This article has been translated with DeepL.

NEW STUDY | Entrepreneurs as good of mothers as others

Mother and son study and work together.
Children who see their mothers choosing a career path based on their own needs and dreams inherit valuable values. Photo: Canva.

There is a perception that women who run businesses find it difficult to combine it with parenting, and are therefore not ‘good’ mothers. Nothing could be further from the truth, according to an award-winning Swedish study.

At the world’s leading research conference on women’s entrepreneurship in Stockholm this weekend, organized by Esbri and Babson College, four studies received awards. One of the best papers is about how Swedish women combine entrepreneurship with motherhood.

– Previous international research shows that it is difficult to be a good mother and a successful entrepreneur at the same time, as both children and entrepreneurship require a lot of time and attention. The roles are allegedly in conflict with each other. We wanted to investigate whether this is true in a Swedish context, says Magdalena Markowska, Umeå University.

A model country

The results show that the role as mother and the role as entrepreneur are not in conflict with each other. The main explanation for this is that Sweden has welfare and family policies that make it easier for individuals to combine parenthood with entrepreneurship.

– We have a well-developed system of childcare and parental insurance. This is the key to combining the different roles. We see this as extremely important to convey to the rest of the world, Sweden is really a role model in this area.

– Women in Sweden want to be able to combine career and parenthood on the same terms as men, adds Magdalena Markowska.

Passing on norms and values

Women who choose to run a business do so mainly to follow their dreams, feel meaningful and fulfilled. According to the study, women choosing a career that makes them feel good helps to change prevailing social norms around motherhood as a self-sacrificing project.

– Women who live their dreams show their children that they take themselves and their well-being seriously. These are values that are passed on to children, which in the long run shape social norms in society,” says Magdalena Markowska.


Associate Professor Magdalena Markowska (center) received the diploma for Best Paper on the Theme of the Conference at the award ceremony during the Diana International Research Conference, Stockholm, 1-2 June 2024. On the left, Shakenna K. Williams, Executive Director, Frank & Eileen Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, Babson College. To the right, Magnus Aronsson, CEO of Esbri.

More about the study
The study is called The Role of Family Policy in Reshaping the Entrepreneur/Mother Identity for Women Entrepreneurs and is conducted by Associate Professor Magdalena Markowska, Umeå University, and Professors Helene Ahl and Lucia Naldi at Jönköping University. The three researchers have also studied other aspects of the role as amother in combination with the rola as entrepreneur. For example, they have found that parental leave has given many women time to reflect on their needs and aspirations for their careers. And that time has often been the starting point for long-term entrepreneurship.

More about Diana International Research Conference
The international research network focusing on women’s entrepreneurship is coordinated by the Diana International Research Institute (DIRI) at Babson College, USA. The network was launched in 2003 by ESBRI and the five leading US professors who founded the Diana project; Candida Brush, Nancy Carter, Elisabeth Gatewood, Patricia Greene and Myra Hart. Since then, the network has evolved and today the annual Diana International Research Conference is recognized as the premier research conference in the world focusing on women’s entrepreneurship. This year’s research conference in Stockholm, June 1-2, was organized by Esbri and Babson College and was the 15th in a row.

Winner in all categories of the Best Paper Awards:
Best Conceptual Paper: Entrepreneurship and the Habitus of Disadvantage: Implications for Women’s Entrepreneurship Policy Authors: Andrea Hodge, Alexander Lewis, Garry Bruton, Mauricio Mercado
Best Empirical Paper: Gendered Verbiage in Entrepreneurship texts: An Institutional Mechanism for Gender Inequality in Entrepreneurship Author: Vishal Gupta, Golshan Javadian, Crystal Dobratz, Alka Gupta
Best paper Fitting the Conference Theme: The Role of Family Policy in Reshaping the Entreprenur/Mother Identity for Women Entrepreneurs Authors: Magdalena Markowska, Helene Ahl, Lucia Naldi
Best Paper Led by a Junior Scholar: We Don’t Need Another (S)hero?: Role Models, Contradictions, Discourses, and Ideal Feminine Identity in Entrepreneurial Podcast Dialogues Author: Julia Voss, Kerstin Ettl

“Runner up in all categories of the Best Paper Awards
Best Conceptual Paper: The Impact of Public Policy on Inclusive Entrepreneurship Authors: Tasha Richard, Victoria Dimick, Elfi Lange, Rossitza Ivanova
Best Empirical Paper: The Liminality of Maternity Leave: Entrepreneurial Motherhood as a Double Gestation Authors: Kai Roland Green, Shaung L. Frost, Helle Neergaard
Best paper Fitting the Conference Theme: Women’s Entrepreneurship Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Case of Burundi Authors: Dina Nziku, Chanel Bikorimana
Best Paper Led by a Junior Scholar: It Is Not About Money! Why Chinese Women From Elite Families Pursue Sociocultural Capital Through Entrepreneurship Authors: Anna-Katharina Schaper, Shaung L. Frost, Friederike Welter