Female entrepreneurs in retail are more stressed than men

Female entrepreneurs in the retail sector are facing an increasing risk of burnout compared to their male counterparts. According to research from Jönköping International Business School (JIBS) at Jönköping University, nearly half of female entrepreneurs in retail experience high levels of burnout, which is significantly higher than that of men in the same industry.

Photo: Jacob Lund

Nearly half of the new businesses in the retail sector in Sweden are started by women, highlighting their central role today. However, research indicates a concerning trend - female entrepreneurs in retail experience significantly higher levels of stress and are more prone to burnout than their male counterparts.

"Data we have examined reveals a pronounced gender gap. Almost half of the female entrepreneurs in the retail sector report high levels of burnout, compared to just one-third of male entrepreneurs. Interestingly, this difference in burnout levels seems to be specific to female entrepreneurs in retail and does not apply to male and female employees working under these entrepreneurs," says Lucia Naldi, professor of business administration at JIBS and one of the researchers behind the study.

The main responsibility for invisible labor

What is causing the increasing burnout among female entrepreneurs in the retail sector? A key factor is the perceived workload. According to research, 32 percent of female entrepreneurs feel overwhelmed by their tasks, compared to 22 percent of men.

The retail industry, with its long hours and intense work environment, doesn't seem to adequately support women who navigate between their professional roles and household responsibilities. Despite significant progress in gender equality within households, women still bear the primary responsibility for invisible labor, such as organizing, planning, and coordinating family and household activities. These dual roles exacerbate the perceived stress and intensity of workload for female entrepreneurs.

Digital channels increase the risk

Additionally, the transition to digital channels exacerbates the risk of burnout among female entrepreneurs. Nearly half of those utilizing these channels report high levels of burnout, compared to just under a quarter of men. Digital use blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, making it difficult to unwind and balance work life. For instance, they may find themselves managing online sales late into the evening after a long day in the store, negatively impacting their personal time and rest.

"Our research highlights the often overlooked challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in the retail sector, emphasizing the critical need for specialized support and interventions. Moving forward, it's important to recognize and address the contributing factors to this burnout epidemic to ensure that female entrepreneurs in retail can thrive without compromising their health and well-being," says Lucia Naldi.

The research is part of a broader study titled "Growing pains in scale-ups: How scaling affects new venture employee burnout and job satisfaction." It focuses on the well-being of owners of recently established private companies, specifically those younger than ten years. It utilizes data from the Swedish Work Environment Survey (SWES) and employer-employee matched statistics provided by Statistics Sweden.

The study was conducted by JIBS researchers Karin Hellerstedt and Lucia Naldi, along with JIBS doctoral candidate Mohamed Genedy and Johan Wiklund, the AI Berg Endowed Chair and professor of entrepreneurship at the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University