Monday, October 11, 2010 at 2:16 PM PT

[…] run lifestyle businesses makes women averse to running startups. This is an accurate description of some women: they just aren’t cut out for the rough-and-tumble world of entrepreneurship—which requires […]

Men and women entrepreneurs: Not that different « The Berkeley Blog Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 10:52 AM PT

Thanks Sramana — a very thoughtful essay as always! I have wondered a bit about the difference between a "working mom" and an "entrepreneur mom." Perhaps it is this: that "work" can be (but need not be) deadening. By contrast, another definition of "entrepreneurship" might be "passionate work." I think it's fantastic for kids to see their parents — either one, or both! — engaged in work that inspires them, & that they love. By contrast, kids whose parents see their "work" as a deadend often wind up feeling the same way. So work with passion, moms — just remember to define an "end to the day," too by turning off the cell phone and blackberry and being present for your kids.

elizabeth Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 8:16 PM PT

Very true.

The other danger is: “I don’t have time for my kids, so I need to buy them stuff.” This is a common syndrome we see often in women entrepreneurs / women in high powered jobs trying to juggle.

Another one is that the child-rearing is entirely outsourced. Full-time, live-in nanny raises the kids. Not particularly healthy.

Sramana Mitra Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 9:42 PM PT

To be honest, I don't understand how mother's can possibly find time to work for someone else, under someone else's schedule. My husband and I are both entrepreneurs, and feel so lucky every day that we are able to set our own schedules so that we can attempt to find balance and not lose ourselves. I think part of balancing and feeling like you "have it all" is a mental shift. For us, 'having it all" is a lot about freedom and flexibly of our time, rather than upgrading to a fancier car or buying designer clothes. I wrote an article about this when the recession first hit (http://thenewamericandream.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/how-the-recession-helped-my-family/) , and was also featured on ABC Primetime's 20/20 series on "how the recession, and simplifying life helped our family. If you'd like to check it out the ABC special, click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeDICQUaDSo

Holly Berkley Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:14 AM PT

Hi.. You asked in HARO so I'm writing…..

I am a very busy mom who became an 'unexpected entrepreneur' last year — I was chronically exhausted in menopause with 2 sassy teens! I was a WMD….I found sleepwear called Goodnighties that changed my life. It is a simple solution to help women sleep better! I cold called the company with ideas to help other women-now today- I am in charge of Marketing and we have shipped Goodnighties to all 50 states and 6 foreign countries (in just 7 months) … we are helping women everywhere! this sleepwear is a miracle for women with not only nightsweats (like I had) but women with serious chronic pain issues like fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic fatigue and other problems.
Can't say that I "have it all", but it sure is rewarding to be able to help people (as evident by all the great reviews, notes and calls that we receive from happy customers) http://www.goodnighties.com check it out!
Sarah Baldwin
VP Marketing – Goodnighties
Highland Park, IL
847.341.0459

sarah baldwin Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:16 AM PT

Great post. Each woman has to make her own choices and then live with them. I had two businesses which I gave up to move across country – my choice. I have been single for the last 15 years and I can do as I please, realizing of course that I have to live with the consequences of my choices. : )

Starting over as a grandmother has not been an easy road. I am now writing more, working on rebuilding a life that is different than what I had with the businesses. When I had my own business I worked it around my time with my grandchildren, which was great.

But now I want to give back more to the community through my writing and teaching/speaking.

Deb Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:21 AM PT

Hi Sramana — I’d be pleased to connect you with Tina Young, president and founder of marketing and PR firm MarketWave (www.marketwave.biz) on this topic. Tina has run her company for 12 years and built it into an Inc. 5000 firm with clients ranging from Sprint and TXU Energy to Pizza Hut and MADD. She beat the recession and found record revenue, but Tina hasn’t let business success get in the way of her top job: mom. It’s not unusual to find her volunteering at her daughter’s school library or serving as homeroom mom.

Tina has turned this into a business advantage, making work-life flexibility options available to her employees, and attracted some great industry veterans in the process. Please feel free to contact me if you’d like to speak with her to learn more about her Entrepreneur Journey!

M. Syphrett Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:22 AM PT

"Can you do it all?" That is a difficult question to answer, mainly because the word "all" has different meanings for every person. To me, the answer is "yes". Does that mean that I don't have to make difficult choices or sacrifices? No.

I just launched my first "start up" this week, a website called YourBabyBooty.com (we help expectant parents figure out what they really need to register for). Had I not become a mother 17 months ago, I wouldn't have gone down this particular path- a wonderful gift of Providence. Being a mother has been an incredible experience, creating something to help other mothers has been amazing as well.

For me, the key in "doing it all" is to have an amazing Partner. Whether that person is a spouse or a business partner, it's crucial to have another set of eyes and ears to get it all done. I am so thankful for my husband whose roll in YourBabyBooty is business development. He also watches our son in the afternoons, so I can go to the office and work (I watch our son in the mornings so he can focus on work). We are incredibly blessed that we can literally share the privileges and responsibilities of family and running a business. As with any person, dedicated to furthering their career (either as an entrepreneur or not), there are choices to be made: times when you can't take Junior to a play group, or have the house looking spotless, or make the perfect meal, or chat with friends whenever, or take a spur of the moment trip. I don't see these things as sacrifices really, it's part of accomplishing my/our dream. And I gladly do it.

Sarah B. Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:23 AM PT

As a working woman first and foremost, and a writer by heart (advertising by trade), once I had children I found that starting my own company was actually the only way to find that balance. Working full-time for a big corporation can fill a mother full of resentment and guilt for not being able to be where her heart is, and often that place is at home.
I started my own advertising agency with my husband, and that helps. We get to set our own schedules and show up for the kids at the same time.

Swizzle Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:28 AM PT

As a single mother of a 2 yr old and the founder of a 19 yr old national corporate concierge service, I struggle with the balance every day. I admit that I am better at it some days than others, but I firmly believe that being true to myself is the best I can do for my daughter. In an Upscale Magazine article from 2009, I talk about pumping at work, spit up on my shoes and returning to my laptop between night time feedings. Horrible for many, but it is the life that I chose. I also chose to put off having chlidren until I was 41 for the very reasons we all know so well. So, my company was more established and I was ready to give so completely to my child.

andrea arena Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:33 AM PT

I am a woman, mother of four young adults and entreprenuer. We can have it all but feel its also about seasons. No one said it all has to happen at once. I have been fully engaged and devoted as mother, but always found a way to dabble and develop businesses, even when my children were young. I began an education business between my thrid and fourth child, and allowed the balance I desired between family and work life to dictate business growth.
When our first born graduated high school, we franchised our business. We expanded significantly internationally, and continue to enjoy unusually close relationships with all of our children. We recently celebrated 35 years of marriage and enjoy each other even more than when we were first married. Our franchise also attracts women that want to use their work and career skils, but find a balance of life that allows them time for family.

