Mumpreneur success still requires conventional masculine behaviour

A new study led by Kent Business School, University of Kent, finds that whilst the mumpreneur identity may enable women to participate in the business world and be recognised as ‘proper’ entrepreneurs, this success is dependent on alignment with the conventional masculine norms of entrepreneurship.

These conventional masculine behaviours include working long hours and an ongoing dedicated commitment to the success of a business.

Published in the International Small Business Journal and based on an interview study of women business owners, the study highlights the interviewees’ belief that entrepreneurship and motherhood are compatible but challenges the claim in existing research that mumpreneurship represents a new feminised identity and a different way of doing business.

The study conceptualises the mumpreneur as the hybrid combination of masculine and feminine behaviours, examining the tensions that emerge in simultaneously running a business and a family, and considering if these are managed through the curtailment of entrepreneurial activity.

The study found that for those women who see themselves as entrepreneurial mums, entrepreneurial curtailment is not an option and conventional masculine behaviours are valued higher than the feminine in the context of successful business development.

The consequences of this hybrid behaviour are significant:

  • To be identified as a ‘normal’ entrepreneur, feminine behaviours are accepted alongside masculine commitment to business, so long as they are not disruptive of the latter.
  • Mumpreneurs must balance both behaviours yet avoid engaging in excessive feminine conduct that may restrict business development or devalue their entrepreneurial activities.
  • Mumpreneurs perceived as ‘too feminine’ in their business activities are marginalised as unengaged in ‘proper’ entrepreneurship, creating a hierarchy of business identities.

    Patricia Lewis, Professor of Management at the University of Kent and Principal Investigator said: ‘The mumpreneur identity has undoubtedly had a positive impact on the way women’s entrepreneurship is viewed. Nevertheless, our study demonstrates that it has not disrupted the dominant discourses of masculine entrepreneurship or gendered power relations in the field. Women are still in a position of being committed to both sides of the balance between business and motherhood but are devalued as entrepreneurs when devoting time to their children rather than business.’

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    The paper, ‘Postfeminism, hybrid mumpreneur identities and the reproduction of masculine entrepreneurship’, is published in the International Small Business Journal (Professor Patricia Lewis, University of Kent; Professor Nick Rumens, Oxford Brookes University; Professor Ruth Simpson, Brunel University London).

    URL: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/02662426211013791

    DOI: 10.1177/02662426211013791

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