More Australian women than ever are starting their own businesses, with new mums in particular leaving corporate jobs to become ‘mumpreneurs’.
As a 2015 study by the Office for Women and Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed, the number of freelance businesses run by Australian women grew by almost 50 per cent over the past twenty years. This rate of growth is almost double that of men who have started their own enterprises over the same period, showing how rapidly the growth of female business owners has accelerated.
Nearly half of the women operating small businesses in Australia have dependent children, showing that close to half of female business owners are ‘mumpreneurs’.
For those mums who can successfully manage the challenges of launching and running their own business, the benefits are clear.
Rather than returning to a corporate role with limited flexibility, the appeal of being your own boss and managing your own schedule is undeniable. They are able to spend more time with their kids and manage their household more effectively.
Up to 70% of new mums consider starting their own business after the birth of their first child, according to research conducted by Australian mothers network Working Mother’s Connect (WMC).
However, the rise of the ‘mumpreneur’ is leaving a huge skill gap in the corporate resources pool with this continued (and growing) ‘leakage’ of females from the talent pipeline.
Research by WMC cited additional reasons that mothers do not return to their previous workplace include discrimination (whether perceived or real), fear of an inability to juggle work and home life; and worrying that taking up part-time may be seen as ‘career suicide’.
Data compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown that more than 45 per cent of mothers do not return to their previous workplace after maternity leave. This means that the organisations will lose close to half their female talent once they leave to have children.
Women are ‘lost from the pipeline’ two or three times faster than their male colleagues from when they reach the mid-career, manager or senior manager level of their careers (PwC UK). Unsurprisingly, this rate is further accelerated for the level of female participation in leadership positions.
“Despite many advances in workplace equality, women are still not making it to the top in large numbers. While non-executive appointments have increased board-level diversity, many companies continue to report shortages of female senior managers” (International HR Adviser publication).
Businesses will experience difficulty achieving growth if they do not have a strong pipeline of talent coming up through the ranks.
So what is the answer?
Organisations must ensure that they provide adequate support for mothers returning to the workforce. In particular, cultural change within organisations need to support any flexible work arrangements implemented so that mothers (and fathers) do not feel they are sacrificing their careers for working flexibly to meet their family and home commitments. We need to make it easier for parents to have careers and raise families at the same time. It sounds simple and we only have to look at the Nordic countries to see how doable it is. Yet in Australia, while we have made progress there is still a long way to go and the responsibility sits with all parties’ individuals, organisations, governing agencies and of course society.
Kate Boorer is the Founder and CEO of Young Professional Women Australia, an organisation that accelerates the career progression and development of young female leaders working in Australian organisations.