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Working Mothers Want to Start and Grow Businesses—But Barriers Exist

Starting a business is seen by many working mothers as a path to career advancement, but one filled with challenges, according to an April 2022 BPC—Morning Consult poll. This blog highlights key findings from the poll related to entrepreneurship. Additional information about how working mothers are faring as they emerge from the pandemic can be found here.

Working mothers are not only in a financially fragile state, but they also continue to face longstanding challenges to starting a business that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Nearly half (46%) of working mothers expresses interest in starting their own business. Interest in entrepreneurship was highest among Black working mothers (63%), young mothers (58%), and those making less than $50,000/year (51%).

Yet, like many other Americans, working moms say a lack of capital is a significant barrier to starting a business 

  • Our poll found that insufficient personal funds (81%) and an inability to access external capital (68%) are the two biggest challenges facing working mothers interested in advancing their careers by starting their own businesses.  
  • This barrier is particularly acute for Black women, who are more likely than women of other racial and ethnic backgrounds to identify the inability to access external capital as a significant barrier (44%). 

But entrepreneurship is not just a question of capital. It’s also a question of time—something many parents find in short supply. Working mothers interested in starting a business also identify barriers posed by caring for children, including access to affordable child care.

Among working mothers interested in starting their own business, a majority say caregiving responsibilities for children (53%), other forms of caregiving responsibilities (49%), and access to affordable childcare (44%) are barriers. Mothers with the youngest children (ages 0-5) are more likely to view caregiving and access to child care as barriers to starting their own businesses.  

When asked what kinds of support would increase their comfort level in starting their own businesses, about one-third (32%) of working mothers say access to paid parental/family leave and/or employer-provided access to an emergency savings account would make them more comfortable taking the leap into entrepreneurship. 

Poll findings point to the importance of policies or benefits that provide a financial safety net in facilitating business creation. Among working moms who say their current employer offers access to an emergency savings account, 44% indicate this would positively impact their comfort level to start their own business. 

When it comes to offering benefits that can help working mothers advance their careers via entrepreneurship or other means, working moms who own their own businesses lead the way. Working mothers who own their own businesses offer paid parental leave (46%), paid family caregiving leave (44%), access to affordable child care (38%), and emergency saving (36%) to their employees at higher rates than what is made available to most working mothers. Nevertheless, these benefits are still not available to most working mothers. The lack of assistance with caregiving responsibilities, in particular, complicates small business ownership for working mothers 

  • 65% of working mothers who own their own business say their current caregiving responsibilities make it challenging to grow their business.  

Working mothers who own their own business face a number of barriers to offering more benefits to their employees. 

  • For working mothers who employ others through their business, cost (64%), complexity of available tax credits (56%), implementation (56%), and a lack of awareness (51%) are among the barriers to offering paid family and medical leave to their employees.  

Policies that address gaps in child care, paid family leave, and finances, as well as those policies that make it easier for business owners to offer benefits, can reduce the barriers and uncertainty involved with entrepreneurship. By providing support for what is an inherently risky endeavor, the needs of working mothers can be better met.  

Policy options that affect working mothers include: 

  • Increasing awareness of paid leave options for small businesses and collecting more data on effects. 
  • Permitting employers to automatically enroll workers in short-term, emergency savings accounts. 
  • Creating a clear and concise resource guide for small businesses to navigate the tax credits available to them for workplace benefits. 
  • Enhancing existing tax credits for small businesses to access and sponsor child care. 
  • Continuing to extend—and consider making permanent—the Community Advantage program. 

Want more information about the challenges small business owners face and potential solutions to these barriers? Check out our March report outlining four issue areas for small businesses and policy options to help them.  

 About the Poll 

The poll was conducted online between April 19-29, 2022, among a national sample of 2,500 mothers in the workforce, including 969 working mothers who wanted to start their own business and 425 who own a business. Working mothers are those who are currently employed women with children.  


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