Bette fetter Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:52 AM PT

me again…or still…..
Women can have it all, but its about prioritizing and making choices about when and how much and about values. My children have grown me as a human being in ways I could not have lived without. My businesses have enriched my mind and developed my skills, allowing me to contribute to the world (after the gift of my children). and my husband has loved me, honored my abilities and encouraged me to be all God planned me to be, while I did the same for him.

It has been a wonderful journey and we have even more to do, and I have the pleasure of doing it with the people that matter most to me. and no regrets…. pure delight.

B

Bette fetter Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:53 AM PT

Great article and I too saw the one from Penelope Trunk that I entirely disagreed with. While I don't have a family to contend with I do attempt to run my business from around the world as a Suitcase Entrepreneur and blog about creative ways to run your business from anywhere.

I'm particularly enamoured with using online tools, social media and outsourcing to do this. I believe women can have it all but we need to define what `all is'. I would far prefer to outsource elements of my business to someone much more talented than I who could do it in 1/4 of the time then attempting to be a wonderwoman.

As a feminist I see too many women, including myself trying to be everyone and anyone to all people. We also give ourselves too much of a hard time when we don't meet our goals or achieve all that we hoped for. I think this is one of the biggest strengths and at the same time weaknesses we possess.

Until we learn to master the power of focus on what matters most – our health, our relationships and our legacy we will continue to run businesses that will not scale or be as successful as they could be.

Natalie

Natalie Friday, January 14, 2011 at 11:11 AM PT

Can you live with only 4 hours of sleep? I am a small business owner, mother of a 5 month old, and very involved in the community. I own Columbia, SC’s only men’s magazine, and if owning a men’s magazine wasn’t enough, like I said SC…
Yes, it is possible to do it all. You just have to organize and delegate your life just as you do your company. I have a babysitter for when I have to meet clients and I have 7 interns from different fields (advertising, graphic design, PR, and management).
Having interns lightens the load and interns give me more time to work on the business. Having the babysitter alleviates me from wearing milk on my suits. Having a husband reminds me to try to keep things balanced. The upside of having it all is that I get to own my own company and be my own boss. The downside is I work out of my home, so technically I never leave work.

Giovanna Friday, January 14, 2011 at 11:27 AM PT

Busy moms have a lot in common with circus performers. We have to juggle many balls in the air – and we worry that it’s all going to come crashing down at any moment! Additionally, we strive to perfect our balancing act, some days feeling more surefooted than others. Add some crying babies, toddlers melting down and kids needing help with homework, rides to soccer practice, a Band Aid or a snack, and your life often feels like a three-ring circus!

Many moms are looking for that “perfect” balance between family, chores, work, “me time” and time with their partner and friends. But since there are only 24 hours in a day, how are we supposed to fit it all in?

Rely on a nanny for help with childcare, shuttling kids to school and other activities, as well as errands and housework. Delegate some responsibilities so you can spend your limited time on things you want to do – like playing with your kids.

Candi Friday, January 14, 2011 at 11:46 AM PT

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Our inclination as mothers is to care for our children, husband, friends and colleagues…which leaves no time to take care of ourselves! Eat right, exercise, get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water. When you feel good, you’ll be better equipped to deal with your hectic schedule. And when you’re not feeling your best, you’re much more likely to feel overwhelmed.
Say “no” to the less important things. Sure, it would be nice to have a spotless house, be the president of the PTA, bake homemade bread, volunteer at the local hospital, get a raise and promotion at work, and spend time helping in your child’s classroom. But, of course, it’s not realistic to accomplish all of these things. Decide what’s most important and do that. Delegate what you can to a nanny or a spouse. And don’t worry about the rest.
We’re all looking for balance in our lives, which is often challenging to achieve…

Candi Friday, January 14, 2011 at 11:48 AM PT

Some degree of nanny help is good, but I don't think you raise good kids by outsourcing the entire child rearing to nannies. There is a fine balance between a kid being your kid versus a nanny's kid.

Sramana Mitra Friday, January 14, 2011 at 12:15 PM PT

I own and run an online jewellery business Oye Modern http://www.oyemodern.com.
I also have 3 children, twins aged 2 and the eldest just turned 4. Oye Modern is 3 years old, I started the business after the birth of my first child. I love my family intensely in ways that are hard to describe. My kids and my husband are my life, I adore them and they make me wonderfully happy.
My business is my passion and my everest. It's mine, I love every aspect of it, and it challenges me every day. Having a business and a family helps me understand how the world works and why. There are two things that make the world go around, economics and personal relationships.
The last 4 years of my life have undoubtedly been the hardest. But also the best and most rewarding. Because I am happy, my family is happy and my business is thriving.
Yes you can do it all if you equally love your business and personal life, and one does not overwhelm the other. Balance is the key.

Jeni Oye Friday, January 14, 2011 at 2:00 PM PT

It's definitely a challenge to run a business and be a stay at home mom. I make sure that my work is not interfering with my family life. My work never goes away because I run an online e-commerce business, paperfancy.com.
I love the gift and paper industry and wouldn't want to do anything else.
Thanks for the post! http://www.paperfancy.com
paper + gifts for the modern paper lover!
Karen Bullard

Karen Friday, January 14, 2011 at 2:07 PM PT

Enjoyable read! I am on the side of "be your authentic self" finding what works for you is the key- not what works for an idea someone else has for you (not a family member and especially not a stranger!) It infuriates me when people put their child bearing opinions on others!

I am an entrepreneur, founder of a children's educational app development company SmartyShortz LLC (www.smartyshortz.com) – 12 employees and a writer, fashion column: Jackets&Jill (www.MomsToWork.com), happily married to an IT guy whom has been with a few successful startups and mother to 2 girls (4&8). I work from a home office most days and have for 8 years. Yes some days it simply doesn't work-and something gives, some nights we are up till 2am working, some nights up at 2am because of a kid but most days it works because we want it to! I am a very organized, energetic person who thrives on balancing acts…the key: there is no key, it just works for us, it's OUR KEY!

