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Opportunities or obstacles? Understanding the challenges faced by migrant women entrepreneurs

Fara Azmat (Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship

ISSN: 1756-6266

Article publication date: 20 June 2013




Applying theories of entrepreneurship, the paper aims to identify the factors – with theoretical explanations – that act as barriers to migrant women entrepreneurs (MWEs), particularly women from developing countries starting businesses in developed economies. The paper further seeks to explore which barriers also have the potential to act as enablers.


The relationship between immigration, ethnicity, gender and entrepreneurship has received little theoretical attention. Linking these discourses, the paper theoretically develops a framework of the possible barriers or enablers faced by MWEs.


The paper reinforces earlier research that MWEs are not a homogeneous group; the problems they face are multifaceted, and MWEs from developing countries are the most disadvantaged of entrepreneurs. It identifies multiple factors – human capital, culture, family, institutional factors, gender and social capital – as possible barriers for MWEs. Findings further indicate that among those barriers, culture, family, social capital and gender have the potential to play a dual role for MWEs, by acting either as a barrier or an enabler. Findings also highlight the overarching and predominant influence of culture – as explained by cultural theory – acting as a barrier for MWEs from developing countries.

Research limitations/implications

This is a theoretical paper. Empirical research is needed to test the framework and its different dimensions. Given the diversity of MWEs and the factors that shape their entrepreneurial endeavours, it is difficult to develop a single framework to encompass the complexity of the situation. Nevertheless, the proposed framework provides useful insights into the barriers or enablers that MWEs face, along with theoretical explanations and, thus, acts as a springboard for future research.

Practical implications

Given the increasing potential of MWEs, the paper provides implications for not only addressing the barriers but also viewing the barriers as ways to promote entrepreneurship among such minority groups. It further stresses a needs‐based approach to customizing policies to benefit the diverse group of MWEs.


By providing a theory‐based framework of the barriers or enablers faced by MWEs, along with policy implications, the paper contributes to a better understanding of the phenomenon of migrant women entrepreneurship.



Azmat, F. (2013), "Opportunities or obstacles? Understanding the challenges faced by migrant women entrepreneurs", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 198-215.



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