By Anita Brook FCCA, ACCA practitioners panel member, founder of Accounts Assist
8 March is International Women's Day, a global day celebrating the economic, political, and social achievements of women. This year's theme is the 'Pathway to decent work for women'.
This got me thinking about the recent press coverage on mums returning to work. Women that have had a great career and put everything into making 'someone else' money can suddenly find themselves without 'decent' work after having a baby.
On the 13 January Regus published a report which hit the headlines claiming that 'London companies are shying away from hiring working mums'. Findings from a survey of just under 300 small, medium and large companies in the capital revealed that while nearly half (46%) plan to hire staff generally in 2011, only 31% will be taking on returning mothers. It was felt that the results indicated that the recession awakened old prejudices about employing women who return to work after having a baby. London firms told Regus they fear that working mums are less committed than other employees and will leave to have another child shortly after training.
It is no surprise to me that I have a growing number of clients who are women setting up their own business, or running an established business. They may not all be mumpreneurs but it gives women more choice, if they do decide to have children, to be in charge of their own finances rather than at the mercy of an employer who may have 'old prejudices'.
There are 602,000 female owned businesses in the UK representing just 14% of all businesses (Annual Small Business Survey February 2008). In my opinion this is set to increase dramatically.
There are a number of reasons why a mother may choose to set up her own company and it may not be that she is a born leader or entrepreneur. After having a baby, and maternity leave/time out of the rat race, a woman may have had time to assess what she really wants out of life and evaluate her strengths. This can lead to her setting up a company around those skills.
New mums can be put off that they can't have it all – the reality of trying to negotiate compressed/flexible working is stressful at the best of times but in a recession everyone is clinging on to their jobs and doing above and beyond. It may not be possible to be the mum that she wants to be and return to the career ladder.
It could be that childcare – especially in central London (up to £60 a day) – is too expensive to justify returning to work but the extra income from setting up as a sole trader and working around the children works out better financially.
Having a baby gives some women more confidence in their own capabilities and resources – to learn a new role from scratch (mummy), in which there is no option of failing, can build an enormous inner strength. This is where I see a number of sassy confident mums starting their own ventures or buying into a franchise so that they can make their own money around their own family.
'Mumpreneurs' are business owners who are primarily mothers or intend to become a mother; and the chaos that a child or children bring to a home can mean that the focus cannot always be 100% on the business. I love nothing more than sharing in the excitement of a new business and finding ways to help set up finances, so this is one less stress. A mother seldom gets a full night's sleep, so on those rare occasions she can nod off, I don't want her awake worrying about money.