HINT We keep true to our authentic selves by still traveling a lot (sometimes with kids sometimes without), taking time for dates and finding comedy in some days chaos…and lots of good wine!

jacketsandjill Friday, January 14, 2011 at 2:17 PM PT

Women Entrepreneurs

I am a Mom, a Wife, a business woman, an entrepreneur.

I am a Mom to Scout, our 4.5 year old daughter with a non-stop, playful and wild demeanor and Sawyer, our 18-month old son who goes with the flow and has dimples worthy of springtime planting. We are blessed.

I am luckily married to a patient, loving and kind-hearted gentleman for 8 years. He is my rock. I am the one who changes his pace weather he likes it, or not.
I ventured into independent consulting in 2005 through 2010 in marketing and public relations, and that is what geared me up for my next entrepreneurial venture.

In the spring of 2010, I launched Daily Deals for Moms ,http://www.dailydealsformoms.com I don’t need a deal on sky diving or fancy limo rides; I want deals on purchases that make sense for my family. I saw that Moms were being left out by big conglomerate deal sites. Notably, moms hold the purse strings; responsible for over 4 trillion in annual spending. It was very clear to me what I needed to do; fill a very powerful niche market.

oCOMPANY: Daily Deals for Moms
oINDUSTRY: Social Couponing/Marketing/Advertising
oFOUNDERS: 2 Founders
oSTAFF: 2 Full Time Independent Contractors
oFINANCIALS: Unavailable

You can call it juggling, no doubt about it, really clever circus management. Building, managing and running a successful company and household is no easy feat. In fact, just this week, I burned my nipple cooking dinner and accidentally steam cleaned our carpet with DRANO.

The grind is tough. But you already knew that. And, I believe it is totally manageable, with sanity intact, I’m not sure and I am not saying it is always graceful, or ever graceful, for that matter.
I don’t believe that we can DO IT ALL, ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, work does suffer, time with my kids gets cut short. My marriage is always last. Oh, wait, second to last. I am usually last on the list of people or things to take care of.

My husband and I are good friends right now and we are both really comfortable with this. I am his biggest fan as he is mine. We love and respect one another so deeply. Passion is something we have to work our way toward. We still aren’t sleeping through the night –Baby steps.

I wouldn’t trade a moment of it. I understand that everything, no matter what, has an ebb and flow.

It is an extremely exciting time to be in the social couponing industry, especially the niche target I have chosen. It is an exciting time to be a woman; we have so many opportunities and to live the life that we choose for ourselves. I want this for me. I want this for my daughter. CHOICE and OPPORTUNITY.

So I juggle kids and an exciting venture, my lovely husband. I do my best. I give it my best. I do, every day. Some days are better than others. Some nights I pour my wine full to the brim. Some evenings I take to yoga. Some nights, I don’t sleep at all and my face is beginning to show a lot of character; and I am thankful.

With Gratitude,
Ashley E. Kingsley
Chief Executive Mom
@dailydeals4moms

SEE OUR NATIONAL PRESS: http://ow.ly/3EgnO

Ashley E. Kingsley Friday, January 14, 2011 at 7:47 PM PT

I hope that you and I can connect soon. I have often caught myself saying, I need to connect with Gwen. Been among the sphere for awhile, would love to buy you a martini.

Ashley @AshleyKingsley

Ashley E. Kingsley Friday, January 14, 2011 at 8:57 PM PT

Hi Sramana

Thank you for writing this interesting blog on your perspective as a female entrepreneur. There were a lot of points that resonated with me as I read.

I am an entrepreneur as well as a mother to two boys under school age. Initially my business was conducted around them but for the past 18 months I have worked full time as my husband looked after our boys. This arrangement works for our family because my husband wanted to spend more time with our children, I wanted to grow my business and we both wanted to start a hazelnut farm (we're currently looking for suitable properties).

In all of this there isn't a lot of time for me, however I am trying to address this by making time to read, spending family time together at weekends and set up a business in the hazelnut farm where we can live and thrive.

My business, Strawberry Communications (www.strawberrycommunications.com.au), is a writing and public relations consultancy run by me from a home office. I contract work to a PR consultant, virtual assistant and bookkeeper to ensure business productivity.

I look forward to hearing more about your entrepreneurial journey.

Johanna

Johanna Baker-D Sunday, January 16, 2011 at 11:00 PM PT

I think that women in the world today are still trying to answer the question of what is most important in life. I find it interesting that me and my four sisters are all entrepreneurs, and three of them are also stay at home mums who homeschool their children. They are phenomenal women and embody the sacrificial nature that sometimes gets a bit lost these days. I believe we should use the gifts and talents we've been given and not waste them, but it's also possible to raise children to be wise, godly, entrepreneurial people who impact the world around them for good.

I've always desired that for myself, but it hasn't happened, so in the meantime I have become the managing director of a European consulting company and started my own photography business at the same time. And whilst those are very important to me, and have become a great part of my life and enhanced me creatively, I have also invested in the life of young girls in my church. Having done all of this for over ten years, I have found that investing in childrens' lives is by far the most rewarding, encouraging, and worthwhile in the long term work that I can do.

Karen Monday, January 17, 2011 at 3:28 AM PT

I work as an associate for a woman named Brooke who can truly expound on the challenges and rewards of "doing it all!" At only 32 years old, she has her own law firm with a couple associates and a dedicated office manager, Maggie, who also happens to be her romantic partner. These two women lead a successful law practice AND co-parent Maggie's two teenagers from her first marriage.

I think that as a woman who is only 32 years old, Brooke has taken on a everything women AND men are expected to nail down — success in her field, a relationship, a family. Brooke's incredible work as a criminal defense attorney is on display in the Sundance Channel's series, Brick City, which airs Sunday, January 30th at 8pm.

As her co-worker, I am in awe of Brooke's seemingly boundless devotion for everything she loves. It is difficult when two things come into conflict for attention: When an attempted homicide trial approaches, someone's life is on the line; every waking hour is devoted to preparation. But kids and partners still need you, want to be with you.

If you would like to learn more about how Brooke, please let me know.

liz@bbarnettlaw.com

Liz Monday, January 17, 2011 at 10:34 AM PT

This is a wonderful article on a very polarized topic.

