I love entrepreneurs. I love mothers. I think entrepreneurs who also happen to be mothers are just terrific.
But I hate the term “mompreneur.”
If you’ve somehow been spared exposure to this particular neologism, take 10 seconds to Google it. You’ll quickly learn that there is now a whole cottage industry of blogs and books and consultants and speakers, all dedicated to propagating the same idea: “Hey, all you moms out there can run businesses, too!”
I understand why the whole concept has become so popular. Mompreneur is pretty catchy little term. And it appeals to the “you go, girl!” spirit of pop feminism.
I get it, but I sure don’t like it.
I hate the word mompreneur because it’s condescending and overly twee. I hate it because it’s so pervasively misused. Most importantly, I hate it because I believe it’s actually harmful to many of whom it’s applied.
When I see the term thrown about every time a mother does well in business, it rankles. And it happens all the time; not just on niche blogs and Twitter feeds, but in respected mainstream media outlets, too. The likes of HTC’s Cher Wang, Spanx’s Sara Blakely and The Huffington Post‘s Arianna Huffington, or, in Canada, Dragons’ Den‘s Arlene Dickinson and Indigo’s Heather Reisman, have all borne the label at one time or another. As has pretty much any other successful female entrepreneur with kids.
These women are entrepreneurs, period. And darned good ones, at that. Why does their family status matter in the slightest in their job descriptions?
Consider it this way: I’m a mother. I’m also an editor. Yet no one would ever think to give me a cutesy portmanteau like edimom or mamator. (Granted, those don’t roll off the tongue, but you get my point.)
Or think of this: Larry Ellison, Elon Musk and Bill Gates aren’t called dadpreneurs simply because they have kids. The very idea is laughable.
Like it or not, when you let others call you a mompreneur—or when you use it yourself—it corrodes your credibility. It propagates the stereotype that women belong in the pink ghetto. It suggests to others—employees, clients, suppliers, partners—that your work is a diversion, playing a distant second to taking the kids to the playground on your priority list.
If the last point does, in fact, describe your situation, sure, go ahead and call yourself a mompreneur if you must. We’re guilty of using the term ourselves from time to time. It is, I suppose, a reasonably accurate descriptor of those who want to earn some income while staying home with their children. (Yet even this is puzzling to me: I’m pretty sure none of the women who sold my mother Tupperware or Mary Kay part-time saw fit to conflate their occupation with their parental status. They were simply called consultants, or reps, or something else appropriately professional.)
When I look at all the amazing businesspeople who populate our PROFIT 500, HOT 50 and W100 rankings every year who also happen to be mothers, I don’t see dilettantes. I see people logging countless hours to build incredible, innovative businesses. They should be taken seriously. When we label them mompreneurs (or when they opt to do so themselves), it has the exact opposite effect.
So all you moms out there running companies whose success you’re really committed to—I know there are a lot of you, and I appreciate how hard the whole balancing act must be—please think twice before calling yourself a mompreneur. And don’t be afraid to correct others when they do it. You, and your businesses, deserve better.
Deborah Aarts is an award-winning senior editor at PROFIT Magazine. Her coverage of opportunities and challenges for Canada’s entrepreneurial innovators covers HR, leadership, sales and international trade, among other topics.