Being a mumpreneur isn't as glamorous as you think

Mother and daughter in a 1955 photograph. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Being an Australian mumpreneur – a mother running her own business at home while also raising children – is not the glamorous career the buzzword suggests, a new study has found.

According to research by the University of Sydney Business School, an increasing number of mothers, forced by family commitments to run work from home businesses suffer significant social and financial disadvantage.

Not all can be high profile successes such as these 12 Australian mumpreneurs who launched their own ventures while raising children.

The latest research found that many are pushed into self-employment by the high cost and poor availability of child care and by employers unwilling to allow flexible hours or accept part-time work.

“The stereotypical view of the self-employed mother, the so-called mumpreneur, is a woman working from home, running some sort of cottage industry,” says the business school’s Dr Meraiah Foley.

“Self-employment is presented as a lifestyle choice for women who want to be at home with their children, but still make some money.

“The truth is, for many working mothers, self-employment is an option of last resort, which carries significant economic consequences.”

Dr Foley’s research findings are included in her doctoral dissertation, Mothers in Company: The entrepreneurial motivations of self-employed mothers in Australia.

Women with young children choose self-employment at more than double the rate of female workers generally, according to analysis of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Almost a quarter (23.4%) of working women with a child under 12 engage in self-employment compared to 9% of working women generally.

“Workplace barriers include the inability to negotiate part-time or flexible work; business cultures that are hostile to part-time or flexible workers; and poor quality part-time jobs with limited promotion potential,” says Dr Foley.

“For working mothers with ambitious career goals, or who want work that is challenging and interesting, but can still accommodate the schedule requirements of raising young children, self-employment becomes the only viable option.”

More than 85% of self-employed women have either no superannuation savings or savings of less than $40,000, according to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia.

Self-employed women aged 60-64 have superannuation savings of around $69,000, half that of employed women of the same age and less than half the average balance for self-employed men also nearing retirement.

“Nearly two-thirds of the women in our study were not contributing to superannuation, or building businesses that could be sold to fund a retirement, and many reported high levels of personal and professional isolation as a result of working alone,” says Dr Foley.

“Without a doubt, self-employment offers many mothers the flexibility and autonomy they need to accommodate their children’s schedules, but that flexibility comes at a steep price.”

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