As an entrepreneur and the CEO of a woman-centric company that I founded after a mid-life divorce, this is a subject very near and dear to my heart. Having had two very successful professional careers prior to marriage and motherhood, I became a full-time stay-at-home mom by necessity for 15 years, providing care for one of my children who had serious medical challenges from birth. Because I had very little emotional or physical support, this situation pre-empted my ability to devote any time to myself or my career, and had disastrous implications for me as a woman and single parent.

Some time ago I interviewed about 40 women and men for a book I am writing on this very subject. These were all people who had become full-time stay-at-home parents for a variety of reasons, often at great personal and financial sacrifice. Most of them had gone through a divorce at some point during their role of primary caregiver.

I learned many things from these interviews, among them that:
1.There is no more important job function than raising the next generation to inherit the earth, and the vocation should be treated with respect
2.There are serious disadvantages to being a full time mom, and women who devote themselves exclusively to childrearing definitely have a harder time finding employment when the need arises, than do their male counterparts
3.Unless they had somehow managed to keep their skill sets fresh and current through volunteer work or part-time employment, women are much more likely than men are to fall below the poverty line as single parents after a divorce, widowhood or significant illness
4.Ageism and gender-bias are alive and well in the business world despite what the media would have us believe
5.If they had the chance to do it all again, most of the women interviewed would have maintained a professional presence outside of the home at least part-time

I also feel that it is virtually impossible for a woman to do everything equally well simultaneously, given the constraints on her time and her physical and emotional energies. While it is not true that all stay-at-home parents lose their intellectual and social abilities, they definitely do need to make a consistent effort to maintain their individuality and adult interests, and separate themselves from their role as mothers and caregivers.

Having said that, given the economy and the alarmingly high divorce rate, I believe that the era of full-time motherhood is essentially over unless you are independently wealthy, never in danger of losing your financial assets (even in the face of divorce, widowhood or debilitating illness), and can guarantee that you will never ever need to resort to working for sustenance. As far as I’m concerned, the death of the privilege of raising your children full-time is very sad indeed, and right up there along with the disappointing news that happily ever after is not a given, and the existence of the Easter bunny and real magic are both bogus.

In spite of what you might think, I am still an optimist and do not think that having a career and being a mother need be mutually exclusive. I believe that women can juggle both…the key word being “juggle”, which means that she will constantly be re-focusing and shifting her time and energies to each of the hats she wears as necessary. This requires giving up the need to do everything perfectly, maintaining control, learning to compromise, and accepting a de facto level of fatigue during the child raising years. Equally important is the need to develop a good support system: this is critical in order to maintain one’s health and sanity in the face of all the crises that are a normal part of our daily lives.

Most importantly, whether one chooses to have children, devote ones’ self entirely to a career, or divide our attentions between the two, as women we all need to remember that this is ultimately a personal choice, and the decision should be never be subject to criticism or judgment. There but for the grace of God go I…

May we all have the strength to deal with the paths we have chosen, and the ability to enjoy them fully.

Sharon Gnatt Epel Monday, January 17, 2011 at 1:01 PM PT

Good read! After 14 years of working for someone else, I am beginning the entrepreneurial phase of my career.

I am 2 weeks into working on a handful of sites that my husband has built over the last few months. The extra time with the kids and calmer life have been great so far. However, I am definitely in the transition phase of sorting through all the mixed feelings — worrying about stepping off the traditional career path, missing a paycheck, yet loving the freedom and excited about the opportunity.

Thanks for the post and all the inspirational comments from other entrepreneurs!

Mandy Monday, January 17, 2011 at 1:44 PM PT

I founded a marketing & PR agency after I was laid off from a high-tech PR firm after 9-1-1. I was a divorced parent with a 13-year-old daughter and had just bought my first home. As a gal who’d never been unemployed, I was unable to find a job. I discovered that I didn't want to go back to work for someone else, so I focused my time on starting my agency. I took nothing from my old job: not a work sample, media contact, or sales prospect list. I did arm myself with the experience and support of talented colleagues who were also either unemployed or looking to forge careers on their own terms. I took up mountain biking with my then-boyfriend, successfully co-parented my daughter with my ex, stayed involved in my daughter’s school and personal life, cooked breakfast and dinner daily and made my daughter’s lunches all the way through her senior year.

Ruth Danielson Monday, January 17, 2011 at 4:17 PM PT

continued…Mulberry Street has served over 50 clients, among them Microsoft, Toyota Financial Services, Bostitch, the Hewlett Foundation, Better Place, and dozens of others in every industry you can name. We've won awards for most family-friendly company, best place to work, coolest office space, & others. In addition to keeping up meaningful relationships, I have remained an active community volunteer, am physically active, enjoy frequent travel and have at times maintained two homes with pets. Yes, girls…you can do it all – and you should!

Ruth Danielson Monday, January 17, 2011 at 4:17 PM PT

There is no single answer to this question: it's a matter of choice. For some women, motherhood most fulfilling; for others, adult interaction and a career are necessities. And for others…we do want it all! –continued

Ruth_Danielson Monday, January 17, 2011 at 10:59 PM PT

..continued
I founded a marketing & PR agency after I was laid off from a high-tech PR firm following 9/11. I was a divorced mom with a 13 y/o daughter and had just bought my first home. I didn't want to go back to work for someone else, so I focused on establishing and promoting my agency. I packed my life with everything that I was passionate about: mountain biking, co-parenting my daughter, maintaining relationhips with friends, family and my romantic partner. My daughter and I ate home-cooked meals every day; I made her school lunches all the way through her senior year.

My agency, Mulberry Street Market Intelligence has served over 50 clients including Microsoft, Toyota Financial Services, Bostitch, the Hewlett Foundation, Better Place, and dozens of others in every industry you can name. We've won multiple "best place to work" awards. I remain an active community volunteer, am physically active, enjoy frequent tracel, writing and make lots of quiet time for myself. Yes, gals, we can and should do it all – but we each have to define what "all" means to us!

Ruth_Danielson Monday, January 17, 2011 at 10:59 PM PT

My road toward achieving professional and personal success is one that many would classify as “less traveled”. My life has consisted of founding and running a marketing company in the fiercely competitive tech industry for the past 16 years with nearly 20 employees, that recently weathered and emerged stronger after a tough recession, being Mom to four children between the ages of 8 and 16 (until recently, as a single Mom), and caring for my elderly mother as a resident in our home. The combination of these elements are what drive me forward, keep me thinking one step ahead, and are what I use to define success and derive happiness.

