Here are a few facts about me: I am a woman, I am an entrepreneur; a writer, a creative person. I run two businesses (this here commercial blog and a Marketing consultancy), and I do a bit of journalism on the side. I like shopping, keeping fit and travelling.
I am also a mum.
The fact I have birthed two children from my body has no bearing on the others. I have two awesome kids who I come home to at the end of the day, but that does not affect who I am at the office, gym or shops.
And did I mention? I’m also a feminist, determined to bring those kids up in a world where gender equality is a Thing.
Which is why I became so rageful yesterday when I received an email from a major baby brand inviting me to a London-based event for ‘Mumpreneurs’.
I mean, for goodness sake. We have a woman Prime Minister, we look to Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg as our role models, and we’re still reducing women in business to their title of ‘Mum’?
Let me explain.
The word Entrepreneur is loaded with meaning. I think Entrepreneur and my mind goes to Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Sara Blakely, Arianna Huffington, Tory Burch. I think innovation, power, success.
In contrast, I think Mumpreneur and the mind goes to a different place entirely. It recalls the patronising responses I get when I tell people I own a business, the assumption I run my world ‘from my kitchen table’ – why do they always think mums run ‘kitchen table’ start-ups? – and the sarcastic comments about fitting work in between the cooking and the cleaning. It’s a derogatory and reductive term that should not be applied to anyone, and I’ll take the associations with the word ‘Entrepreneur’ over that load of crap any day.
I was wondering what to do with this email invite. I sat and stewed on not just the fact that I (and loads of women on Twitter, I asked them) felt belittled by the word ‘Mumpreneur’, but also that I had been offered within the text of the email the very special chance to be given ‘handy tips’ on ‘how to be a successful businesswoman and mum in one’. Because apparently it’s impossible for us to do both the job of business leader and mother otherwise.
As I was stewing I received another invitation from Soho House and the brilliant Blooming Foundation , and the language used couldn’t have been more different.
I read the invite for ‘Female Founders’ (not a Mumpreneur in sight) and felt inspired and excited: I booked my spot immediately.
That’s when I knew I had to say something.
I want my children to grow up in a world where women are respected as equals in business, where mothers are respected as equals in business. And that’s not going to happen if large brands are still peddling the angle that it’s unnatural for a woman to be both a mother AND an entrepreneur.
Which is exactly what I wrote in my response. I explained that as a businesswoman I took offence to the reductive term ‘Mumpreneur’ and felt it belittled women at a time when we should feel empowered. I explained that much like the term ‘girl boss’ (heave) it should not be used by anyone valuing the cause of feminism and equality. I asked if they’d ever use the term ‘Dadpreneur’, and (sarcastically) advised that until a time where this entered the general lexicon, they should perhaps re-think their strategy.
Gendered terms for either of us – male or female – are inherently sexist.
And it’s up to us to make a stand against them.
I wrote about this back in 2011 – what a shame we’re still having to fight this uphill battle.
Edited to add – I have received a response from the PR agency promoting the event, apologising for the language used and explaining the term ‘Mumpreneur’ is used by the Government-backed organization they are working with (I’ll be getting in touch with them, too). They have confirmed they won’t be using the term in any further events.