Why don’t more women start businesses?

Why don’t more women start businesses?

November 08, 2012 by Mark Williams

Why don’t more women start businesses/woman with baby in officeResearch commissioned by the Association of Accounting Technicians suggests that women who leave their chosen profession to have a baby face a pay cut of up to £20,000 a year when they return to work.

The study of more than 2,000 women who have chosen or “been forced by time or financial constraints” to abandon their chosen career after giving birth found that 60% of respondents earn less now than they did before they went on maternity leave.

Some 70% are over-qualified for the jobs they now do and such positions would have been “below them” before giving birth. The average working mum earns £9,419 less a year when compared to previous income, while necessity has forced nearly a quarter of respondents to take any job to make ends meet.

A third said the difference in salary has “affected their life negatively” and one in seven admitted that it had affected their marriage. Four in ten do their current job because it “fits in with family commitments and brings in extra money”; with just 16% saying they are passionate about their profession; and 30% describing their current job as “menial”. While working hours were reduced to enable mums to balance parenting responsibilities, only 20% of respondents said their current job was less stressful.

Respondents’ average age for having their first child was 25 and 38% thought their employer wasn’t supportive enough throughout their pregnancy. Flexibility around school hours, job location and low stress levels were found to be the biggest priorities for working mums, with salary fourth on the list.

Many of us would like to believe that starting a business offers women a better alternative, yet it seems that many women are not planning to start their own business any time soon.

As reported by the FT in August, according to an Ernst & Young survey, just 16% of the 1,000 working women questioned wanted to start their own business, while the “Global Entrepreneurship Monitor UK Report 2011, which surveyed more than 10,000 people in the UK, noted ‘that men tend to have more positive entrepreneurial attitudes than women’ and even that women were more risk-adverse when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Whether that is true or not, are there any other reasons why more women – particularly young mums – don’t start their own business? Leaving aside all of the common reasons why both sexes don’t start their own business, lack of access to finance is often stated as a hurdle more likely to affect more women more men. Childcare is another huge issue, of course.

And however much we like to believe otherwise, balancing the demands of running a business with family commitments remains a massive challenge. The dream of being able to really have it all remains just that for many women – a dream.

As journalist, author and mumpreneur expert Antonia Chitty admits: “Almost all mumpreneurs are doing it so they can spend more time with their family, and it’s always a bit of a struggle to find the right balance. It’s hard to find enough time for your business, your family, your partner and yourself.”

Perhaps none of us should be surprised that many mums compromise by earning less and doing jobs they don’t want to do or hate, rather than start their own business.

  • We’d like to read your thoughts – why don’t more women start their own business?


Anonymous's picture

Hi everyone

Im a careers advise who works with all ages, all backgrounds and all faiths.

My main interest is women returners.  Why?  Because they are the most ready to go into the work place and the least confident!  Starting a business is another matter.

Serious thought in balancing a childs emotional needs and their own emotional needs often reflects in the "guilt" which most of us women have whatever we do!  I have many success stories to share however its not mine to boast about it really is my clients who have to consider the longer term benefit.  Obviously i can help but on the whole so can good friends and family, the problem is some of the deepest thoughts we have appear to be selfish and therefore talking to someone outside your usual group can help you really unravel what you want from life.


Good luck all. Dawn


Catherine Lloyd-Evans's picture

In my case I had little alternative but to seek fulfilment in my career through starting my own business; but yes, it has its ups and downs and finding the right activity is key.  It's a shame more women don't - we have social media in our hands now which has been shown to be something women are great at.

I have found something that I love, but I hated a lot of the startup stuff, especially accounts, tax, and book-keeping issues which I found pretty intimidating!


LanaBambini's picture

I'm a mum of an under-2 and a start up and I can certainly see why a lot of women decide not to go there! Childcare costs £40 per 6 hour day for starters!  I need to keep chilcare costs down so put her in for half a day on some days. Then phone rings constantly, emails keep coming in, there are technical problems to sort out, bookkeeping to keep on top of and I just end up feeling I'm neglecting my daugher or my business (or both!). Somehow I'm supposed to find the time to grow my business, keep an active social media presence, post blogs on my site and put out press releases. The moment she goes to bed at 7, I'm back on the computer working until 10 or 11 - there is no rest. 

redorobotmedia's picture

Agree with the points made here, but I think it's also important to recognise the difference between the two groups you're referring to - i.e. women with young children and 'women' as a catch-all group. 'Why don't more mums start businesses?' vs 'Why don't more women start businesses?'; the two are slightly different questions.

Additionally, I don't think running a business guarantees more time with kids or more flexibility, particularly in the early days. I suppose it depends what kind of business you run, but often, it's not that simple. When I started my business, I worked solid 6-7 day weeks for about four months. I don't think that's a lifestyle new mums would desire. Apart from anything else, it's not realistic when childcare is so expensive. 

e-Vis Marketing and Web Consultancy's picture

It's lack of confidence rather than lack of funding in my opinion. I love helping women start their own home business rather than head back to the 9-5 slog which is so unfamily friendly. Lots of women could start their own home business during school hours and evenings without funding if they had the confidence, skills and support they need.  If you have an idea give it a go, you'll never regret it. :) x 

1ManBandAccts's picture

Women are taught - often unconsciously - that we must do things not for the money. Money is bad, and it's only not bad if it's a man earning it.

There is nothing wrong with earning money and making a success of your business. You won't turn into an avaricious pumpkin if you make good money at a business so you can earn a living and have a life.


Good isn't it?

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