The purpose of this paper is to move away from the studies that have to date only focused on “visible women” (those who are running businesses as owner‐managers or as active partners, i.e. as copreneurs) to a focus on those that are largely invisible. These are the women who are involved in small firms but who are not copreneurs, and who do not have clearly acknowledged and/or formalised roles.
The paper is based on data collected as part of a research programme that involved 250 in‐depth interviews carried out with owner‐managers in manufacturing and service firms throughout New Zealand over a two‐year period.
The findings from the interviews suggest that there are many women playing critical roles in New Zealand small firms whose contributions are unacknowledged, and which may be also unseen and unpaid. These women (typically as wives of owner‐managers) are contributing invaluably to the futures and fortunes of those firms – albeit from “behind the scenes”.
In the paper, a descriptive typology of the roles that wives play in New Zealand small firms is put forward. The typology provides a starting point for those wanting to explore similar dimensions of female “invisibility” in other contexts, and will contribute to the body of knowledge related to gender in the context of small firms.
Lewis, K. and Massey, C. (2011), "Critical yet invisible: the “good wife” in the New Zealand small firm", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 105-122. https://doi.org/10.1108/17566261111140198
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