Business ownership as an employment option for older women

Document Type

Conference Proceeding




Faculty of Business and Public Management


School of Management




Walker, E. A., Webster, B. J., Turner, J. P., & Still, L. (2005). Business ownership as an employment option for older women. Proceedings of SEAANZ Conference. Armidale, Australia. SEAANZ. Conference website available here.


A current global economic challenge is the large 'baby boomer' cohort who are coming to the end of their traditional working lives. The proportion of people over 50 who start their own business is increasing and it is recognized that older people are more likely to succeed in business compared to younger business owners. However what is not known is whether the initial motivations for starting the business are different for older business owners, nor do we know if there are any differences between genders. The barriers and problems that women initially faced when starting their own businesses are well documented and over time many of those barriers, such as access to finance have been overcome for mainstream women business owners. Whereas early studies stated that women were often 'pushed' into business ownership rather than 'pulled,' more recent studies have indicated that overall many women now actively choose self-employment. However, for women in minority groups there are still barriers and the variable of age could be considered a 'new' barrier. The results reported here show that older women are indeed less inclined to actively seek self employment as their employment option of choice and many expressed anxiety at not being sufficiently skilled to be able to operate their own business. What is needed from a small business policy and program delivery perspective is acknowledging that the needs of this growing cohort (older women) will be different from other age cohorts. This should include emphasis on personal business skills rather than technical skills, as most older women will have highly developed technical skills based on years in the workforce.