Having written last week about being a Mum and working flexibly around your family, I have been thinking about the term “Mumpreneur”. I know that the term made it into the OED at the end of last year and that this caused a bit of a debate to arise. There are many who seem to find the term derogatory, and yet since becoming a Mum and considering my options with regard to working around my family, I have also seen the term used positively by many individuals, communities and companies.
So, what’s the debate all about?
The first post I read, the one that made me think about this at all in fact, was a post by Lynn Harris. Her perspective is that the term Mompreneur (she is writing for the American audience, hence “Mom”) is often used to patronise and belittle the achievements of women in business. “let’s face it: when we are not among other mothers who are prepared to salute and support us, the word “mom” has a different — and diminutive — connotation.” I’ll be honest; I hadn’t really considered this. I am in awe of women who successfully have a family and run a business. I find the idea of working for myself and doing it around my commitments to my family a really beguiling one. But then I am one of the “other mothers who are prepared to salute and support”. I hadn’t thought about those who might not. Those who might use the term to suggest that you were somehow not as serious about your job as a proper entrepreneur, after all you don’t hear of many men being called Dadpreneurs; men are entrepreneurs with a family.
So I searched about a bit and it seems that there are many people who subscribe to the same thoughts as Lynn Harris. Jen Walshaw of Mum in the Madhouse says that the term suggests that “not only do we often run a home, but in between it all we manage to do a little work” Rebecca Jones of Business in Red Shoes says that she has “asked men and women in business what they think and the majority worry that it implies they are a mum first and business comes second”, suggesting that the term may be “hindering their business appeal for those who worry their role as a mum will interfere with their abilities as a business woman.” If this is the perception, then how come so many women in business do use and associate with the term?
I emailed Erica Douglas of littlemummy.com. She is one half of Become a Mumpreneur, so I assumed that she must be able to tell me something positive about the term! I saw Erica and her partner Antonia Chitty speak at the Business and Baby Show 2011 and have taken e-courses both via littlemummy and BAM, they are certainly using the term Mumpreneur to connect with their target market and seem to be encouraging women to embrace the term and use it to move themselves forward as both Mums and business women.
Erica’s response was very interesting. She said that “a Mumpreneur is someone who has gone into business because they are a mum.” She also highlighted the sense of community that there can be with the term Mumpreneur “I think there are many mums in business who do identify with the term, and for them it gives them a group or ‘tribe’ to feel a part of and gain support from.” Interestingly, Erica says that she feels that the term Mumpreneur only describes one stage of business and that there comes a time when your business and lifestyle move past this title; where children become less dependent. This ties in with Rebecca Jones’ point. Perhaps women who identify with the term are women who do put their family first and their business second? I personally would see this as a strength in many ways, although I can see Rebecca’s point that as a client I may be less forgiving.
I suppose overall the key thing is that the term Mumpreneur can be useful if you identify with it, if your clientele identify with it in a positive manner and if it says the right things about you and your business. It is not a useful term if it is applied to you in a pejorative way as a means of suggesting that you are not as good at your job as others who are not ‘distracted’ by family. For me, one sentence stood out in Erica Douglas’ email and it was this “If I decide I’m going to do something then no terminology in the world will stop me aspiring to that.”
So, women who work for yourselves and have a family, keep aspiring to be the best you possibly can; refer to yourselves in whatever way you wish and do not be limited by language.