Why don’t more women start businesses?

By: Mark Williams

Date: 8 November 2012

Why don’t more women start businesses/woman with baby in office{{}}Research 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.

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