Mumpreneur (or mompreneur) success still requires conventional masculine behavior

June 6, 2021

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Mumpreneur (or mompreneur) success still requires conventional masculine behavior

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

These conventional masculine behaviors 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 feminized identity and a different way of doing business.

The study conceptualizes the mumpreneur as the hybrid combination of masculine and feminine behaviors, 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.

What the researchers say: “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.”

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

The consequences of this hybrid behavior are significant, the researchers found:

  • To be identified as a ‘normal’ entrepreneur, feminine behaviors are accepted alongside masculine commitment to business, so long as they are not disruptive of the latter.
  • Mumpreneurs must balance both behaviors 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 marginalized as unengaged in ‘proper’ entrepreneurship, creating a hierarchy of business identities.

So, what? Women, when they allow themselves to be women, are actually better leaders than men—as multiple studies reported in TR have shown. This is because they are more consultative and relationship focused than men.

Yet in businesses and organizations around the world, we see women who feel that the only way to gain promotion is to be as much like men as possible. That’s bad for the organizations and bad for the women.

In fact, when men adopt “feminine” leadership styles—for example the “transformational” leadership style—they become much more successful. The most famous case being Lee Iacocca.

In terms of this study, women’s greater genetically-based relationship-forming capability should be seen as an entrepreneurial asset—not just in leadership but even more importantly in sales and business development.

Dr Bob Murray

Bob Murray, MBA, PhD (Clinical Psychology), is an internationally recognised expert in strategy, leadership, influencing, human motivation and behavioural change.

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