This paper aims to add to the diversity of gender and entrepreneurship studies by presenting the (lived experience) perspective on the development of research on women as entrepreneurs.
An essay built on personal reflections on the development of the field since the 1980s.
Research on entrepreneurship has shifted toward quantitative studies and the paper format, leading to fragmented research. Research on gender shows another trend, where empirical data have become less central – “women” as individuals are to a large extent not discussed. The authors conclude that the field of gender and entrepreneurship, therefore, is a fruitful arena to perform research in as long as the physical women are not neglected.
Building on the lived experience for almost 40 years as researchers of women as entrepreneurs, the perspective contributes to the understanding of the development of the field.
Holmquist, C. and Sundin, E. (2020), "Is there a place for gender questions in studies on entrepreneurship, or for entrepreneurship questions in gender studies?", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 89-101. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJGE-05-2019-0091Download as .RIS
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This article is written in the form of an essay based on our lived experiences of 40 years in the field of gender and entrepreneurship, starting in the early 1980s, when we first worked on this topic. We both finished our PhDs in 1980. Our thesis topics were “Firms in Peripheral Regions” and “Managing State Enterprises,” i.e. we had backgrounds in regional economics and in organization studies. Having completed our PhDs, we wanted to research women’s place in the economy. We discussed several options (women leaders, women in the workforce, etc.) but finally decided to research women’s entrepreneurship. We found very few studies on the topic in the international literature, and we were the first in Sweden to actually research women as entrepreneurs. We started a large-scale study in 1980, based on secondary data collected on all women entrepreneurs in Sweden (64,420 women), and followed up with a large survey of women and men who were entrepreneurs. The aim was to explore and describe the hitherto unknown field of women as entrepreneurs.
The topic of women as entrepreneurs did not seem to fit well with established methods of clustering research. There were two very distinct fields of research that our studies built on: Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) research and women’s studies. Much to our surprise, there was a divide between these two research fields – the SME researchers did not see the point in analyzing the effects of the entrepreneurs’ sex and the women’s studies researchers did not see the point of studying people who start and run their own firms. As a result, we experienced distrust and suspicion, and sometimes even ridicule, from leading representatives of each of these fields, and hence, skepticism about our study. Luckily, we had support in the form of a research grant, as well as support from women who were entrepreneurs. At the empirical level, it was clear that being a woman and an entrepreneur meant living in the contexts of both gender and entrepreneurship. These women had to integrate gender and entrepreneurship – and they did. Our dilemma as researchers was (and is) that such integration or even any fruitful collaboration, between entrepreneurship studies and women’s studies, was (and is) far from being realized. This dilemma has resulted in gender being “added” to entrepreneurship research, and entrepreneurship being “added” to gender research, and hence, not integrated into full.
The skepticism between the two research fields remains, and we argue that there is still a divide between entrepreneurship studies and gender studies. The empirical fact that women are largely involved in entrepreneurship is ignored by both fields. In entrepreneurship research, the inclusion of “gender” is often simply done by adding the variable “gender” – that should rightly be named “sex,” as it is the biological and not the social sex that is measured. In gender studies, entrepreneurship has partly been included in the discourse on how “woman” and “female” are perceived but has failed to acknowledge that entrepreneurship is quite common for women, thus a vital part of women’s working lives. Therefore, we find that the mainstream agenda in both fields fails to acknowledge the possibility of a richer understanding of the phenomenon of women’s entrepreneurship – in terms of understanding the functioning of entrepreneurship, as well as understanding how women form their working lives. This gap is what intrigues us, but how has it come to be so wide and so pervasive over time? Can we do anything to change the situation? Do we need a completely new field to be able to build knowledge on this specific social phenomenon, women’s entrepreneurship? Would such a new field still leave entrepreneurship research and gender research lacking important pieces of the puzzle of gender and entrepreneurship?
In this essay, we will try to discuss these questions by building on our four decades of association with the two fields. We must admit that we have been surprised that the resistance from entrepreneurship researchers and from gender researchers includes knowledge from each other’s fields. This is why it was with great enthusiasm that we noted that a new journal on gender and entrepreneurship was established 10 years ago. To be truthful, we were also a little bit astonished. A journal focusing on and combining the two fields signaled that something was actually changing and that a relevant research stream focusing on gender and entrepreneurship was finally established. A review of the articles during the first decade shows a truly international perspective, with studies from all over the world and a wide array of theoretical, as well as methodological perspectives. This is a stance that promises to generate relevant research streams.
Our essay aims to discuss the development of research on women as entrepreneurs, specifically focusing on the question: do gender questions have a place in studies on entrepreneurship and do entrepreneurship questions have a place in gender studies? In this essay, we focus on the development from the perspective of the Swedish national context and how this context has influenced and been influenced by, research on gender and entrepreneurship. We will also discuss our thoughts on future developments. Given our background in views and context, this essay will represent our individual perspective. This is appropriate, as we agree with the feminist statement that “the personal is political – and the political is personal.”
