Making it happen: mums@work founder Emma Walsh at home with her children, Ewan, Alice and Luc. Photo: James Brickwood
More women with successful careers are starting their own business or working for themselves from home after having children.
The ''female'' economy is fast growing and one that the big banks are keen to reach.
Women have spent a lot of time and effort building their careers, says Larke Riemer, director of women's markets at Westpac.
When they start a family, they want to keep doing some of the things they are good at, but also want the flexibility that running their own business or working for themselves can give, she says.
A survey of 369 women owners of small businesses, commissioned by Westpac, found that three-quarters financed their businesses from their own savings. Almost 60 per cent of the women started their businesses on their own without a business partner, and almost 70 per cent have businesses that are in the same or similar areas in which they have expertise.
While retail is still the most common industry sector, more women are starting businesses in management consulting, finance and accounting sectors. The women are showing a high level of initiative. Only one in 10 bought into a franchise or existing business.
''These businesses offer more flexibility for women who need to take a break from the corporate world to prioritise other life goals such as starting a family, while keeping a finger on the corporate pulse,'' Riemer says.
The extra income does not hurt either, she says.
Emma Walsh started her first business from home in 2004 in human resources consulting. Then, in 2006, after her twin boys, Ewan and Luc, were born, she established a new business called mums@work.
It is a service that helps mums and dads negotiate with their employees about flexible work arrangements, how to re-enter the workforce after a break and how to better manage their careers. Its services include career coaching, resume services, training and seminars.
Walsh, who also has a younger daughter, Alice, worked for 10 years for large companies in Australia and Britain in human resources, training and recruitment.
She has contracts with big companies, including Westpac, to help manage their parental leave programs, but the service is available to everyone.
The business has grown and she now has three people who work on retainers every week and more than 10 others who are casual contractors. Those who work for her are in similar circumstances, with all of them working from home.
Although workplace flexibility is improving, Walsh says many women still feel they have to choose between full-time work and finding someone to look after the kids or staying at home.
She says it is really difficult to juggle parenthood while at the same time continuing to build a career.
Riemer says that by starting their own business, women are giving themselves options.
''Down the track, they can decide to grow their business or move back into the corporate world on terms that would suit them,'' she says.
But the survey highlighted the challenges the women face when starting out on their own.
More than two-thirds said that starting their business was one of the most challenging things that they had done. The three biggest challenges were dealing with areas of the business in which they had no experience, securing new business and controlling their hours of work.
Westpac has also set up a community website called Ruby Connection, to share the insights and ideas of small business owners and where business owners can find their next potential business partner or client.