Entrepreneurial mothers push hard

Mumpreneurs? To Americans, I assume the word is mompreneurs and to English northerners mampreneurs. Either way, the phenomenon of entrepreneur mothers is nothing new. It’s certainly not something that emerged during the web 2.0 explosion when mothers running small businesses and looking after growing kids were keen to market themselves on Twitter, Facebook and in blogs using a homely and wholesome sounding word, that doesn’t quite trip off the tongue.

What does seem to be new, in business research at least, is a recognition that mumpreneurship is a very important component of the wider economy, locally, nationally and perhaps even internationally in the age of digital commodities and the maker ethos. Katia Richomme-Huet of Euromed Management in Marseilles, France, and colleagues there and at the University of Evry Val d’Essonne, define mumpreneurship as “the creation of a new business venture by a woman who identifies as both a mother and a business woman, is motivated primarily by achieving work-life balance, and picks an opportunity linked to the particular experience of having children.”

Writing in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, the researchers describe how they have investigated the business research literature for this phenomenon and demonstrated that it certainly exists as a unique and discrete area of commerce. They have also interviewed business women who regard themselves as being within this sector and confirmed the definition in terms of identity, motivation and opportunity recognition.

Intriguingly, the team has found through their quantitative and qualitative analyses, that mumpreneurs tend to be older than the average age of entrepreneurs and have generally been educated to a lower level. The common perception is that entrepreneurs are often young graduates, often establishing start-ups straight out of business school, or in the science and technology spinning out as owner-researchers from their lab work, for instance. This, the team suggests, implies that mumpreneurship is for some a necessity at least in relation to income and work-life balance. However, they also found that those leading the movement, if it is indeed a movement, the “star mumpreneur”, do tend to be highly educated, younger mothers.

The team says that their research provides a research grounding for the concept of mumpreneurship both theoretically and empirically. “While mothers setting up businesses, so as to combine their sometimes two conflicting roles, do by no means constitute a new phenomenon, proclaiming herself a mumpreneur is a strong affirmative action in terms of her identity and potential – at least dual – role in society,” the team says. They conclude that companies and policymakers should become fully aware of the growth of this movement and how it affects the career choices of women who take a career break in order start a family and how they subsequently fit into the labour and business markets given the common urge to push for an acceptable, work-life balance.

Research Blogging Icon“Mumpreneurship: a new concept for an old phenomenon?” in Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 2013, 19, 251-275

I was going to try and shoehorn a Mumford & Sons pun into the title…but thought better of it…

Science books for summer

dice-world-brian-cleggBrian Clegg – Dice World: Science and Life in a Random Universe. For centuries scientists believed that the universe was a vast machine – with enough detail, you could predict exactly what would happen. Admittedly real life wasn’t like that. But only, they argued, because we didn’t have enough data to be certain. Then the cracks began to appear. It proved impossible to predict exactly how three planets orbiting each other would move. Meteorologists discovered that the weather was truly chaotic. The final nail in the coffin was quantum theory, showing that everything in the universe has probability at its heart. Welcome to Brian Clegg’s Dice World.

Daniel Allen – The Nature Magpie: A Cornucopia of Facts, Anecdotes, Folklore and Literature from the Natural World. Facts, figures and folklore, The Nature Magpie is a treasure trove of our thoughts and feelings about nature. Author Daniel Allen is the guide, joined by naturalists, novelists and poets as they explore the most isolated parts of the planet.

Tony Ryan, Steve McKevitt – Project Sunshine: How Science Can Use the Sun to Fuel and Feed the World. Capturing all the energy in just one hour’s worth of sunlight would enable us to meet the planet’s food and energy needs for an entire year. Project Sunshine tells the story of how scientists are working to reconnect us to the ‘solar economy’, harnessing the power of the sun to provide sustainable food and energy for a global population of 9 billion people.

Eric Scerri – 30-Second Elements: The 50 Most Significant Elements, Each Explained in Half a Minute. A full-colour guide to the periodic table and the stories behind its most significant elements.

Martin Rees, Francois Fressin – 30-Second Astronomy: The 50 Most Mindblowing Discoveries in Astronomy, Each Explained in Half a Minute: Amazon.co.uk. How hot is Venus? Can you distinguish between a pulsar and a quasar? Is there a universe or a multiverse? Where do we fit into the infinitely grand scheme of things? Is there anyone out there? 50 incredible discoveries brought down to Earth.

