I admit, when my editor asked me to write my column this month about women, I was slightly annoyed. First, I had already planned on writing about a different topic. Second, I am an avoider. I don’t like to write about things that hit close to home so I was simply ignoring the whole “women’s issues” idea. However, after thinking about it, I concluded I should have written this column a long time ago.
I know I’m not alone in this thought, but women may be better financial advisors than men. Broad generalizations are dangerous, yet my observation is that women (as much as we hate to admit it) often play the “caretaker” role in our professional lives as well as our personal lives. This caretaker role can make us great advisors, but it also creates some conflicts as business owners.
I suspect this is one of the main reasons it’s pretty easy these days to come up with a list of female business executives (Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg come to mind), but how many female business owners can you name? Let’s face it: Owning a business is hard, and it may be especially hard for women, even in today’s “enlightened” culture.
As Gabrielle Glaser wrote in her book “Her Best Kept Secret” about a new era of professional women and alcohol abuse, many women today are under more pressure. We are often overloaded at work in a duel-career household and come home to more stress: getting kids into great schools, helping with homework, scheduling “activities,” caring for aging parents, financial concerns, relationship issues, etc.
In my work with female advisors, I’ve found that many of my female clients do indeed feel pulled in a lot of different directions—more so than the men—by the needs of their children, spouses, friends, parents, grandchildren, clients or employees. They are very good advisors, but when it comes to their business, their solution is to structure their entire day around the needs of everyone else.
The problem is that many women try so hard to get so much done that they go through life too quickly. We don’t enjoy it and wake up one day to find we don’t like the life we have. Ironically, when women get to this point, they almost always feel that they need more control over their businesses and their lives.
I discovered this trend with my clients, but I admit it’s also a problem I struggle with. Over the past 10 years I’ve personally sought out advice, help from business coaches, research and therapy to help my clients (and myself) create rewarding businesses. Throughout this process there are four steps I have learned women need to take to help ourselves have more meaningful and less stressful lives.
First, women need to feel in control. However, we need to learn that we can be more in control by being less controlling. In most cases, much of our unhappiness is created by ourselves, our expectations of ourselves and our structured schedule. In fact, I’ve seen this with every single female business owner I’ve worked with. When they have too much control over their schedule, their business starts controlling them.
Through long experience, I’ve come to realize that most women leave very little time for themselves. Maybe it’s genetic, or perhaps it’s how we’re raised, but it’s a very hard habit to break. So, your first goal is to carve out some time—at least an hour, and two hours is better—for yourselves every day. Even this is usually a struggle.
In most cases, I can convince my clients to book their own time; that is, build it into their schedules. However, they tend to give it up as soon as someone else’s issue comes up. Certainly, emergencies take priority, but when these “emergencies” arise most days, or every day, the problem becomes pretty clear.