Female Entrepreneurship in Transition Economies - Trends and Challenges: A Critical Review

João Leitão (University of Beira Interior, Covilha, Portugal)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 11 April 2016



João Leitão (2016), "Female Entrepreneurship in Transition Economies - Trends and Challenges: A Critical Review", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 282-284. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEBR-10-2015-0226



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This edited book deals with an important topic in need of additional research efforts, as well as the bringing together and later dissemination of international benchmarks, which, especially in the context of transition economies, are of critical importance in stimulating female entrepreneurship as a lever of social development, social inclusion, social innovation, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The editors, Ramadani, Gërguri-Rashiti and Fayolle (2015), address the topic of female entrepreneurship, adopting a multi-cultural approach based on presenting different international experiences, highlighting the cases of Eastern Europe – Albania, Macedonia, Romania and Poland, Eurasia – Turkey, Africa, Nigeria, and South America – Chile. This new collection of cases makes a notable contribution, given the non-existence of international collections to allow better understanding of female entrepreneurship, according to the cultural specificities of each country studied.

In this regard, this book gives new perspectives about the stages of the life-cycle of business development, illustrating the challenges, obstacles, setbacks and contingency strategies/tactics implemented by entrepreneurial women during the process of developing their business ideas, leading to successful fulfilment, from the commercial viewpoint, of previously identified business opportunities.

In the line followed by Marlow (2002), Minniti (2009, 2010) and Welter and Smallbone (2010), the environmental variables regarding the external conditions critical for business development are also explored throughout this work. Special attention is therefore paid to the different international public policies that aim to combat social inequality and promote female empowerment, as well as benefiting from their intellectual capital and full reintegration in the labour market through the choice of self-employment.

To fill the existing gap, this edited book aims to provide a mosaic of international cases, in order to show the importance of female entrepreneurship in transition economies in need of development and growth. In addition, it hopes to open up future research avenues and stimulate more research efforts in this central topic for these economies’ development, in as much as the empirical evidence available so far is still quite limited to duly advise on the design of new public policies and decision-making processes to promote sustainable growth in these economies, conferring women with a new role, especially in ensuring equity in terms of their public participation in the complex process of creating national wealth.

The book is structured in 14 chapters, including an introductory chapter by the editors emphasizing the relevance of the topic of female entrepreneurship, and underlining the need for more research applied to transition economies. Presentation of different international cases follows, among which the pertinence and topicality of Chapter 8 on “Gender (In)equality in Entrepreneurhip: Challenges for Romania” stands out. The authors of this chapter, Emilia Herman and Zsuzsanna Szabo, deal with the subject of women-owned business (WOB), resorting to international comparisons, based on data provided by the entrepreneurial project of public interest known worldwide as Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. The authors class pro-female entrepreneurship public policies as indispensable in increasing the growing number of WOB in Romania and thereby contributing to increased economic growth and reduced gender inequality. For clarification purposes, gender does not correspond here to distribution of professions by sex, but to the distribution of posts and functions performed, by sex, allowing a true image of inequality, especially in Romanian society.

The authors contribute to the literature identifying the principal barriers to greater gender equality, namely society’s stereotype of entrepreneurship being for men, maternity and care of young children, the difficulty of balancing family and professional life, the backward mentality in force in the predominantly male professional environment, and also the stereotypical use of women for advertising purposes in the media and not as founders and leaders of public or private organizations. Identifying these barriers, the authors frame the need to design and implement new public policies aiming fundamentally to improve the external environment of business, stimulate senior entrepreneurship and change the mentalities rooted in a certain cultural and political nostalgia in transition economies, which now experience more open regimes, in all senses, in the post-communist era.

In terms of implications, right from the beginning this book transmits an important methodological implication for advancing knowledge about female entrepreneurship, as echoing the view originally presented by David Smallbone in the foreword, entrepreneurship is a complex construct which, given the progress in the knowledge recorded above all in the last three decades of study, practice, teaching, research and policy, tends to be presented as a standardized phenomenon and one which is better understood, irrespective of the different cultural experiences contributing to the formation of that new uniform approach, perhaps a paradigm. Female entrepreneurship is no exception to this implication, and indeed, from these collections of geographically scattered cases it is possible to join a number of implications for public policies, which I would dare to sum up as follows: female entrepreneurship based on the qualifications and empowerment of female human capital is one of the most important levers to bring to the international scene a new climate of equality and social inclusion, whatever peoples’ cultures, ethnicity, religions or ancestral tradition. And why? Because women are the most powerful beings on the planet, as they carry the capacity to create life and give birth, contributing in this unique way to the renewal and sustainability of our societies.

The aspect in which this book merits future extension concerns the need to build more theory about female entrepreneurship, using a systemic and multi-dimensional approach, which can include different dimensions of analysis and transversal policies, namely meso, macro, micro and individual. In terms of future research, it is inside women we must seek for better understanding of female entrepreneurial behaviour, i.e., by mapping the areas of brain activity and scanning the origins and genetic code (DNA) of female entrepreneurs, so as thereafter to be able to freely follow other research avenues that analyze the influences of environmental or external variables on entrepreneurial behaviour. But for this to happen, it is necessary to give even more importance, as the editors of this work have done, to the subject of female entrepreneurship, because devoting more research efforts is giving more value to the life-bringing source, the entrepreneurial woman, in multiple senses.

About the reviewer

João Leitão is an Assistant Professor at the University of Beira Interior (UBI), lecturing on entrepreneurship and economics for undergraduate and graduate economics, engineering, communication sciences, marketing and management students since 1 October 1999. He is the Director of the Master in Economics and Scientific Coordinator of the MBA. He is the CEO for the Alumni’s Office of the UBI. He is an Associate Researcher of the CEG-IST, University of Lisbon and external Research Fellow at Small Business Research Centre, Kingston Business School, Kingston University London, UK. He was the Head of University Management and Administration of the UBI (2009-2012), Social Services of the UBI (2009-2012) and Portalegre Polytechnic Institute (2000). His research interests include: entrepreneurship; innovation; and organizational economics. Assistant Professor João Leitão can be contacted at: jleitao@ubi.pt


Marlow, S. (2002), “Women and self-employment: a part of or apart from theoretical construct?”, Entrepreneurship and Innovation , Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 83-91.

Minniti, M. (2009), “Gender issues in entrepreneurship”, Foundations and Trends in Entrepreneurship , Vol. 5 Nos 7-8, pp. 497-621.

Minniti, M. (2010), “Female entrepreneurship and economic activity”, European Journal of Development Research , Vol. 22, July, pp. 294-312.

Welter, F. and Smallbone, D. (2010), “The embeddedness of women’s entrepreneurship in a transition context”, in Brush, C. , Bruin, A. , Gatewood, E. and Henry, C. (Eds), Women Entrepreneurs and the Global Environment for Growth: A Research Perspective , Edward Elgar, Northampton, pp. 96-117.

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