Ask A Feminist is Stylist.co.uk's regular column tackling issues on feminism, sexism and womanhood in a real-life, 21st century context. This week, entrepreneur, Emma-Jane Adam, explains why she's fed up of being referred to as a 'Mumpreneur', and why we need to take a stand against the word.
Feminist Emma-Jane says:
For the past four years I have worked alongside my business partner day and night to establish my own company.
Our business, Smalls - which creates merino loungewear and activewear for kids - has won several awards and counts Selfridges among its global stockists. And yet, we still lack confidence from time to time in the validity of what we have achieved and in ourselves, as businesswomen.
Because when a woman – a mother, no less – starts her own business, she is given a new title. No, not businesswoman, but ‘Mumpreneur’.
And I cannot stand it.
Who decided that a woman who has given birth and then goes on to start her own business should be labeled as if she were some lesser offspring of an entrepreneur, or part of some malformed business subculture? And what is the cut-off for being a Mumpreneur? If you started your business pre-children, do you get to be a bona fide businessperson? A straight-up entrepreneur?
About a year ago, I went to an event for women in business under the umbrella description of Mumpreneur. Under my breath I mentioned to one of the speakers that I couldn’t stand the label, to which she replied: “Yes, but we can’t complain can we? It’d be offensive to those who have embraced it”. But, really, it’s offensive to all women.
Selling my product, shoulder to shoulder with intelligent women also trying to make a go of their creative enterprises, I thought: how are we different from any other start-up out there?
Referring to a businesswoman as a Mumpreneur eats away at what they’ve accomplished; it is utterly belittling and marginalising.
Being a mother is the hardest job I’ve ever had and setting up a new business from scratch is no mean feat, either. Juggling a myriad of things; kids, business and work forces us to be more efficient with our time; we can achieve an amazing amount in a small time frame because we are incredibly focused. In many ways, parenthood has made us develop this skill set, so why are we being labeled mumsy-prenuers?
The word conjures up the suggestion that I’m doing something cutesy – more of a hobby than a career. I would never want for my daughter to grow up wanting to be a Mumpreneur, I want her to be an entrepreneur or businessperson, co-founder or founder…. just like her brothers would be.
The real problem with the M word, though, is that it serves as just another reflection of the way in which we view women – and mothers - in the UK.
In the UK, the role of mother certainly feels as though it is valued less than that of a successful businessperson. I know that a lot of my female friends who paused their careers to have children found it difficult to get back into the workforce, equally those who were very successful in their field found themselves marginalised or pushed aside once they started a family and continued working.
In the UK, the word Mumpreneur is used all too often, segregating us further.
One perfect example that has happened to me time and time again is having people turn their backs to speak to the person on the other side of them at business dinners, once they found out my full time job was that of M.O.T.H.E.R. The glass ceiling still very much exists.
There is absolutely no difference between my business acumen and that of my non-parent peer group. New research from Deloitte in April of this year reveals that women-led SMEs could contribute more than £180bn to the British economy by 2025 - not an insignificant amount - so why are mothers in business being segregated as a statistic? Why does it make any difference?
My husband started his own company just as we had our first child, he worked for nothing for a year, he was home every night for bath time, he was sleep deprived, he did the best he could to make a success of his idea and be a great father in the process. Did we hear him being labeled Dadpreneur? Will it be discussed at London Business School Entrepreneurship Club? I wonder if anyone ever called Richard Branson a Dadpreneur. I doubt it.
Having children has been exhausting, wonderful, and life-changing. It has altered my perspective irrevocably but it certainly doesn’t define the way I do business.
It’s time to put an end to the use of this word. I don’t need a trivializing label; I am an entrepreneur, so call me that.
Emma-Jane Adam is Co-Founder of London-based Smalls and at the same time, she’s a mother-of-three.
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