Mumpreneur: How to patronise working mothers

I'm a mum who runs her own business - not a mumpreneur Language is important in tackling lazy stereotypes, addressing equality and celebrating a multi-billion pound market.

eBay recently published research that claimed businesses set up by so-called mumpreneurs last year generated £7.2bn for the economy and supported 204,600 jobs.

Fantastic, and something worth celebrating. Except I couldn’t get past the mangled word mumpreneur.

Mumpreneur is patronising - and I’m an entrepreneur and a working mum.

I have several issues with the term and having tested these out among my community on Facebook, it seems I’m not alone.

Firstly, I don’t see why I should be pigeonholed just because I have kids.

My professional identity is not linked to my children and while I am proud of my two boys, I am also proud of owning a successful business that continues to grow.

Entrepreneur is a non-gender specific term

Secondly I don’t see why professional women with children should be singled out from those who don’t. Men wouldn’t be divided in this way, so why do it to women?

All female-led businesses deserve to be celebrated – it’s not just men and mums who are helping shore up the economy.

As a term, mumpreneur is unnecessary. The word entrepreneur is non-gender specific so it makes no sense to define female business owners by their personal status.

The fact that Wikipedia doesn’t have a listing for Dadpreneur but describes a Mumpreneur as “A mother who works as a business entrepreneur in addition to her family commitments” tells you all you need to know about this gender issue.

Men simply aren’t defined by being a parent.

We are all busy building businesses so drop the tags and let us get on with it.

Reinforcing gender stereotypes is dangerous

No doubt, the eBay team would argue that the word mumpreneur is actually a form of positive discrimination.

But when the media runs a story such as this, they invariably – as in BQ’s case – also use a story of a harassed looking woman in a business suit sat in the kitchen, juggling a laptop, phone and baby.

It doesn’t create a very favourable impression and it’s at odds with reality.

Most of the working mums I know have daily life planned to precision in order to accommodate the pressures that come with their different roles. They are much more professional than such a lazy title suggests.

Through almost two years of leading the gender and diversity work at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), I can say from experience it’s important not to underestimate the power such words and phrases can have.

Mumpreneur does us a disservice

The language we use is critical in the fight for equality.

The PR industry has a serious issue with senior female talent dropping out after maternity leave. Many practitioners cite being unable to balance work and life pressures.

The CIPR teamed with Sheila Wild from the Equal Pay Portal to look for potential solutions. One of her pieces of work was to help us develop return to work policies and to embrace the term agile rather than flexible working.

It might seem a small difference but it’s not. Agile working is seen to be about keeping pace with the way the working environment is changing, as well as a way to help staff strike a balance between work and home.

In contrast, flexible working is tarnished with being something that in the main only working mums want and need, with a lack of commitment almost implicit within this.

Using non-discriminatory language is critical in the movement towards equality in the workplace.

And please stop using the label mumpreneur.

This article was first published on Business Quarter's website in August 2015.