You can still grab a copy of the Sciencebase book “Deceived Wisdom” published in hard cover by Elliott & Thomson, available from amazon, Book Repository, Waterstones, Wellcome Collection, Blackwell’s Oxford, on Kindle, as Audible audio edition and as an ebook from Sciencebase. Drop me a line on feedback @ sciencebase dot com

Guiding pledge 2.0 dismisses God and the Queen

Apparently, the Guiding Movement is to upgrade its pledge that all members must make when they join. Currently they vow to:

"to love my God, to serve my Queen and my country"

That obviously only applies to people of faith and those with a female monarch…and indeed compromises the integrity of those girls without fixed national domicile. So, after consultation the century-old organisation is planning a bit of a rewording, dropping references to both spiritual and earthly autocrats as well as geography it seems. The pledge will now contain the line:

"be true to myself and develop my beliefs"

Now, being true to oneself is fine and developing one’s beliefs is okay (ish), but the latter still smacks of religion, unicorns and fairy dust, couldn’t they have made version 2.0 say something like:

"be true to myself and develop my understanding of the universe through a rational, evidence-based approach to reality"

That would be much more fitting for our age and avoid that crushingly egotistical phrase “develop my beliefs”.

BBC News – God vow dropped from Girlguiding UK promise.

Life on the rocks

Life on the rocks, unlike love on the rocks, is a surprise…

In the beginning…

…there was a barren spinning ball of rock, with a hot, molten core, hurtling through space around a distant, but warming fusion reactor. But the spinning ball was not alone on its journey — there were countless misshapen chunks of rock and ice and frozen gases in its vicinity, many with eccentric orbits around the central fusion reactor. These comets and other solar debris could skim past or shift in their orbits at the whim of great balls of gas and rock, although always ruled by the laws of the one they know as Kepler.

Life on the Rocks.

What do you do if you’ve got osteoarthritis of the knee?

kneesFilm director Baz Luhrmann made a spoof graduation speech famous with his hit “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” back in 1999. At the time, I wasn’t particularly worried about the line in that track: “Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.” But, you get older, knees become more of a focus, so what are you to do if you suffer from osteoarthritis of the knee (thankfully, I don’t…yet).

According to SBM, here’s what a massive scientific review of the various possible treatments has to say:

Exercise — strong evidence for effectiveness
Weight loss — moderate evidence for
Acupuncture — strong evidence against
Physical agents TENS, ultrasound, etc. — inconclusive
Manual therapy chiropractic, massage — inconclusive
Valgus directing force brace — inconclusive
Lateral wedge insoles — moderate evidence against
Glucosamine and chondroitin — strong evidence against
NSAIDs — strong evidence for
Acetaminophen, opioids, pain patches — inconclusive
Intraarticular corticosteroid injections — inconclusive
Hyaluronic acid injections — strong evidence against
Hyaluronic acid supplements – see above
Growth factor injections and/or platelet rich plasma — inconclusive
Needle lavage — moderate evidence against
Arthroscopy with lavage and debridement — strong evidence against
Partial meniscectomy in osteoarthritis patients with torn meniscus — inconclusive
Valgus producing proximal tibial osteotomy — limited evidence
Free-floating interpositional device — no evidence; consensus against

So knee sufferers, the bottom line seems to be, get some exercise and take painkillers if you need to. Dietary supplements, injections, alternative medicine BS and unproven surgical procedures seem to do nothing but cost you money. I’m particularly glad to see the scam that is glucosamine and chondroitin called out in the review as having strong evidence against them, I’ve written about that nonsense in the past several times having never seen any scientific report to suggest anyone is ever deficient or needs supplements.

Say my name, say my name

Successful companies have solid brand names we recognise wherever we are in the world and they rarely change them – Coca Cola, Microsoft, Apple, Gap. Of course, there are successful companies that do re-brand, although usually when bigger companies subsume and split them up, think Imperial Chemical Industries, which was commonly known as ICI, which eventually became AstraZeneca and various other firms.

brand montage - I am looking for the original source but using in review sense under fair use for now

Then, there was the ludicrous attempt by Britain’s state-owned “Royal Mail” to rebrand itself for the “modern” age as “Consignia. And, who could forget the rebranding of the UK polytechnics as universities in the early 1990s. I learned recently that there are now University Technical Colleges (UTCs), which seem to be more akin to the old sixth-form colleges but offering curricula from the GSCE (high school level), through A-levels and above.

Within a company though there might be a range of products that get the re-branding treatment and it doesn’t necessarily always work. In the UK, we used to enjoy a Marathon (the nutty version of a Mars Bar, you might say), but then it was reformed as Snickers to align with Europe, the US and everywhere else. Opal Fruits were “made to make your mouth water” (they never did, just made you thirsty I seem to remember), but they became the far less mouth-watering Starburst.

Similarly, we used to have Jif bathroom cleaner (oh, and Jif lemon), but to give it a more Eurocentric name Jif cleaner became Cif, pronounced in the UK like the colloquialism for a certain sexually transmitted infection. The latter phrase commonly abbreviated STI, but previously STD (with the D standing for disease, not all infections present as disease) used to be called venereal disease, from the Latin Venus. Then there are the obfuscating name changes that attempt to escape a battered reputation, thus the nuclear waste site at Windscale essentially became known as Sellafield, British Rail with its alleged out-of-date pork pies and dry, curly sandwiches (that actually never were!) was split and became RailTrack and various carriers, one of which was stupidly called One for a time.

