Almost two thirds of working mums have considered setting up their own businesses and 38% have put the wheels in motion, according to Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey. The survey of over 2,390 working parents, sponsored by McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd, covers a wide variety of issues, from childcare and flexible working to finances, discrimination and self employment.
It shows 63% of working mums have considered setting up their own business or franchise, up significantly on last year’s figure of 57%. Of these, 62% are just considering it while 21% are in the early stages of setting up and the rest are looking at business ideas and plans. In terms of what might help them start a business, 65% say they would find access to business funding useful, 52% would like advice on writing a business plan, 50% want ideas on the kinds of business they could start, 22% want advice on IT infrastructure and 48% would like business mentoring. Only 16% need advice on hiring staff.
Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show the number of women in self-employment is increasing at a faster rate than the number of men. In 2014 women made up just under one third of the self-employed (1.4 million). Since 2009 the number of self-employed women has increased by 34%. By comparison over the past five years the number of self-employed men has risen by 15% to 3.1 million in 2014.
Women interviewed by Workingmums.co.uk say a large part of the reason they have turned to self employment is to get greater flexibility without having to sacrifice some of their skills to do so. Rebecca McDermott used to be a senior manager for an international chain of hotels, but she has swapped the daily four-hour commute for running a cleaning franchise from her own home and says she has no regrets. “I loved my job, but I started to think that I wanted to be closer to home and that spending 11 hours with a childminder was not the best thing for my daughter. Plus there’s lots of variety in what I’m doing now and I am ambitious to grow the business.”
The survey shows 36% of women say their job is not very or not at all flexible. Forty one per cent say childcare is not flexible enough for their needs and 57% of those who are not in a job say childcare costs are making it difficult for them to return.
The survey shows that in addition to considering starting their own business, many women are looking to switch profession. Some 29% had retrained in the last year and 24% had retrained in the last two to three years. Some 64% said they would be interested in retraining if courses were more flexible.
Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, said: “There are many reasons women are considering starting their own business, but the sheer numbers raise questions about why women are prepared to turn their backs on employment and take the often riskier route associated with self employment. Many of the women who we speak to who have set up their own businesses mention flexibility as a key issue and also the support they get from other women who have set up their own businesses. This is surely food for thought for employers and policymakers.”