Work-Life Juggling: Insights from a Female Entrepreneur in a Male-Dominated Field
As the president and co-founder of Scanlon Excavating and Concrete in Kankakee, Illinois, Beth Scanlon gets asked a lot about how she balances work and family. Funny thing, though: Her co-founder rarely hears that question. That’s probably because her co-founder (and vice president) is her husband.
Even in 2023, the reality for women in business is that they are still expected to bear the majority of the responsibilities when it comes to managing home and family. Research by the Institute for Gender and the Economy (GATE) at the Rotman School of Management in 2021 found that while women and men all sought work-life balance, only the men felt they were able to achieve it. Women who worked and raised children said they were exhausted from having “two full-time careers.”
“It is different for women even if we want to say that it’s not,” Beth told me about working in an industry where women represent barely 11% of the workforce. “It’s a totally different atmosphere to be a woman in business than it is to be a man in business,” Beth said.
Like most entrepreneurs—particularly spouses who co-own and operate a business—the Scanlons find little separation between work and personal life. “My husband is my business partner. My father-in-law is our lead truck driver, so family and work are the same for me,” she says. “There’s really no work-life balance for me. It’s life.” The couple are raising three children—two teenagers and a six-year-old. “We’ve raised them to be as self-sufficient as possible,” Scanlon points out. “We don’t baby them.” In fact, one of the advantages of co-owning a business, she notes, is flexibility. If one of the kids gets sick, the parents can share responsibilities between work and the occasional family crisis. “People will say to me something like, ‘Oh my gosh, how do you do it all?’” she says with a laugh. “And it’s like, ‘That’s a joke. I don’t do it all.’ Nothing is what it seems on the surface.”
The Scanlons launched Scanlon Excavating and Concrete in 2010 with a focus on excavating, concrete, and asphalt paving for municipalities and highway authorities. It was a natural fit. Before their marriage, Chris owned and ran a trucking company, while Beth worked as an engineer operating a variety of equipment on an underground pipe crew and later worked as a land development manager for a national home builder and co-owner of a concrete company. “I don’t know where it came from or exactly how it developed, but since I was very small, I’ve always been driven to do the unexpected,” she says. “When I was a kid, I had a lawn-mowing business while all my friends were babysitting.”
While Beth says that she and Chris share domestic responsibilities, their priorities don’t always align. “I feel like this is a really important conversation because men do need to get just as involved in the family as women are. And while some of them are, just as many aren’t.”
She also thinks connecting with women who share her experience is important. “I can probably count on one hand how many women I engage with who are in a similar position,” she says. “We know that we need different support systems [than men] and that the things we need help with are not the same.”
Lewis Schiff runs the Birthing of Giants Fellowship Program, a one-week guided strategic planning process that’s attended by the owners of the fastest-growing companies in the world. He also runs Moonshots & Moneymakers: The Oxford Innovation Conference for American Entrepreneurs.
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