Purpose ' This paper seeks to explore self-employment through home-based business ownership as a potential solution to the inter-role conflict experienced by women attempting to balance dual work and family roles. Design/methodology/approach ' Home-based businesses (n?=?626) were surveyed in Western Australia as part of a larger national study. Data were collected on operator and business characteristics, and specific home-based business issues (e.g. reasons for preferring a home-base, management and planning, growth facilitators and barriers). Four-way comparisons investigating the dynamics of home-based business ownership between male and female operators and operators with and without dependants were made. Findings ' The attraction of home-based business ownership is driven predominantly by the flexibility afforded to lifestyle and the ability to balance work and family. While these advantages were more salient for women than for men, gender per se was not a determining factor in why operators started a home-based business. The more significant determining factor was the issue of dependants. Practical implications ' Self-employment, particularly through home-based business ownership, may well solve some women's necessity to balance work and family. However, it may not be a viable solution for all women, particularly those seeking high financial and career rewards. Originality/value ' This paper contributes empirical findings regarding home-based businesses which, as a distinct form of small business and self-employment alternative, still remain very much under-researched. The paper also addresses the issue of home-based businesses being emancipatory vehicles for women juggling to manage work and family, and provides findings which question this increasingly populist notion.