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Women Entrepreneurs Are Pretty Happy -- Here's Why

01/27/2014 03:46 pm ET | Updated Mar 29, 2014
Kris Ubach and Quim Roser via Getty Images

Now here's good news: Women entrepreneurs are among the happiest people in the world.

That's according to the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which compared the personal well-being and job satisfaction of individuals who start or manage businesses in 70 economies with that of people who don't engage in entrepreneurial activities. The report, published this month, found that the world's entrepreneurs -- both male and female -- have more life and work satisfaction, as measured by their agreement with statements like "my life is close to ideal" or "If I could live my life again, I would not change anything." Happiness varied by region; entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan African countries had the lowest rate, while those in Latin and North American had the highest.

But when it came to gender, the GEM report found that female entrepreneurs exhibit "a higher degree of subjective well-being" than men in innovation-driven economies like the U.S. or Europe -- a finding that appeared to surprise the report co-author José Ernesto Amorós, who said it "opens up possibilities" for further exploration.

The report didn't explain why women entrepreneurs are so happy. But it's not hard to come up with a few reasons, based on other studies and our own observations of female entrepreneurs through TSE's ongoing 1,000 Stories project. Here are three:

Women make more money when they are entrepreneurs, as opposed to employees. The nice thing about being in business for one's self is that there is no corporate glass ceiling to break. The average female entrepreneur's salary is $63,000, according to the 2013 Small Business Monitor from American Express - a nice sum considering the average worker in the U.S. makes about $42,700. That said, the average salary for female entrepreneurs is still less than the average $71,400 that male business owners make. Women are more likely to work second jobs, too. Still, with more resources out there to help women business owners grow bigger companies -- think Springboard, Astia, Count Me In and Golden Seeds, as outlined in this recent Inc. article -- it's no wonder female entrepreneurs are feeling pretty good.

Women entrepreneurs have more work/life balance. The rigid corporate model doesn't accommodate the needs of women, who remain by far the biggest caretakers of children and the elderly. The ability to set one's hours or adjust one's schedules attracts many women to entrepreneurship. Please see our recent report on Becky O'Neil, who decided when she was a new mom to leave her job as an X-ray technician and start her own dog-walking business. She's built a $2.3 million business working long hours, but never missed her kids' field trips or sick days. The GEM researchers took work-life balance into consideration when measuring entrepreneurial happiness, and will publish a separate report on the issue later in 2014.

Women often start businesses to "make a difference" -  so it stands to reason that rewarding entrepreneurial work might equate to a higher degree of well-being. Through our 1,000 Stories project, we've been analyzing the reasons why women start their own companies -- and the early data suggest that "to make a difference" trumps profit making and wealth generation. For example, Holly Bantleman started Raise the Roof to provide tin roofing for people living on a dumpsite in Kenya; Danielle Gletow launched One Simple Wish to grant wishes to foster children. The rate of women creating social enterprises is surpassing that of men in many countries, including Russia, Malaysia and Argentina, according to separate research from GEM. When you're doing good in the world, it's easier to be happy.