Women Business Owners and Codependency

Statistically, women owned businesses are not as successful as male owned businesses. According to Census data cited in Jim Hopkins’ 2003 USA Today Article “Mars vs. Venus extends to entrepreneurs, too”, companies owned by women average $151,129 in annual revenue vs. $582,450 for those owned by men. According to the 2011 Census Statistical Abstract based on 2002 Census data, sales and receipts for female owned businesses are 940 Billion, and sales and receipts for male owned businesses are 7,061 Billion.

I have been giving a lot of thought to why there still is such a disparity. Although I am not a psychiatrist, I think codependency may have something to do with it.


I have been watching the reality TV show Ruby on The Style Channel and how Ruby is coping with her need to lose weight. On one episode Ruby asked herself and had a team of experts trying to determine what is holding her back from losing weight. She lost quite a bit but gained 30 pounds back. There were consistency issues.

Well, one of the experts stated that Ruby needed to reflect on her codependency issues. According to Wikipedia, codependency is defined as:

Codependency is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life. It also often involves putting one’s needs at a lower priority than others while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. Codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including in families, at work, in friendships, and also in romantic, peer or community relationships. Codependency may also be characterized by denial, low self-esteem, excessive compliance, and/or control patterns.

As evidenced by Ruby’s behavior, codependents have the following traits:

 Not wanting to face hardship, pain, sadness, rejection
 Surrounding one’s self with people that take care of them
 Hard to trust people

I counsel small businesses and I have a small business that has seen its ups and downs. I have witnessed these same traits in some women business owners. It seems to be much harder to face fears; the hardship of building and operating a business; the need to be willing to do more and more; and the rejection by prospects. Rejection in the sales cycle breeds shame, fear, and secrets. Also, many women business owners still rely heavily on their spouses, mentors, coaches, colleagues, peers, and friends.

I cannot help but wonder if the fact that women were held in a dependent role to men for hundreds of years here in the United States makes us a bit codependent. I wonder to what extent societal norms make some women codependent on comforting things and if those comforting things cause symptoms that thwart our success. Think about the fact that the Women’s Liberation Movement and major publications such as “off our backs” was only 40 years ago.

In Ruby’s case, she is constantly being advised to confront what is holding her back and keeping her from losing weight. Ruby is constantly being advised to not be in denial about what she does to sabotage her success, and to not confront the core problems, and her codependency on food and people that take care of her.

When women business owners struggle, they too should confront what is holding them back from earning their goal revenues. Women business owners should be honest about any behavior that sabotages their success, and their codependency on people that may be taking care of them. One business coach told me that she was proud of me because I was a single mom and that there were a lot of women business owners that appeared to be more successful because they could depend on their husband’s money. Well, even the single mompreneurs may have men or others in their lives that they depend on – perhaps too much.

I say it’s time to end the shame, fear, secrets, and pain of rejection. Once these negative things are released, then women business owners can gain their power; and not let their codependency steal their success.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

8 Responses to “Women Business Owners and Codependency”

  1. Cynthia Frazier Says:

    Interesting perspective Clovis. You certainly give women business owners something to consider. In my experience, women business owners lag behind men in business because they let emotions dictate decision making. I am amazed at how many women business owners I meet offline who say they don’t want to put their business online because they need to “feel” who they do business with. I do believe we will catch up eventually.

    • cloviahamilton Says:

      I have talked to women biz owners that do indeed let emotions get in the way. I think that if men are not different, they certainly are less likely to let on to insecurities or emotional needs to “feel” people out first. Perhaps women are more vocal about these things. Nevertheless, it definitely can get in the way of our business progress. I have heard things that are evidence of distrust like I will not hire because they’ll take my clients; or I just wish this or that firm or contracting officer will help me. Well, that lack of trust or frustration over the amount of work it takes to build relationships to get contracts can crush our businesses. I agree, we will catch up! I know we can! We have to see those behaviors, not deny them, and get past it.

  2. gingerclub Says:

    Dear Clovia,

    Thank you for your post. There are certainly good points to it, but I believe codependency is a problem affecting men and women alike. Men in fact even rely more on the support of their wifes, their peers, their bodies. But they generally get it! Women on the other hand, do not really feel they are worth the support, because it is not their traditional role to be recognized for what they do, not even by other women. They would say “Oh, you a single mom, so what, I know many women who raise their kids alone”. No cheering, no clapping, just the regular normal. Maybe we should make it a habit to recognize positive developments and actions in every one, especially women. Who has regularly said to their moms ” Hey, this was delicious what you cooked – thank you!” We just take so many things for granted when it is done by women. I personally believe, that we are the natural leaders, and because men know this, they have tried for centuries to deprive us of our self-esteem. My ex- partner and I are both independent business owners. However, he requires more of my positive feed back than I do his. Well, in fact he won`t really give it to me, one of the reasons why we split. In conclusion, I think that the problem of women is rather to ask for feedback and not be ashamed to do so. That`s what men do anyway, maybe this is rather the secret.

    Best, Ginger

    • cloviahamilton Says:

      Ginger, great points! Many men in business do rely on their wives to be back home attending to their homes, kids, meals, etc. Many may be dependent on the need for validation. I agree that women business owners should ask for more support and feedback – and balance in all things is necessary. We can surround ourselves with support systems and begin to depend on them to the extreme extent of not thinking we can do it ourselves – but rather need others. The 3 symptoms of codependents I have witnessed time and time again with small biz owners – and women in particular – (1) not wanting to face hardship, pain, sadness, rejection in sales; (2) surrounding one’s self with people that take care of their business needs; and (3) lack of trust in people they could hire, do hire, and probably could collaborate with. I would be interested in finding or doing a survey on whether these traits are more profound in women biz owners than male biz owners. It may be that the men biz owners just don’t openly admit they have these feelings or behave this way.

  3. Gazelle Simmons Says:

    Hello Clovia and thanks for the post on FB. Loved the article and keep up the good work! Take care and God bless.

  4. gingerclub Says:

    I like your recommendations on planning and strategy and I am following them. Thank you!

    Peace and smiles,


    You can find me at http://beatbloodpressure.wordpress.com if you like. Gingerclub is my German site.

  5. The Codependent Businesswoman - The Beginner Businesswoman Says:

    When women business owners struggle, they too should confront what is holding them back from earning their goal revenues. Women business owners should be honest about any behavior that sabotages their success, and their codependency on people that may be taking care of them. Codependent behaviors are just as unhealthy for businesses as it is in personal relationships.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: