With many female business owners now titling themselves as ‘Mumpreneurs’, countless books, businesses, online communities and even an award ceremony sponsored by Amazon have sprung up in wake of what is commonly dubbed the ‘mumpreneur movement’.
But, in a world which already perpetuates so many gender restrictive labels and prefixes, we’re questioning whether the ‘mumpreneur’ title is a positive one? Is being a parent ever relevant to your job title? And do we categorise male business owners in the same way?
According to the Office For National Statistics, the number of working mothers in the UK has surged by 1.2 million over the previous two decades. And with 1 in 5 new mums expecting to be their own boss within the next 5 years, it is perhaps of little surprise that the title has gained such considerable momentum.
According to data taken from Google Trends, search queries for ‘mumpreneur’ have steadily increased in popularity over the years, with interest over time reaching its peak in December 2018.
While the figures concerning working mothers undoubtedly demonstrate a positive feat for women in the workplace, opinion is still very much divided when it comes to the term ‘mumpreneur’.
We took the debate to Twitter and the results were telling to say the least. When female business owners were asked exactly how they feel about the term ‘mumpreneur’:
- 68% deemed the term patronising
- 22% felt undecided
- 10% found it empowering
‘Patronising’, ‘belittling’, ‘condescending’ are but a few of the adjectives that were most commonly used to criticise the title.
Perhaps the most popular criticism of the ‘mumpreneur’ brand is that society doesn’t subject men to the same level of categorisation. Where are all the dadpreneurs?
Just one quick search on Google, and a definite disparity between the usage of the two terms is made clear. A search for ‘mumpreneur’ delivers 525,000 results, while a search for the male equivalent ‘dadpreneur’ yields a mere 38,500 results.
And it doesn’t just stop there. ‘Mumpreneur’ is not the only buzzword to categorise women according to their gender, with #Girlboss, #Bossbabes and #EntrepreneHER the latest hashtags to frequent social media.
While every woman should be free to title herself exactly as she wishes, we definitely do need to consider the impact that the circulation of such gendered sub-categories could have on the perception of female business owners.
Abbie Coleman, Founder of MMB Magazine summarises:
‘What can start as a “trend” can cause so much harm. I feel a pang of sadness that somewhere along the line we found another way to dull successful women, to find a way to say bless didn’t she do well.’
On The Flipside
There is however a lot to be said for the positive impact that the mumpreneur movement can have. Orlaith Brogan founder of popular online community, The Mumpreneur Revolution has found that the title has in fact enriched many women’s lives and career, commenting:
'I set up The Mumpreneur Revolution to support mums in business but never to categorise them. Before I had my son I felt the term was slightly patronising. After having my son my eyes opened and I now see the strength, determination and hard work it takes to grow a business around children. Far from being patronising – mumpreneur represents something way bigger.'
The Edinburgh based group now boasts over 1,600 members, so it is clear that there are indeed many business women whom both identify with the term and embrace it to further their success.
So, What Do You Call Yourself?
We felt that it was hugely important for business leaders to have their say on the debate. So, we spoke to female business owners who both embrace and dispute the title, and asked male business owners how they felt about the term ‘dadpreneur’:
Katie Owen, Founder, Sargasso Shoes
‘I do not like being called a Mumpreneur. I believe it has patronising connotations; as if you are not a real business woman, you are a Mum who happens to have a little side business.I always just call myself a business woman or “Founder”.
I was fortunate enough to be given some headspace whilst I was on maternity leave to start a business, but the fact that I am now a mum has no relevance to the business I run which is designer wide fitting shoes.’
Kim Palmer, Founder, Clementine
‘I find it frustrating and not necessary. We have enough labels in life. I introduce myself in two ways depending on the context. Always with my name first, and either I’m the CEO or the Founder of a woman’s wellness app.
I think it really depends on your business, the audience you are serving and the context of the conversation. With my community I do talk about being a Mum, but not all of the time because it could become alienating for all the women who aren’t mums.’
Erin Thomas, Founder, Making Mumpreneurs
‘I created Making Mumpreneurs as an online community which supports and empowers mums building businesses around family life. It’s a unique proposition for women who can’t get out to business events because they are caring for young children at home.
Mumpreneur is not a job title, it’s a lifestyle choice. It explains the life I have chosen to live. I think some of the negativity towards the term has come from the misguided idea that you should introduce yourself as a ‘mumpreneur’ instead of a ‘founder’. For me the term simply allows mums, who have decided to start a business to find communities of like-minded women.’
Vhari Russel, Founder, The Food Marketing Expert
‘I think the term is patronising and was created a number of years ago when there were fewer women juggling work life and kids. It is a term you hear less and less as there are so many women rocking the business world.
Historically men have had a strong presence in the business environment and therefore aren’t given a label. I prefer founder as I am no different to a man running a business.’
Alexis Kingsbury, Founder, SpiderGap
‘I actually really like the reminder of a key reason why I do what I do... to provide me with time with my family. I like the terms ‘familypreneur’ and ‘parentpreneur’ - they avoid a focus on gender and instead put the focus on how the person balances family and work.
In my software business one of our core values is to ‘Enjoy the journey’. For the whole team (even those without children), spending time with family is key and easy to lose out on when work gets tough. As an entrepreneur there is always more work you can do, so you need to consciously stop yourself from working all hours.’
Sam Burgess, Founder, Small and Mighty
‘I feel it goes in the same box as “Girl Boss”, I don’t think it is an empowering term and think it is belittling and almost shaming that women are in business – like it’s not our place. To me, it makes out that we are just ‘playing’ at being an entrepreneur and should really be focussing on being wives and mothers. It’s a dreadful term that make me cringe.
I never refer to myself as an entrepreneur, even though I am. I usually refer to myself as self-employed or founder.’
Stacey McNaught, Founder, MacNaught Digital
‘I don’t like it at all. It feels condescending to me – like someone patting you on the head and saying “well don’t on managing to raise your children and make a few pennies from your little hobby too!” Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but that’s an association I can’t help but make.
I’d call myself a Consultant. My business is a small marketing consultancy. There are 4 of us in it now and while technically, my job title is “Director”, I still very much regard myself as an independent consultant.’
Alex Pollock, Managing Director, SocMedSup
‘I don’t have any children myself, but I wouldn’t want to be referred to as a ‘Dadpreneur’ if I were to have kids. I’d have pride in each of those roles separately in what sense of responsibility and worth they give me. I’m more of a ‘business owner’ or ‘managing director’.
My personal opinion is that the term ‘mumpreneur’ is slightly belittling to someone who takes on both of those roles. I know plenty of mums who are also entrepreneurs and absolutely knockin’ it out the park, and embracing their success at both.’
Eleanore Dresch, Founder, Culture Whisper
'I think the word Mumpreneur is a positive statement, as it heralds a woman as having raised children and grown a start-up business.
To me, the word suggests a point in life and level of wisdom, plus the ability to manage and multi-task and make decisions for the well-being of others. I think we should embrace the term, rather than stigmatize it.
Fiona L Brown, Founder, The Confidence Club
‘I’m not upset by the term because actually one of the reasons I have a business is because I had children and couldn’t go back to my original senior management role. I feel fine being recognised as both a mum and an entrepreneur, however I do wonder why we need to establish that a business woman is also a mum? I usually use ‘Founder’ in my profiles.
We still live in a society that assumes men are still men even when they become dads, but women automatically just become mums once they have kids – society still likes to try and pigeon hole women.’
Christine Gouchault, Author of Business Mum
‘I like the term Mumpreneur as it describes who I am, a mum and entrepreneur. However, I have experienced some business people, even women, saying that it is belittling as it makes me seem like an unserious business person. I think we need to change the general perception, that a mum can’t be a brilliant business woman as well as a mum.
I wanted to show women through my book that being a mum and business owner can go hand in hand. You don’t have to choose between them. In my opinion being your own boss gives you more freedom and flexibility as a mum.’
Rosie Neave, Founder of Roost Communications and Pheasant Plucker and Son
‘I think it’s a bit unnecessary really and I don’t see the need for it. To me, it feels belittling as I think it implies that you’re playing at running a business in between school pick-ups. I also think it’s the 21st Century and we should do away with adding gender terms to occupations. Doctors who are mothers, aren’t called mumtors, they’re just doctors.
If I was pushed to define myself as anything I’d probably say “Founder” or “Director”.
Zoe Woodward, Founder, Ohana Communications and Aloha Coffee
‘I find it belittling. I don’t see the need to highlight that an entrepreneur, business owner, is also a mother. It feels like we are trying to make an excuse or a show of the fact. I’m a founder and director.
Aswell as my communications business I am also a yoga teacher, blogger and “influencer.” With my work in this space I do share the fact quite openly that I am a mother and advise other women. It may help other mums to relate to me in this vein, but I don’t feel it’s the be all and end all.’
Marc Caulfield, Founder, Demolish The Wall
‘Personally I feel it is a terrible label. In my view we are all simply entrepreneurs. The fact that they are female and mothers should be irrelevant. I feel in our drive to be more inclusive, gender unbiased and PC we actually create more factions.
I am a dad and a single dad. I wouldn’t be offended if I was called a dadpreneur, but I would feel as above. More cringe, than offended. Be proud of who you are and what you have achieved, or are achieving, without having to make up silly words for it.
Alex Jarvis, Managing Director, Traffic2
‘It’s an awful term, cringeworthy. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a parent or not. I wouldn’t be offended if I was referred to as a "dadpreneur", but I might be a little bit sick in my mouth reading/hearing that term used. I’m the Managing Director/Partner of a business.
There’s obviously the requirement to juggle the responsibilities between raising a kid and running a business, but that’s a personal choice, it shouldn’t be a factor and certainly not a focus.’
Abbie Coleman, Founder, MMB Magazine
‘Why can’t we simply be entrepeneurs? Are we using it to separate that the real entrepeneurs are called entrepeneurs, but mother business owners are not quite as worthy?
Why do we have to infantilise women in business? How often do you hear the term “Dadpreneur”?’
Jennifer Gilmour, Author, Isolation Junction
‘When the terminology was first used and started to go around I liked it because it described me, it was new and different and caught people’s attention. I use the terminology ‘Author’ and ‘Advocate’ now, but I did use mumpreneur before my writing career for a previous business which my husband now runs.’
I was a finalist for an Inspirational Mum Award in 2017 for BizMums. I was over the moon to be nominated and become a finalist for this award, I think more so because it credited me as a mum and the work I do.’
Will Sinclair, Business Director, STS Commercial
‘Is it also noteworthy if you’re an employee and a parent? Probably not.
It’s a bit daft. “Entrepreneur” should be akin to business tycoon. I think it gets overused as a label for anyone with any small business. It should be reserved for someone who has played a critical part in many businesses over a career. I prefer to stay understated, titling myself simply as “Business Director”’.