We start by introducing our general view on research and the empirical context in which we conduct our research. Then, we discuss how we perceive the development of research on entrepreneurship and research on gender. We specifically discuss how we perceive gender in entrepreneurship research and entrepreneurship in gender studies. We end with a discussion on the development of social sciences in general and what impact this may have on research about gender and entrepreneurship. We also discuss what we perceive can and should be done.
Our general view on research is based on a conviction that relevance is as important as rigor in research. Empirical problems and questions are the starting and ending points of all research. Without such relevance, research becomes anorectic in terms of meaningfulness. Research is important and has an obligation to produce and distribute knowledge to society, which is the main stakeholder for academia. This is even more important in the social sciences, where empirical circumstances (and hence, problems) are ever-changing. So, we firmly believe that a deep interaction between research and empirical context(s) is vital for the development of research. That said, we also believe that there are differences between disciplines and empirical settings – for instance, there are differences in the context in which a woman starts a firm depending on whether she starts it in Sweden, the USA or Saudi Arabia. These differences should be taken into account when formulating theories (especially inductively built theories) on social phenomena. Even if science is global, local characteristics should be considered and accounted for. This is why, in this essay, we explicitly refer to the Swedish context.
Knowledge in the social sciences is, therefore, to a large degree situated in the empirical context. Since 1980, the context for our research on women as entrepreneurs has mainly been Sweden. Thus, the Nordic welfare state, with its focus on a large public sector, a developed welfare system, high(er) gender equality, etc., sets the conditions for entrepreneurship and women’s’ conditions. Research is global and empirical studies that show the heterogeneity of contexts are needed to create more encompassing theories. Politics are also embedded in national contexts but here we find that policy idea are transferred between nations. Studies that try to explore a global context (for example, the global entrepreneurship monitor), constantly show the wide array of different conditions between countries; legal, social, cultural and other conditions differ widely between contexts.
Entrepreneurship research from the Swedish perspective – from small and medium-sized firms to entrepreneurship, start-up and growth
By the mid-1970s, one of us had already started research on small and medium-sized businesses, while the other picked up this line of research in the 1980s. We have, therefore, been part of a community researching the SME field from its inception. Accordingly, the following description of the development of this field is based on our own experience.
In 1965, the Swedish parliament decided to establish Umeå University as the first university in the northern part of the country. The first full professor in business administration came from a traditional university and found himself in an area with many small firms. He realized that he did not know anything about them or how they should be managed, so he initiated educational programs, as well as research on SMEs. The educators were labeled “barefoot economists” an expression borrowed from the Chinese “barefoot doctors.” We were both parts of this innovative organization. Upon graduation, the students and also (later) the Ph.D. graduates were spread all over the country and even abroad. They carried their knowledge and perspectives with them, collaborating with researchers and teachers sharing similar perspectives – perspectives that proved appropriate as changes in the economy and in politics demanded knowledge on SMEs both nationally and internationally.
The Swedish economy had, by tradition, been dominated by large international companies, and policies for industry and commerce had been formulated to improve their positions. The international crisis in the 1970s was the start of the political interest in SMEs. In Sweden, policies for industry and commerce were closely connected to policies for regional development, as well as those designed to prevent the periphery from becoming depleted by urbanization. SMEs were important, both as service providers and employers.
The support system needed to change accordingly, and a number of studies and evaluations were conducted both at universities and by research organizations. One striking finding was that enterprises owned and managed by women were underrepresented. This marked the start of policies directed specifically at women, which will be discussed later in this essay.
The root of research on entrepreneurship in Sweden was, thus, the prior negligence of small firms both in policy and in research on organizations and economies. Research on SMEs increased but the importance of the small business sector was not acknowledged until studies in the 1980s, demonstrated the importance of SMEs for job growth. This reinforced the focus on SMEs, especially in terms of how more and growing SMEs could be achieved by entrepreneurs and by entrepreneurship. SME is an empirical concept, implicating smallness but quite hard to define (how small is small? medium-sized?). Entrepreneurship is even harder to define. For many years, mainstream research on entrepreneurship has focused on the start of a new business, defining entrepreneurship as the start (and growth) of a new business. Most new businesses are small to begin with, which is the reason for the common association between entrepreneurship and SMEs. It should, however, be noted that the focus of the early SME research was on the business as such, while early entrepreneurship research was focusing on the person who started the business – the entrepreneur.
However, in research and politics, the concepts of entrepreneurship and SMEs are often used without distinct meanings but with a positive image. We have followed the development of the entrepreneurship concept both in politics and research with fascination and surprise. On the whole, entrepreneurship has been a tremendous success – from a single professor in Umeå 50 years ago and one course at bachelor’s level to a great number of professors and many, many students all over the country.
Entrepreneurship as a topic has also garnered interest in areas that are not associated with firms. In the context of innovative behavior, entrepreneurship has long interested researchers in disciplines such as psychology and history. More recently, entrepreneurship has been introduced as an issue in medicine and biology, with methods measuring hormones and brain activity to study entrepreneurs; this seems to be a tempting idea for entrepreneurship researchers to adopt.
