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What the 2021 International Women’s Day theme “Women in Leadership” means for Mums in Business

Business-owning mothers are a vital but often overlooked part of our economy, and business does not provide working mothers with the framework and freedom they need. Women face workplace inflexibility, unequal pay and increasing childcare costs. What shifts need to take place in society? What labels and language need to be overcome? What support needs to be put in place?  

Australia’s 345,000 plus business-owning mothers represent one sixth of all small businesses and generate income for over half a million Australians and provide role models for nearly one million Australian kids.

Australian women are creating more businesses than men (1.9 per cent to 1.2 per cent, according to the ABS) yet Crunchbase reports that in 2020, less than three per cent VC funding globally was given to women in 2020. 

A Mums in Business research report completed by EY Sweeny for Mums & Co found that flexibility was a key motivation for Australian mothers to consider alternatives to a corporate career and start their own business. 

Many Australian women, especially young women, find the idea of self-employment highly appealing, but lack the confidence, know-how or financial backing to pursue it.

ALSO READ: 5 personal branding tips for women

Almost half of Australian mums in business believe that their responsibility as a parent has acted as a barrier to the success of the business and half of all mums in business found starting a business very challenging. A third started their businesses while on parental leave, one in 10 while pregnant, and six out of 10 new business mums had an infant or toddler. More than half started a business in a completely new field. The report found that 77 per cent were happier as a result. 

As the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Mums & Co, I’m an advocate for more investment in women-led ventures, driving change around flexible working arrangement and entitlements, eliminating a culture of guilt, addressing childcare and dissolving the gender pay gap. We can play our part by keeping these conversations on the agenda within the workplace, the media and in government policy. 

I’d like to share some tips on language and how we approach these conversations and juggle the demands throughout our days. I’d like to reframe us to think positively and towards harmony. 

Here are a few suggestions:

A societal shift needs to take place in the language used around ambitious working mothers. 

Does being a busy working mum mean you are overcommitted and disorganised, or productive and successful? Is a side hustle viewed as a hobby, or is a business-owning mum respected as a timely entrepreneur? Language influences our perceptions and will help to reframe all aspects of life: ambition, livelihood and wellbeing.

At Mums & Co, we label it mumbition: the unapologetic blending of motherhood and ambition. We’re a movement of business-owning women calling to introduce a new language to frame what these remarkable women are doing. We share the experiences and stories of women considering, creating and scaling their businesses while raising a family. 

You know the saying “we can’t be what you can’t see”. We all need to lead by example for other women to be inspired and chip away at unconscious bias, starting with how we talk to ourselves and how we talk about each other. 


Because women shouldn’t have to choose between their families and their careers. However, the competing modes and time pressures of the equally demanding tasks of motherhood and business ownership are undeniably challenging. Promoting a mindset of harmony helps the daily (if not hourly) striving as we journey through every stage of business and motherhood. It helps identify the areas of where you can ask for introductions and advice – then use your voice to seek expertise and connections from all those around you. 

ALSO READ: Shifting careers and embracing change


Define your mumbition and what success means to you. Don’t worry about networking on the golf course or at the pub if that’s not your thing, you’ve got the school gate and everywhere else! 

Find where you can leverage your networks for business introductions and upskilling opportunities. Business-owning mothers have personal goals and are passionate about their product or purpose, but are not necessarily experienced in marketing and business operations. Collaborate skills, services and products to grow your client base, find coverage in school holidays, and access expertise where you need a guiding hand.

Rely on routines and rituals and set boundaries. Identify transferable skills in managing your business and home life. Learn to ask for help. Recognise the important role men, your family and your support network play. Try mapping your ambition together with your family and friends as a way to balance your business or career with family. It’s amazing what feedback and insights your partner and kids can bring!


Where we know that working mothers often miss out is self-care. We are giving and creating, and sometimes we need to take more time and awareness for individual wellbeing. Please view wellbeing as a tool for success and prioritise self-care. Practice kindness and positivity as a mindset. Introduce confident communication styles and learn to curb self-doubt. 

You are leading by doing. Our children aren’t suffering, you are living in the moment. It’s 2021 and we all have to show how to live in a world where women can have it all. 

Let’s welcome ‘Maternal Optimism’, a term coined by US academics Jamie Ladge and Danna Greenberg, who believe there is not enough focus on the joys and opportunities that come from integrating family and work life. 

Find your micro moments of harmony, even if it is just a cup of tea, or ray of sunshine on your face. The more joy you will look for the self-care and nurturing you will find. I believe that you can do it, I know that you can do it. 

Happy International Women’s Day today and every day. 

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Carrie Kwan

Carrie Kwan

Carrie Kwan is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Mums & Co, Australia’s most caring business movement supporting business-owning mothers through networking and upskilling opportunities. Carrie advocates for women to harmonise their ambition, livelihood and wellbeing.

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