Let's say goodbye to the mumpreneur...
When the eleventh edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was published on 6 October 2011 the word 'mumpreneur' was listed for the first time. ‘Mumpreneur’. It’s right up there with one of the business buzzwords I simply loathe.
Like many women, I am a mother and I run my own business. The flexibility it’s given me over the past 13 years has worked well for us as a family. Never at any point have I felt the need to combine my work title with my life as a mum. It’s not relevant. My husband, who has been self-employed almost his entire working life, has never felt the need to combine his job title with the fact that he has two children either. If ‘mumpreneur’ is valid, why don’t we use ‘dadpreneur’ as well? We know why - because it’s derogatory, infantilising and utterly pointless
Why has the word ‘mumpreneur’ become so popular? Why do we feel the need to use such lazy, misleading labelling to refer to women who have children and also run their own businesses?
It’s a word which seems to have sprung up over the past decade to describe the growing numbers of women who generally work from home around their children. These women have often chosen to take the path less trodden and started up a business for themselves because the jobs they had before having children simply didn’t suit their needs in terms of balancing work and family life. So, they’re business owners with childcare commitments. Why then the need to take the word entrepreneur, which isn’t gender-specific, and try to make it so?
Cath Jones, blogger at www.thekrakenwakes.org and mum to her daughter Ava makes a great point on the subject; “If you applied for a job and had to clarify whether you had kids it would be discrimination, so why must women have their parenting status writ large over their business? You never hear of dadpreneurs because they’re just businessmen, so I don’t understand why women can’t be afforded the same treatment.”
With still so much ground to cover in terms of closing the gender pay gap and achieving balanced boardrooms, using the word ‘mumpreneur’ to describe women who juggle business ownership with parenthood simply belittles their professionalism. What about all the doctors, hairdressers, teachers and engineers who also happen to be mothers; are we now going to call them ‘mumdoctors’, ‘mumscientists’ and ‘mumstylists’.?
At the end of the day, how we choose to describe ourselves is a personal choice. So, if calling yourself a ‘mumpreneur’ gives you the confidence you need to run your business, get out networking and do what needs to be done, then so be it. I’m just concerned that it does women business owners a disservice by applying a divisive, condescending label.
According to the 2015 Shattering Stereotypes report by the Centre for Entrepreneurs, using feminised descriptions of entrepreneurship – such as ‘mumpreneur’, ‘fempreneur’ and even ‘lipstickpreneur’ – “fuels the perception that entrepreneurial activity is a largely male preserve.” The reports also states that the majority of the women interviewed for the research did not identify with the title “entrepreneur”, often seeing it as a loaded term. Instead, many of the women surveyed preferred terms such as “founder” or “business owner”.. “For them, they said it was about growing a profitable business and providing stability for their employees.”
Let’s get serious about this. Businesses run by mothers with children aged 18 – helpfully termed by some as the ‘mum economy’ - is believed to generate over £7bn for the UK’s coffers every year. And it’s growing. A report from economic think tank Development Economics, commissioned by eBay, claims that by 2025, these women-led businesses will generate £9.5bn for the UK and support an extra 13,000 employees, taking the total jobs created to 217,600. These female business leaders are making a huge contribution to the economy so let’s drop the patronising labels and just celebrate the courage and the vision - regardless of gender, parental status or whatever - that’s required by anyone who starts up their own business.
And the next time I need to phone my husband about a business matter, I’ll ask to speak to the ‘dadpreneur’ and see what he makes of that. Answers on a postcard not required.