Is Self-Employment Liberating or Marginalizing? The Case of Women Consultants in the Fitness and Sport Industry

in Journal of Sport Management
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Women are responsible for large growth rates in self-employment in many industrialized countries, yet little is known about how they interpret or experience the work they do. In the literature, two competing images of self-employment for women have emerged. With the liberation perspective, self-employment is associated with self-fulfillment, autonomy and control, substantial financial rewards, and increased flexibility in balancing work and family demands. In contrast, the marginality perspective portrays self-employment as a low paying, unstable form of home-based work that combines incompatible work and domestic roles while marginalizing women's work in the economy. The purpose of this study was to examine the work experiences of women consultants in the fitness and sport industry based on the liberation and marginality perspectives of self-employment. Observations of home-based work sites, interviews, and validation focus groups were conducted with 13 women who were currently working or had previously worked as fitness and sport consultants. The results revealed that social context, stages of business development, the personal situations of the women, gender relations and body image issues, and the nature of the work itself influenced whether the women described their experiences as liberating or marginalizing.

Laurene Rehman is with the School of PE, Recreation, and Athletics at Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada A1C 5S7. Wendy Frisby is with the School of Human Kinetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z1.

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