The problem with “mumpreneurs”

Today I received a press release about a pair of “just ordinary Aussie mums” who are surprising the world with their international business success.

To think, women with actual children could make it big on the international business stage. Even more remarkable, or supposedly hookworthy according to this press release, was they fact they were not only mums but “suburban mums” who live way down here in Australia.

I’d like to ban using the word “just” in front of “a mum” because being a mum isn’t easy and often spending a day in the office is a lot simpler and straightforward than dealing with a child or children at home. There’s no such thing as “just a mum”, merely women who happen to have children — with different needs and varying degrees of help from outsiders — who cope with whatever else they have going on in their lives the best way they can.

Today was not the first time I’ve received a patronising press release. Being a publication with ‘women’ in the title provides an open invitation to receiving PR pitches and press releases from ill-informed marketing types who tailor their message to meet the needs of what they may perceive is an audience of “just mums” (a large portion of our audience do not have children), or women who’re supposedly working themselves so hard that they risk missing the best years of their lives for looking trim and meeting a partner.

I also receive many press releases using the term “mumpreneur”, a word I’m disappointed to find actually exists in the English Dictionary, as of 2011. There are countless articles online declaring the rise of the “mumpreneur” or profiles on “mumpreneurs” who despite the odds against them — ie, having children — have managed to start and run interesting and profitable businesses. They’re segregated away from the rest of the entrepreneurial community due their status as being women with children. They’re the business-creating version of the “mummy blogger”.

Meanwhile, fathers can get away with having children and retaining the title of entrepreneur. Their status as a Dad doesn’t automatically come first in their elevator pitch, or become the key identifying point when others try to describe what they do. If we did use expressions like Dadpreneur or even Parentpreneur a little more frequently, I’d be more inclined to acknowledge the ‘m’ word.

I admire all women who launch their own businesses and am continually inspired by the success of those who can carve out a niche in their market and creatively come up with interesting solutions for business and consumer needs.

I also acknowledge that many women launch businesses while on maternity leave or after they have children. Often, this comes in response to a need to acquire more flexibility over hours and workloads, as well as a desire to gain more autonomy and keep their best ideas for themselves. This isn’t because they become mothers, but rather because our current workplace cultures and structures are still not flexible enough to accommodate those with caring responsibilities. Women look for alternate options and find other forms of success in doing so.

Australian women are now starting businesses at twice the rate of men. According to ABS data, there are now more women than men running businesses in the 33-45 year old age bracket, a prime time to be taking on caring responsibility but stats nonetheless that prove such women are not part of a unique “niche” requiring their own terminology, but rather a broader movement of women changing what we know about business in Australia.

They’re not all mums. They’re not all corporate escapees. They’re women with good ideas, a willingness to take a risk and enough business nous to do their own thing.

And nobody, whether they’re working or not, is “just a mum”.

Angela Priestley is the editor of Women’s Agenda, where this article originally appeared.

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