Windows 3 sounds archaic, 95 quickly dated, became 98, then the millennial and clichéd “Me”, XP, 7, 8 etc etc. Similarly, AT&T Broadband Internet became Comcast, Borland became the uninspiring Inprise and then back to Borland all within three years of the millennium bug. Freeserve was then the puerile Wannado and ultimately the product-free name Orange. Coco Pops in the UK became known as the Eurocentric Choco Krispies for a while and then back to the far wittier Coco Pops. Oil of Ulay became Oil of Olay. The stoic Norwich Union established in 1797 was subsumed under the dysaesthetic name of Aviva and many other banks and insurers went a similar route. I’ve previously reported on how the company Lucky Goldstar morphed into one of the most successful consumer electronics brands (LG, in case you didn’t guess). The list goes on.

Writing in the current issue of the International Journal of Business and Globalisation, Petra Ringeisen and Reinhard Hünerberg of the University of Kassel, Germany, have researched what kind of impact rapid rebranding as part of an international standardisation effort can have on a company’s bottom line. They found that brand names changes often annoy customers especially when they learn that the “new” name was in place in foreign climes for years and their “local” brand was simply a parochial anomaly.

But, people like their parochial anomalies, few people want to live in a homogenised global village, multicultural means diversity, not all the same. As such annoyance can lead to consumers abandoning a once much-loved brand in favour of a rival and initially a loss of profits for the name-changer.

Further research will show the ultimate fate of such brands, presumably, once the original name has been forgotten by the older consumers, the history will be unknown to the younger buyers, all other things being equal profits will climb again. How long that takes is a matter of opinion. I have never, knowingly bought and eaten a Snickers bar, although I probably had more than my fair share of Marathons as a British child of the 1970s.

Research Blogging IconRingeisen, P. and Hünerberg, R. (2013) `Consumer response to brand renaming as part of an international standardisation strategy´, Int. J. Business and Globalisation, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp.456-469.

UPDATE: A misguided rebranding just in: allegedly, the UK’s Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals is planning to change its name to “The Knowledge People”. WTF? Not only is that pretentious but it doesn’t really tell us anything about what the organisation is, librarians and information scientists do not have a monopoly on knowledge, after all. Still with CILIP, but pronounce it chill-I.P.

Dietary DMAA, dimethylamylamine, death

DMAA was originally a decongestant but has been marketed as a “dietary supplement”. It’s dodgy, it seems, to say the least, and the US Food & Drug Administration does not allow its legal sale as a food supplement.

Here’s what Andrey Pavlov doggedly had to say about DMAA in a recent Science-based Medicine post:

“…there is no reasonable way that DMAA can be considered a natural or safe product for sale as a supplement under the DSHEA (US Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act). And even if it did meet DSHEA requirements, this is an excellent example of the dangers of the law in the first place that allow so-called natural compounds to be marketed without prior safety and efficacy testing. The authors recognize that in the vast majority of cases such compounds have no effect at all, whether positive or negative, and the primary harm is in wasting people’s money with claims that are tantamount to fraud. However, there are clearly cases where that is not the case and harm is established about as clearly as one could expect without people dropping like flies. And that doesn’t take into account the less severe or acute harms experienced by vast numbers of people taking untested supplements.”

DMAA supplements sometimes claim “geranium oil” or “geranium extract” as their source. There is no DMAA in geraniums it is added as a synthetic agent. The Wiki page for this compound makes for interesting reading.

Buzz blinds Dolby

This is a major geek out, Thomas Dolby sings his classic “She Blinded Me With Science” with Buzz Aldrin taking the role of the late, great Dr Magnus Pike. Shame Aldrin fluffs it at one point and shouts “Silence”, but then other members of the crew of Apollo 11 are infamous for fluffing their lines too, albeit on the Moon rather than the TED stage. Great fun and I want to have a go on that machine Dolby is playing!

Drowning doesn’t look like drowning

It’s all thrashing and screaming for help isn’t it? Well, no. Absolutely not. Drowning people cannot even reach out to grab your oustretched hand or a thrown ring let alone yell and wave their arms. I used to help lifeguard our now dry local, public swimming pool, lido, but I was never told this vital information at any point during training, thankfully the only incident we ever had was a child grazing a knee poolside.

Drowning doesn't look like drowning. Photo by Aimanness Photography
Drowning doesn’t look like drowning. Photo by Aimanness Photography

An article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene magazine, describes the Instinctive Drowning Response like this and it’s worth reading in detail so that you can spot someone drowning when everyone else ignores the signs:

‘Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs.

Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.

Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.

Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer. Drowning people usually cannot reach out for a piece of rescue equipment.

From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.’

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble–they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the Instinctive Drowning Response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long–but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Originally via Slate Magazine, but the quote is adapted from a US Coast Guard PDF here.