It was never a conscious decision to do one or the other, being a mom and an entrepreneur is who I am. The independence associated with being an entrepreneur provides me with the flexibility I need to support the chaotic needs of a busy household. From which, I’m able to draw strength and gain clarity on what my goals are. I’ve made my share of mistakes and had enough successes to be happy. Happiness to me is ending a day that includes more smiles than frowns, connecting with people in a meaningful way, and eating dinner with my family. I encourage my older kids to come in and help our business by running errands and interacting with our team on a professional level. Their learning in a work environment is exciting and I get to watch as they honestly earn a paycheck from a hard-driving “mom” boss. That same Mom is the one who can still be silly, give them competition on the tennis court, and lend an ear at the end of the day. I know at the deepest level that this unique (and sometimes hectic) lifestyle choice as a mother and an entrepreneur is right for me and for my family – and there’s no greater validation than that.

My advice to other young professionals (men and women) is to do what you love – and life will be amazing. I explain to anyone conflicted about their dual roles that fulfillment is both helping your child learn to read and helping a client navigate the difficult roads to success. Success is defined uniquely and only by each individual. If I can pass on one thing, it would be this: you can do it all. The “do it all” mantra means surviving everyday life challenges, summoning the energy to pursue your dreams and above all, appreciating and learning from the successes (no matter how small) and failures (however big they may seem) along the way.

Susan Thomas Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 8:48 AM PT

I also saw your pitch at HARO and of course I am writing because I am a woman and an entrepreneur. I am running a start-up adventure travel business called LittlePo Adventures (http://www.littlepo.com), which take people to enjoy the outdoors and cultures in China and Taiwan. I personally don't feel it's that different to be a woman even though I seem to be in a man-dominating community for the most part: first computer engineering, then mountaineering and rock climbing. However, I do have an intense relationship with my mom. My mom is a typical "Chinese Mom" (the definition of this term can be well described in Amy Chua's new book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." And from my mom's point of view, an outdoor career is not a real job and what I am doing is not a woman should do. Soon after I launched my business my mom wanted me to quit and find a more stable job especially I have a PhD in computer science. Finally we both settled and I promised her that if I can't make some amount of revenue and then I'll give up my outdoor pursuit and not be an entrepreneur anymore. That was very a very stressful experience for me. I love my mom dearly; however, I minimize my contact with her. I know that I am escaping from reality but I haven't figured out a better way.

Luckily my friends and colleague and other family members are fairly supportive and I do enjoy what I am doing. The participants of the trips I guide all say positive things about the company. I feel that I'm really living my life!

Szu-ting Yi Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 3:12 PM PT

I am a mom of twins and sole founder of http://www.Swayable.com a web and iphone application startup to give and get opinions online or on the go. I also co-own a Marketing Project Management company. it's challenging managing all of the roles I play (Mom, Wife, Business partner, Sole Founder) however I wouldn't have it any other day. Being an entrepreneur isn't something I chose, it's part of who I am and is ingrained in me.

Lindsey Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 3:38 PM PT

Balance? Pshaw.
I am a divorced, single mother of 3 boys, ages 8 to 15. After my divorce, I went back to school and now run a private therapy practice and teach parenting classes. One day, I was lamenting to my parenting mentor that I didn't feel balanced… I felt like I could never feel caught up with anything. She quietly, warmly looked me and asked, "Kerry, is that a reasonable expectation?" I laughed. No, actually, it's probably not reasonable to think that I can parent well, run a business, run a household, have family and friends, keep my mind and body healthy, AND feel relaxed and "caught up." Oh, and shall we throw dating in there as well? And a nice yard? And holidays and birthdays?

Now, instead of striving for calmness and feeling caught up, I strive for bits of peace and quiet in my mind here, moments of joy and laughter there. At the end of the day, if work stuff hasn't been done and my kids are home, I choose motherhood. Work has to wait. It will not grow up and move away like my kids will! Sure, opportunities may pass me by, but I'm betting that I won't have heartbreaking regret over missing work opps like I could end up regret missing being there for my kids.

So, I'll take this state of being out of balance. I find my moments. I find my weekends. I do what I can. I giggle with my kids. I know that there will be a quieter chapter in my life when I might be able to feel "caught up." But by then, I might be missing having my house be noisy and messy and full of kids. So here and now, in this moment, I do what I can to keep my sanity and sense of humor. I pull over in my car and listen to a great song while I drink coffee and enjoy a good view of the Colorado Rockies. I go to the gym with girlfriends at an insanely early hour. I cherish the coffees with friends and the weekend mornings before my kids wake up. It's not perfect. It's not balanced. But it's good enough.

Kerry Stutzman Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 3:39 PM PT

I have to say that no one can do it all, not women or men, being a realist is what will keep you from beating yourself up. You have to say no sometimes, to friends, sometimes to clients and even sometimes to family. Once you reconcile within yourself that you're ok with the way things are going and the ones you love most second that, everything else will fall into place. I've seen it with my company: http://www.virtualworkteam.com and those of my clients. Here's wishing everyone a fabulous journey in accomplishing their dreams!

Shilonda Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 4:33 PM PT

Formerly a Trademark Attorney, I became inactive with the bar and started a home-based business handcrafting mineral makeup and natural skincare in 2004. Iwas in my late 30's when founding http://www.zosimosbotanicals.com and have two elementary school children. With so much uncertainty in the job market today, I am thrilled not to have to worry about losing my job. Working at home allows me to get things done online at odd hours and still have family time. A monthly visit from a business coach helps me keep on track and create goals. Balance has been achieved from deciding not to move my growing studio out of the home, and refusing to supply larget stores that may make my work/life quality decrease.

Linda Stein Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 5:48 PM PT

Very well said and I agree whole heartedly. I am also a mom and entrepreneur for the past 20 years, running a medical practice and recently starting a weight loss center. Being an entrepreneur has enabled me to balance my passions – both as a mother and as a businesswoman. The two do not have to be exclusive of one another and in fact, being an entrepreneur allows you to bring your family into your "working life" and draw strength from both areas. I do agree that the most important thing is to follow your heart and your passion and set your own course – there is no template for working and raising children and you have to set your own path and believe in what you are doing. Yes there are costs to every choice but if you make the choices, the benefits outweigh the costs!

