29 November 2022

How the ‘chore gap’ is still holding female founders back


I live in a bubble. To me, the idea that there are, in 2022, couples that aren’t splitting their chores evenly, seems alien to me. But the data shows how naïve I am.

In opposite-sex couples in the UK, where the woman works full time 39% of them say they split their chores evenly and 38% say the woman does the majority of the housework. Only 9% of men who work full-time are responsible for the majority of housework.

Yesterday, we at The Entrepeneurs Network released a new report with Barclays about female founders and the extra barriers they face. We surveyed women who founded successful, high-growth businesses (defined here as businesses that have raised at least £1m of equity finance). We found that despite being incredibly successful professionally, female entrepreneurs who live with romantic partners take on about the same amount of housework as other working women, with 44% saying they split their chores evenly and 38% saying they do the majority.

But, this surface-level data obscures part of the story. The chore gap widens after couples have children. When you break down the data further into founders who are mothers and founders who are not parents, you see that founders without children are much more likely to split their chores evenly, but half of founders with children say that they do the majority of the housework. 

Considering the fact that having children means that the amount of housework in a home increases and that the majority of this increased housework goes to the mother, it is no surprise then that the female founders in our sample are less likely to have children than the general population. From the ages of our sample, you would expect about 69% to be mothers, instead 53% are.

When talking to our female founders, one of the main barriers to female entrepreneurship, expressed time and time again, is a lack of access to childcare.

As childcare continues to get more expensive, more and more women are locked out of the workforce. According to a recent survey from Pregnant Then Screwed, the financial burden of childcare has meant that 17% of parents have had to leave their jobs, with 62% saying they work fewer hours because of childcare costs.

I’ve written before for CapX about ways we can make childcare cheaper. The Government should treat the cost of childcare as a priority and there are a lot of options available to them.

Unless they do so, more and more women are going to be locked out of either motherhood or professional success. The promise of 21st century feminism was that we could have it all, and when we look to other nations, or even our recent past, this seems to have been the case. But excessive regulation, inflexible subsidy options, and planning are driving costs up and pushing women out of the workforce.

The barriers faced by female founders are the same as the barriers faced by all women with careers that they value. After the high cost of childcare, female founders talked about facing discrimination at work and lacking the same networks that men have. Childcare and household labour is just one part of the puzzle, but without it we won’t see true equality in any part of the labour force.

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Aria Babu is a Senior Researcher at The Entrepreneurs Network.

Columns are the author's own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.