Female Digital Entrepreneur

Motherhood and setting up digital enterprise – what are the challenges?

In a recent blog post, Dr Angela Martinez goes beyond the over-optimistic rhetoric usually associated with entrepreneurship and highlights The Reality of the Female Digital Entrepreneurs.   She states:

…the overwhelming conclusion of research into self employment by women, particularly mothers, is that it is more likely to intensify activity in both work and family spheres rather than resolve the tensions between the two.

Certainly, in my own research into cultural entrepreneurship I have explored what McRobbie describes as self-exploitation and what Hesmondhalgh and Baker present as potentially ‘bad’ work. Yet setting up a new enterprise can be attractive for many people looking for flexible work. Martinez makes an important point about the popularity of digital enterprise:

it is assumed to lower the normal barriers to entry when starting a business, reduce overheads, provide access to a seemingly unlimited global customer base and increase the flexibility of work

This presents an important dilemma for working women who seek to balance commitments to their family alongside work. My research suggests that whilst there are many difficulties, women make digital media entrepreneurship work for them in a way that other options do not. So rather than an example of ‘good’ work, this is potentially the least bad option.

For instance, one of my interviewees, Sadie, has a fantastic network of support through her mother and sisters which enable her, as a single mum, to manage meetings and events away from home. Her entrepreneurial endeavours are key to her identity as an entrepreneurial young black women who seeks to make a difference within her community.

Another interviewee, Hannah, left a full time and well paid position within the corporate sector to become a web designer because it offered her the best options in terms of a life/work balance. She admits that her husband’s earnings are more substantial but her professional status is growing and she has ambitions to make this her full time career. Her approach to work is extremely efficient and she takes good care to maximise her work time and separate that from family time.

In both cases, managing a digital enterprise from home is both difficult and a positive experience. Both participants in my research are not naïve about there circumstances and are fully aware of the precarious nature of self-employment. Yet, they are proud of their achievements and present a strong sense of their identity as professional working mothers.

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Annette

Senior Lecturer at Birmingham City University