Dr. Deb Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 8:49 PM PT

After a high powered job as a marketing consultant for Fortune 500 companies (Microsoft, Disney, AOL, etc) I had 2 children a bit later in life (40's) and after the blur of those first baby years I picked my head up out of the dust and felt completely lost, angry and resentful. But that was a great thing in the end – when one door closes, another opens – because dealing with my emotions kicked off a existential crisis within that made me realise that I wanted to do something constructive with the second half of my professional life. So I took stock at what I wanted to give and to get from my work life. And in doing so I found that helping small businesses with the learnings I had from my past life was actually much more fulfilling. But I also wanted to control and determine my lifestyle – I wanted to spend time with my children and other pursuits. Could I really have it all? So I set up with a fellow mother partner a business to help small businesses that can't afford marketing (www.amyfoxwell.com), wrote a book (http://amyfoxwell.com/win-win-marketing-the-book/), and launched a revolutionary site to help restaurant owners (my husband is a chef) by doing their marketing for them (www.winwinrestaurantmarketing.com). Well, I think I have managed to at least have most of what I want; time with my children, support for the small business community and an intellectual challenge that keeps me going. In the end, I have learned that the secret to having it all, is knowing what you want and then taking the responsibility to create that life.

Amy Foxwell Friday, January 21, 2011 at 1:39 AM PT

Your question on HARO – can woman do it all – is a good one. I think we are amazing creatures in the amount we can handle and are willing to handle. I am slowly trying to build my business and it's never easy because I don't like to hire too many outside people. I did that at one point and when the economy dropped the end result is much worse when you have employees to support.

Diana De Rosa Friday, January 21, 2011 at 5:59 AM PT

I am a mom of 2. I work 30 hours a week for a major car rental company. Three years ago I started a custom design invitation business – RSVP Custom Creations. My major focus was Ebay, which then lead into creating my own website. I have now ventured with my husband and created an online wedding marketplace called Wedding Bliss Lane. It has been live for about 3 months. From 8:30 am – 4 pm I am working at my Part Time job, then from 4-8 it is time with the kids. Then 8-12 I work on my invitations and wedding marketplace site. There comes a time though when you need to intervene and shut the computer off! And my kids let me know it. Weekends we all regroup together (sports, go out to dinner, etc). My daughter is so aware of what I do that she "designs" invitation as well. She creates them to give to her teachers! So your kids are very observant and know what you do. My saving grace is I love being busy, I need to be always doing something, and I am very good at multi-tasking. But when you son asks you to play WII with him, you know its time for a break!

Jackie Asta Friday, January 21, 2011 at 6:37 AM PT

I believe that a female entrepreneur can have it all….if ALL is what she wants. As I scan the list of comments above I have to wonder if one considers what that means to them. Truly. At the heart – free from the expectations of society and family influence. A question I ask just about every female entrepreneur I know is "what will truly make you happy in life?" It's a question that I ask myself as well. What is the balance? That special formula, secret sauce that lights me up and says "yes, this is the life I want to live". Coming from a traditional italian family – the choice not to have children was not the only rule I had to break. I had to break the belief that a woman should not be smart and educated as well. I had to know in my heart that if I made more money that not all men would be threatened by me. And after being successful in the corporate arena working in Fortune 500 companies when I decided to be an entrepreneur I had to overcome others beliefs around security and being a woman. The decision to have or not to have children is only 1 of the underlying questions and challenges women face on their road to success….and entrepreneurialism.

Other factors in having and DOING it all is that we have to learn to delegate more, empower others to handle different aspects of our businesses and lives. We may want it ALL but we cannot do it all.

When I wrote my Amazon best selling book more than a year ago I needed someone to help guide me through the process. I hired and expert. During that period I had to delegate to and expand my support team so the business would continue to run while I poured my heart and soul into it. When it was going to launch, realizing that I am not a marketing guru, hired another professional to orchestrate it.

I realized these were critical examples of needed to have others be more part of the process. Because after realizing within the first 18 months the business was born that I had merely traded 1 office and career of non-stop work and insane deadlines for another devoid of enough personal connection to others I had to reassess. "What makes me happy?" All the trappings of what I should and should not have/do/want needed to fall away and I simplified my life. I chose to bookend my days so I could rest. I decided to plan 2-3 vacations a year because I will always be a "gypsy" of sorts. While I travel for business travel for pleasure is a completely different and essential ingredient in my balance equation. I chose to spend time with my significant other rather than fill my evenings with networking meetings. But most importantly, I had to hire the staff necessary for all of this to happen. I still work hard but I have boundaries around my work life and refuse to give up my private life – after all part of the reason I became an entrepreneur was to enjoy my life and not be working and living out of a suitcase all the time.

Maria Gamb
Mentor to Emerging Leaders in Business
Amazon Best Selling Author of "Healing The Corporate World" http://www.MariaGamb.com / http://www.HealingTheCorporateWorld.com

mariagamb Friday, January 21, 2011 at 7:42 AM PT

I can say that I did not become an entrepreneur until I was a stay at home mom. I wanted to stay at home with my children, but I also wanted to earn some income and help others in the process. I chose starting my own seasonal consignment sale. It was the perfect fit for my family. I "work" about 200 hours per event I host and I do that twice a year. Most of my work is via the internet and I can do it any time of the day, when my kids nap, etc.

Now that my kids are in school, I really find myself thankful that I have this business because finding a job that allows me to be flexible with the school schedule is incredibly difficult (snow days, teacher work days, federal holidays, 9-2 schedule, etc). I worry that I would not make a good "employee" because having kids has really made me understand that I need to be more flexible and not able to stick to a rigid schedule.

We have had several entrepreneurial endeavors as a family and I can say that the typical brick and mortar type business, was not a good fit for our family. In fact, as an entrepreneur and mother, something more flexible and seasonal was what fit best for us.

I think that each family is different, each woman is different and each entrepreneurial endeavor is different. It is important to find something that you are passionate about that fits with the woman's talents in addition to the goals of the family. I feel like I have it all, but then again, I only "work" at my business a couple of times a year and the rest of the time I am a stay at home mom, which is my ultimate goal right now, in this season of my family's life.

