Women executives content, survey finds Reports of unhappiness and dissatisfaction called unsubstantiated


COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A survey of women business owners and corporate executives debunks recent reports that they are unhappy and unable to balance their personal and professional lives.

The study, conducted for Avon Products Inc., showed that a large majority of women business owners or executives are satisfied with their careers.

"Our findings seem to contradict the prevailing myth of the modern woman whose work situation never seems to measure up to her expectations," said Nancy Glaser, vice president of Avon Products.

"The reality is that most working women derive a great deal of satisfaction from their careers as well as feel good about their ability to manage the personal side of their lives," she said.

The survey of 250 women business owners and 222 female Fortune 500 company executives found that 98 percent were satisfied with their career choices and 80 percent reported a healthy balance between their work and personal lives.

Deborah Breedlove, a former teacher and now a financial adviser in Columbia, says she has the best of both worlds.

"I work for a corporation, but it allows me to set up my own practice," Ms. Breedlove said. "I am an independent contractor for a large corporation [American Express Financial Advisors]. A lot of sales positions are like this because you are working your own hours and selecting your own clientele."

The survey, completed in June, was conducted for Avon by Intersearch Corp.

Other survey findings:

* 64 percent of the entrepreneurs believe that running a business is a more promising career choice for young women than is working for a corporation. Almost half of the executives agreed.

* 84 percent of business owners and 81 percent of corporate executives say they are able to maintain a good balance between their careers and personal lives.

"An above-average income allows you to do a few more things for yourself and your family," Ms. Breedlove said. "It allows you to buy a little more satisfaction my trip to the mountains last week, for example. Having a good staff you can do that. When I was teaching I couldn't do that."

Also, sharing an office with her husband, an insurance agent, makes the balancing act easier, she said.

* 65 percent of entrepreneurs and 74 percent of the executives prefer having more time over more money. "I appreciate the time flexibility and I like to be well compensated," said Sharon Walters Bryant, an executive with First Union Corp. "But time is the most precious asset you can have."

A mother of a 7-year-old, Ms. Bryant is about three weeks away from delivering her second child. Ms. Bryant said she is satisfied with her career because she has basically charted her own path in a supportive company.

Ms. Breedlove said much of her satisfaction comes from being in control of her work schedule, office environment, quality of staff and productivity.

"I am not accountable to anyone for my work hours, but that doesn't mean I work less," she said. "I probably work more. I can gauge how productive I am by client satisfaction and my income.

"When I was a teacher my income was set," Ms. Breedlove said. "It didn't matter how satisfied my clients -- students -- were. And it had little effect on my income."

Having tripled her income the first year, Ms. Breedlove said, she is very satisfied.

Both women agree that their success has not been achieved without challenges, however.

"You have to take charge of your own life and make things happen for you," Ms. Bryant said. "Even when you work for a corporation, you can control much of what happens to you."

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