Today I have received three different emails, from three different sources, all along the same theme.
And all three had me grinding my teeth in an attractive snarly fashion.
“Staples® UK is today launching their search to find the ‘Mumpreneur of the Year’ in partnership with Netmums.”
The second, which landed just a few minutes later?
“Nectar Business… recently held their Small Business Awards and I have a great Mummy success story regarding [name of company removed] who were highly commended for Innovation at this year’s awards. [Same Company] is a great inspiration, proving that creativity and drive are a the perfect recipe for a MUMtrepreneur.”
And hot on their heels, what did the third mail announce?
“The Mumpreneur Q&A – As featured at The Baby Show”
I feel the frustrated tension headache spreading just from re-writing that.
These mails are all from usually-well-respected brands and PR’s.
WHY do you insist on using the ‘mumpreneur’ (or, even worse, the ‘mumtrepreneur… *gags attractively*) label?
“WHY-Y-Y-Y would you DO that?”
Just take a step back and think for a second. Why is there no corresponding male term? No ‘dadpreneur‘ awards for the little man at home, looking after the babes and popping on to the computer when he can manage it (bless him)?
It’s simple – because men generally understand that a person’s gender has nothing at all to do with their ability to set up and run a business. If a man runs a business from home, then there is no question over what a friend or associate describes him. They’ll simply say he’s self employed. Or runs his own company. Or, if appropriate, is an entrepreneur.
WAIT. Don’t go switching off. This is no militant we’re-as-good-as-the-boys feminism at work here.
Oh no – it’s FAR more important than that.
Because by using the term ‘mumpreneur’ you’re actually creating a label. And it’s a label that has consequences – professionally harmful consequences.
No one I know sets up a business ‘just for something to do’. Yes, it may have to fit around the family – but what working parent doesn’t have to? We don’t call a female lawyer who returns to work part time a ‘mumpreneur’ do we? No. But how is what she does with her working day any different to the rest of us? Fitting work and family together, trying, striving, for that delicate balance.
So if we market ourselves as ‘mumpreneurs‘, what does that tell people?
What is that label we have embraced as oh-so-perfectly-descriptive just told everyone who reads it?
Does it say to everyone
‘I am a professional, good at what I do, and I am to be respected in my business.’
It does not.
Instead, it does the reverse.
It labels that business as very small. It shouts that the business is being run on a part time as-and-when-the-children-allow basis. The ‘mumpreneur’ in question is a sole trader, probably; with no ambition or intention of expanding and growing their business.
It announces a division of priorities, in a very negative fashion.
Every working parent has split priorities – we don’t need to shout this in the business description, do we?
Let’s go further – the scarily fab Sally Whittle not only runs her own business (the largest blogging index in the UK, with an audience of 10 million, I might add), but she’s a Single Parent too. *gasp* Well, surely, being a single parent is just as relevant – after all, she’s got even more time committed to her child and less to her business. So that makes her a Slumpreneur, yes?
(HA! I just actually definitely just made that word up – I googled to make sure I hadn’t called her something rude, and Google has not ONE reference to it. Bonus!)
When I questioned Staples and Netmums on Twitter about their use of ‘mumpreneur’, Netmums remains mysteriously silent, and Staples replied thus:
*sighs* No. Wrong.
The mumpreneur label does not ‘empower‘ women.
It creates a barrier to their business.
Rightly or wrongly, the business community at large simply does not take ‘mumpreneurs’ seriously. And it’s not like anyone needs extra barriers to climb when trying to make a success of their company, gain funding or land a contract.
It’s a real shame, as a lot of these competitions and awards are excellent – but I, and many others like me, refuse to enter them out of sheer principle. Follow Nectar’s lead and make them about ‘Small Business Awards’. If a ‘mumpreneur’ can’t stand on her own two business feet against the rest of the community, then should she have a special category all for her? Of course she shouldn’t.
One American report I read stated that ‘some women have reported instances of being charged higher interest rates on borrowing because they have been labelled as Mumpreneurs, and therefore are perceived as less serious about business and a higher credit risk’.
Even those of us who have never labelled ourselves as such still suffer the same patronising label.
LittleStuff has been a Limited Company since 2004. It is a full time occupation which pays my mortgage and keeps my family fed. Yet I am, heaven forbid, a mother, and I work from home; naturally I must be a ‘mumpreneur’. Bless.