Jenifer Gifford Friday, January 21, 2011 at 8:50 AM PT

The dilemma for highly motivated female entrepreneurs is less 'Can I do it all (run a startup business and have a family)' which I say resoundingly, 'Yes, you can – you go, Girl!' and more 'At what point in my life can I afford to dedicate the level of attention, energy and leadership to building a company, while raising my kids and spending time with my family?' If you look at the numerous examples of highly successful women in many professions, from tech entrepreneurs to lawyers to politicians, from Meg Whitman, Carol Bartz, Sandra Day O'Connor, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, all of whom have married, had children, and risen to the top of their professions, they all sequenced their lives and had children first, then focused on their professional lives and rose to greater heights of success as they were older. I've followed that path, have two wonderful kids, a supportive family, and run a startup software company. You can have it all, just not necessarily all at the same time.

Diana Hage Friday, January 21, 2011 at 10:55 AM PT

I saw your HARO and thought I'd share my insight. I don't have a family yet, but I know that I could never put aside running my business. I currently work for a start up (http://www.contentfac.com) doing public relations, as well as running my own small fiber arts business. It can be challenging juggling these things (plus a day job).I agree with mariagmb above that it's important to know what would make you happy. I would never be happy if I wasn't productive, so right now, I find balance through my work.

Jasmine Friday, January 21, 2011 at 12:29 PM PT

I am Kate from Chicago, and have a social enterprise Mayu (www.shopmayu.com) that sells one-of-a-kind, hand-knit alpaca accessories produced by artisans in rural Peru. I started the company following my time in the Peace Corps, because I felt in love with the artisans and their amazing skills, and decided of continuing to support them upon ending my service in Peru. The Mayu product line includes luxurious clothing made with the highest quality pure, eco-friendly alpaca fiber. The company is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation and we have a direct relationship with the knitters. Through Mayu, the artisans have been given the opportunity to earn fair wages and become more independent while doing what they both enjoy and excel in – knitting.

I have spent many years forming a business relationship, and more importantly, friendships with our artisans. This business has been mutually beneficial. The artisans have been taught valuable business skills and are earning fair wages, while still being able to be with their children. They have given us a stronger awareness of struggles women have in developing countries to provide for their families, thus feeding our passion to keep Mayu growing and growing.

You can find a bit more about the business at http://www.shopmayu.com/about-fair-trade-alpaca-p… and at my blog: http://www.shopmayu.com/blog/

Kate Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 10:45 PM PT

Hi Sramana –

Interesting question: Can you do it all: juggle a business, family and all of that comes with it?
My answer is Yes, you CAN do it all, you just can’t do it all by yourself. I am the Founder and CEO of Ombrella Inc., a project management and consulting company in the Seattle area. We work with Fortune 500 technology companies and government clients on demanding projects. Through hard work and business moxie we’ve been able to grow the company to include dozens of employees and more than $12.5 million in revenues over the last seven years.

For me, it has never been a question of can you do it all – my personal ambition and drive never let me think I would be anything but a success. But what I learned later in my career is that in order to do it all you have to ask for help. In addition to being an entrepreneur, I am a mother of two college-age daughters and work passionately on behalf of economic opportunity for women in technology. Here’s what I learned from being a single parent, business owner and advocate:
To be continued in next post…

Laurie Simon Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 1:43 PM PT

*You have to ask for help, and you need to clearly communicate what you need help with, how long you need it and what you expect the outcome to be. When I was raising two kids alone, I asked my family for help but first went to them with a plan for support while I went to job training and college, and a specific timetable for how long that would last. *Realize that you are not great at everything and find the right people to fill those gaps. For me, finances have been challenging. Spreadsheets and a list of numbers are of no value to me. But I have found financial resources that are good at organizing the information into four categories that make sense to me and from which I am able to make decisions.
Two last points…

Laurie Simon Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 1:51 PM PT

*Get outside your business in order to maintain balance. Otherwise you will burn out. Today, I am out of the office at least one day a week, so I have time to clear my head and keep the ideas flowing. Activities like boating, painting, surfing, or motorcycle riding may appear to be “play” on the surface, but that’s when I find I have my best ideas and am the most creative and dream up the next level of products and services that will grow the firm. *Find a way to integrate your passion into your work in order to continuously challenge yourself. My driving force is to create a business model that supports women in technology and creates opportunities for women to earn money and build a safe and stable home for their families. In my role in Women Impacting Public Policy, I have helped increase the number of women-owned businesses registered for federal contracts and specific set-asides for women-owned businesses to compete for federal jobs. This overarching goal helps me look back and reflect not only on work, but the impact of the work and example I hope to set for other women.
Feel free to contact me with any questions.
Laurie Simon, Founder and CEO of Ombrella Inc.

Laurie Simon Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 1:53 PM PT

This is very possibly old news, but I thought its a great venue to share Sheryl Sandberg's (COO of Facebook) 'women leaders' speech from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18uDutylDa4
Really helpful and inspiring from a woman who has pursued both entrepreneurship AND family. Great post.

Ronjini Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 12:48 PM PT

I'm not sure why we are still asking women if they can balance entrepreneurship with life choices like having children? We don't ask men these questions! I am an entrepreneur with three children. My husband is also an entrepreneur. I know my husband and I both struggle to balance it all. We'd like to have more time for our children, for each other, for our companies and for ourselves. I actually think it's harder to balance family with working for a big company where you don't control your time.

Jennifer Roberts Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 5:23 PM PT

Sramana,
You wrote this piece a while ago and somehow I stumbled across it only today! It is very well written. Agree with you in your view on woman and career. Maybe it has to do with me coming from a family of both very career minded parents and not being raised any differently because I happened to be a girl. My mother was able to balance the live of a career woman along with being a mother and wife. I think I turned out right! Not having a career just because I am a mother is unthinkable to me because I would lose my identity without it. To me a career is more than a job and maybe that is why I have a passion for it. But that is just me. I do have friends (women) both Indian and others who have given up their career paths for their children and I respect them for their choices. Interestingly I don't know too many men who have done the same though! I never understood why a man's outlook on life has to be so different from a 'woman'.

Cheers,
Suvarna
Career woman & a proud mother of 2 girls

Suvarna Monday, March 14, 2011 at 1:44 PM PT

Exellent post – I do think that women can 'have it all' – that they can be entrepreneurs and a mommy too…good balance, a good sense of humor and a great level of patience. With that said, I don't look down up on women who do not work – it's a personal choice. Some women find it unfulfilling to be home with children, while others find it difficult to go to work – and still others find it difficult to do both. Everyone's different and everyone has a different paradigm, a different example (from their own mothers) and a different interpretation of happiness. One thing that I've learned from motherhood is to that people are not the same and you cannot worry about what others think or do…Enjoy your own life, your own children and your own career (or lack thereof)…Don't worry about others – you'll waste valuable time!

