A "mumpreneur" is a woman who starts a business after she has children, often in industries linked to parenthood, and with the motive of being able to combine childcare with income-generating work.

The term was coined by researchers in the United States and England, where the phenomenon is common, possibly because the lack of childcare and parental leave makes the reconciliation of work and family difficult. In Sweden, employment that provides access to long-term paid parental leave is more readily available. Childcare is guaranteed, so the natural choice is to go back to work after parental leave. In this case, you can also take time off to care for a sick child. Most of the evidence suggests that women with small children would not start a business in Sweden.

Despite this, many women do. We ask ourselves why? What motivates them, and what role does the Swedish gender equality norm and the Swedish welfare system play? We analysed data from Statistics Sweden on all companies that were started by women with small children over a fourteen-year period. As expected, we found that unemployment or immigrant status increased the likelihood of starting a business – these groups may have difficulty finding a good job – but even more important was the length of fathers' parental leave. The conclusion is that Swedish parental leave benefits entrepreneurship, as long as the use of parental leave is equal.

We also interviewed women who had started businesses when their children were small. None of the interviewees left their jobs and started a business because they had to, but because they wanted to realize an idea. The women used their parental leave to mature their ideas and to plan their business start-up. The women say that without this time to think and plan, they would not have changed careers. Here again, we see that parental leave benefits entrepreneurship, now in the form of the resource of time.

We also asked how the women view the role of mother. Both in Sweden and elsewhere, the norm is that mothers should work, but in many countries, the role of mother is the primary one – the woman who prioritizes work should be slightly ashamed. Our interviewees had a different attitude. According to them, a good mother is a mother who herself feels good about her own work, through a satisfying job or entrepreneurship, and in this way she is also a good role model for her children. In other words, our participants had renegotiated the role of mothers to a more equal role where mothers can fulfil themselves through work on the same terms as fathers. The Swedish welfare system has probably favoured such a development.

The project was funded by the Swedish Research Council.



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