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Business-owning mums ‘work harder than dads’

Lyn Hawkins, Business Women Australia

New research has suggested that female business owners work longer hours than their male counterparts, and do so with less business funding.

Just days before Australia celebrates Mother’s Day (Sunday, 12 May), Melbourne-headquartered creative platform 99designs released the results of its gender gap survey of 1,889 entrepreneurs around the world.

It found that female entrepreneurs are far more likely to also be the primary caregiver at home (54 per cent compared with 37 per cent of men). The rest are either not the primary caregiver or share the duties equally with their partner.

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In fact, 30 per cent of women said they put in 50 or more hours each week on childcare over and above running their own business. Just 10 per cent of men said the same.

“Being an entrepreneur is tough, but doing it as a parent — and particularly as a mother — is even tougher,” 99designs CEO Patrick Llewellyn said.

“The data shows the vast majority of care-giving responsibility falls on women, and this ultimately contributes to both financial and labour inequality.

“With well over a million customers and designers having worked on our platform, we know many of them are balancing the role of entrepreneur and parent, and we think it’s important to shine a light on the sheer effort that goes into making a small business successful, both at work and at home.”

The survey also found that men are more likely to have successfully raised capital for their business than women.

Almost half (47 per cent) of fathers have raised more than $50,000 in capital for their business, compared with 28 per cent of mothers.

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Just over one in five mothers (22 per cent) have raised $100,000 for their business, compared to more than one in three (36 per cent) fathers.

Women need to speak up more

Commenting on the findings, Lyn Hawkins (pictured), national director of Business Women Australia and head of her own consulting practice, told My Business that the results were hardly surprising.

“Every home is different and working couples usually think deeply about how they will manage as parents before deciding on having children. Often they negotiate between themselves as to who is going to do what, because childcare costs can be too great and it is usually mum who wants to be more involved as a primary caregiver,” she said.

“A lot of women use this time to establish a business or work part-time, and enjoy the flexibility that goes with this.”

However, Ms Hawkins said that women “do have a tendency to take on more than they should and not ask enough for help or support”.

“This needs to change,” she said.

According to Ms Hawkins, it is also common for male-led businesses to raise capital than female-led businesses.

“I see this a lot in business. It is a confidence and knowledge issue,” she said.

“It’s very prevalent with women who start businesses and bootstrap for a few years, growing it to the point where they can show that it is worth investing in.

“The problem with this is that, without capital, the growth is slow and often the business fails, not because it was[n’t] a good product or service, but [because it] needed financial injection.

“I believe women are often reluctant to ask others for money and, in some cases, just don’t know how to raise capital.”

Business rewarding despite challenges

Despite the many challenges associated with running a business, and discrepancies between the genders, the survey found that most people still find being a business owner rewarding.

Only 28 per cent of respondents to the 99designs survey said they had been encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship during their schooling years. Yet an overwhelming majority (82 per cent) — regardless of their gender — plan to actively encourage their children to go into business for themselves.

Entrepreneurship is also hereditary for many, though not all, with 43 per cent stating they had at least one parent who owned their own business.

Business owners are also highly engaged with their communities, the survey found. Entrepreneurs have a high tendency to volunteer for local community organisations or charities, although women are more likely to do so than men (71 per cent versus 61 per cent).

The survey attracted 195 responses from the Asia Pacific region, as well as 673 from North America, 671 from Europe and 61 from South America. A further 287 did not provide their locality.

Practical steps to balance business and family

Ms Hawkins said there are some tried and tested ways that business owners and working parents can use to ease the challenge of juggling work and family commitments:

  • Outsource what you can.
  • Ask for help. No one has ESP.
  • Do some “time or skill trades” with those in your community. “When I had my children at home, I used to have two other sets of kids to my house on a Monday, which then meant I had Tuesday and Wednesday free,” she said.
  • Book time out of your calendar for self-care, date nights and holidays. “Block it out without thinking how you can manage it — you will.”
  • Use technology well. “For example, I have an online calendar scheduler for meeting bookings, automated templates for various communications, and cloud software for accounting and project management to cut down on meeting times. I use the Solo Accounts app for my bookkeeping in the consulting practice, as this makes the quarterly BAS easier to do, and I get my daughter to upload all my receipts.”
  • Use apps to remind yourself to have a break.
  • If you have children at home, make them responsible for as much as possible, and a bit more.
  • Make sure you have lots of fun. Life is short.

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Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016. 

The two-time Publish Awards finalist has an extensive journalistic career across business, property and finance, including a four-year stint in the UK. Email Adam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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