Deborah Sweeney Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 4:45 PM PT

I am a girl ,now I am a office lady ,I have so much pressure ,sometimes I think maybe I need not work so hard to make a living ,I can choose a easier way to live ,I can marry with a rich man ,then I can live a wealthy life .But the reality is I fall in love with a poor adult ,I love him so much ,but he can not support our future family ,so I have to work hard .For the career ,it is very personal ,if you are capable ,you can have a try ,I know it is hard but I am not afraid .By the way if you need laptop battery you can check laptop battery with you.

wuhanlanguage Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 10:52 PM PT

As an entrepreneur and mom, I chose to work from home because both, having a child and feeling fulfilled as a person, were important to me. Thanks to the internet, we now have the luxury of being able to do both.

priyaflorence Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 11:50 AM PT

Will those of you that have more than one high school going kid ( at least two boys ), a travelling husband, aged in-laws and parents and very, very early menopausal symptoms and run a successful company put your hands up ?! Please post a snap of yours too so I may look at it daily for inspiration :)

Guest Friday, September 2, 2011 at 5:13 AM PT

Much of the discussion hinges on proving one is not deficient, having made one choice or the other. I think we are framing ourselves within the traditional male model of fatherhood/entrepreneurship– one that anticipates a wife/free labor, and/or a life free of familial obligations. Figuratively, when applied to women, it suggests that the childless are "men" (hence, real entrepreneurs and the question) & that female entrepreneurs with children must either be a wife (and not an entrepreneur), or are entrepreneurs who "lack a wife"…handicapped entrepreneurs.

If we remain bound within this structure & judge ourselves by it, in our women's entrepreneurship, we will be perpetually deficient and need to keep defending & vilifying choices, rather than mutually admiring them, and our successes.

The "you can't be both" that prompted the post is predicated on this male model…definitely not on models in cultures where female entrepreneurship is a norm with structural supports that allow "bothness."

We really need to create new models of entrepreneurship that are whole and responsive to our realities, not models derived from the traditional male entrepreneurial reality. Can't we also do it completely differently, and both be and get what we want? We are entrepreneurs, after all.

Vika Sunday, September 18, 2011 at 10:07 AM PT

Wow, such a great post! This is the first time I have seen such a practical and sensible take on this topic. I have just started my career and aspire to become an entrepreneur as well. The question of balancing my life with all different aspects in it, is always on my mind. Your posts clarifies and provides a clear view on this topic. Thanks!

Purti Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 8:31 AM PT

All this endless dealing with kids and household makes most women depressive. I can't imagine myself sitting between four walls for days. But that's a right point of view that every woman and every family should decide what to do by themselves, what is good for me may not be good for another woman.

Queen’s Diamond Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 12:47 AM PT

yes its true, rules are the same for entrepreneurship irrespective of gender. Can you please answer why are there different initiatives particularly for women entrepreneurs? Dont you think it makes sense to leverage such opportunities and use it to your advantage?

Arjuman Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 10:02 AM PT

I don’t understand your qs.

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 1:14 PM PT

You are absolutely right. Decisions cannot be forced on a woman. Having children is a personal issue and others should not put their nose into it. But personally I would say that having children is a gift that God has given women. This is a special gift that no other human being has. People should realize this.

Sharon thomas Monday, July 2, 2012 at 1:11 AM PT

Do you honestly believe that great entrepreneurs come a dime a dozen? And that it is NOT a gift from god?

Sramana Mitra Monday, July 2, 2012 at 9:33 AM PT

Thank you for directing me to this post Sramana, I am not surprised it was one of your most popular articles, I've spent a very interesting 45mins reading your article and also the comments, many of which resonate with my experience.

I'm currently at this crossroads myself. I'm 32, happy with a long term partner and just starting up my own business – PlayDNA. My younger sister and brother have both recently had children. All of my friends bar two are also either pregnant or have children. Just recently I have started to think seriously as to what I want from the future, and discuss with my partner. Deciding that we want to have children would mean re-evaluating how the next 24 months will go, in terms of pursuing collaborative opportunities and expanding my business. To be honest, it's been hard!

I love my business and want to commit all my time to it, but I also think of a future with children. It is inspiring to know that there are other women out there that have made it work, despite the difficulties it can involve. Thank you for posting on what I am sure is an issue that impacts many women and the decisions they make with regards to their business. It's good to hear so many voices of solidarity!

Dr Samantha Decombel
Director – PlayDNA Ltd. http://www.playdna.co.uk

Samantha Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 5:51 AM PT

Glad that this discussion has helped you, Samantha.

Sramana Mitra Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 8:31 AM PT

Sramana – Like Samantha, I also followed this link from SmallBizTrends and am enjoying discovering various posts here.

My dilemma is not really about whether to have kids or not. When I picked manufacturing engineering as my undergrad many, many years ago, I was 1 of 3 women in a class of 60 men. I have 3 sisters who have all chosen to marry, have kids, etc. while I have chosen not to. These aspects have not bothered me because I have focused on my career and enjoyed it.

I agree absolutely with your points that women entrepreneurs need to compete with men on an absolute level – as entrepreneurs first. But, I do not know whether we have reached a point where women in tech are seen at the same level. Silicon Valley is not there yet. The playing field is not level yet. That said, women like you and several others that you've highlighted in this blog are definitely leading the charge. So, thank you (all) for that. And, I am optimistic that the next generation – my nieces and nephews – will enjoy that level playing field that this generation is working hard at creating.

Jenny Bhatt Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 10:06 AM PT

Jenny, I disagree that women in Silicon Valley are not seen at the same level.
Check this out: http://www.sramanamitra.com/2012/02/21/1m1m-video

Sramana Mitra Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 12:06 PM PT

Sramana – thanks for the reply. I meant to check in earlier – apologies for my delayed response. We may have to agree to disagree. :) I am more aligned with Wadhwa's Inc.com articles on this topic (I understand from this article that he is a good friend of yours, so I don't feel so bad about taking sides).

The stats just don't bear out, no matter how I want to believe otherwise. It IS getting better – exponentially so. But, I guess I just need to see more women launching successful startups, more women leading corporate tech firms…..

PS I am currently listening in on your 1M / 1M Roundtable today. Good stuff. Your feedback is spot on too. Thanks.

jennybhatt Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 8:42 AM PT
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