In research practice, as in politics, studies often use the establishment and ownership of SMEs as an approximation for entrepreneurship. A high number of newly established firms is seen as proof of a good entrepreneurial climate. Such studies mostly use databases for their empirics. In Sweden, it is common to use public databases such as the ones from Statistics Sweden; these databases are excellent sources for statistical analyses. Since 1999, international comparative data on entrepreneurship are collected and published by global entrepreneurship monitor (GEM). In GEM, as well as in Swedish databases, gender (or rather sex) is a category in all statistics.
In sum, we have witnessed a shift in the focus of research from the operation of SMEs to entrepreneurial processes – especially start-ups, growth and innovation processes.
Gender studies from a Swedish perspective – from adding women to intersectionality
Research on women and their place in society has quite a long history in Sweden, for instance, in research on the role of women in working life. Our interest in this field of research awakened when we were Ph.D. students and realized the absence of women in research on SMEs and in organization research. As we both noticed that women were very active participants in the organizations we studied for our Ph.D. theses, we started looking for research on women in business, leading to a project on women as entrepreneurs (see next section). Hence, our view on women’s studies/gender research was formed from the early 1980s.
The state as a provider of policy for equality in working life including self-employment.
Research and education on gender are international. There are, however, national characteristics – Swedish research on women has expanded in cooperation with the State, as evidenced by research and government actions. The Swedish policy for equality is very similar to the international fields, from equal treatment in the 1970s to gender mainstreaming in the 1990s. However, there are also some national characteristics connected to the welfare system. One example is the Swedish child benefit, which was implemented in 1948. It was given to mothers and was important for equality in families. Another example with the same effect was the individualization of income taxes in the 1970s, which, in retrospect, has been classified as a decision of great importance for equality in families. However, the policy field labeled “equality” is more than 30 years old, with the first law being passed in 1979. Entrepreneurship and self-employment did not feature in the first versions of these laws. Within regional and industrial policy documents there is some mention of the relevance of self-employment and entrepreneurship for equality.
In the law for equality established in 2006 by a new conservative government, the question of women’s entrepreneurship and women as owner–managers was highlighted as an important part of the policy for equality. The equality policy field increased significantly. The minister responsible during the period 2006-2010 emphasized the connection between entrepreneurship and equality. She was also a proponent for rational economic arguments behind gender equality, stating that equality is important for industry and commerce and for regional development, to ensure that the potential of all citizens is realized. This rational strategy was confirmed by the decision that gender mainstreaming was to be the main strategy. The re-organization of the public sector, with the privatization of the welfare sectors (dominated by women) as an important part, was emphasized as a means to increase self-employment for women.
The execution of the decisions taken was assigned to individuals already working in the agencies handling industry, commerce and regional development. With the expansion of the field, more individuals were involved in a special unit handling women’s entrepreneurship – until these tasks became mainstreamed and the unit was closed.
The civil servants who were given the responsibility from the outset found that there was a lack of knowledge about women in their roles as self-employed and entrepreneurs. They demanded statistics from other agencies and units and encouraged and supported researchers to conduct studies and research studies, including overviews of international research. They themselves had the policy contacts. The field was expanding, both in other national and international organizations. A community of femocrats, researchers and civil servants were informally constituted.
The state as a provider of equality in academia
Within university research, there was a parallel development. Women were in the minority at Swedish universities for a long time. The expansion came in the 1960s. Women researchers and teachers (as well as students) found that the curriculum in history, literature, art, etc., showed a remarkable absence of women as authors. Work started to add women and make them visible. Publications were produced on women in art, women in literature, etc. The add-women period, labeled feministic empiricism, was followed by standpoint positions and, more recently, post-modernism. The internationally dominating researchers were also dominating the Swedish research field. The add-women period also engaged women outside the universities. The decentralization of the university system gave women all over the country contacts at local university branches. The women’s movement also organized units connecting feminists inside and outside of academia. Their case was, partly, the same as the universities realizing the underrepresentation of women in all sectors. The lack of women was seen as a problem from different perspectives especially in technology. As an example, we can refer to Linköping University where a unit for “women researchers” in all disciplines was supported by the university. To create an arena for women distributed all over the university to meet other women in the same positions was the main idea for this initiative. This was supported, but not sufficiently, for the femocrat activists.
At the national level, the lack of women was also considered to be a great problem for the country. To support local organizational processes, money was given directly from the national level to local women’s organizations, often given the label forum, connected to the universities without the involvement of the university administration. This was unique. The period following this is full of disputes with and within universities, concerning facilities, premises, support, national cooperation and international positions. We will leave that story, which is fascinating for all organizational researchers, aside and concentrate on research in this pioneer period. The research was, initially, conducted by women from the humanities and parts of the social sciences, and after some time, adding women challenged by post-modernism and more recently intersectionality.
The connection between feminist activists, research, universities and the state is two-sided. Let us end this section of our essay by referring to a particular research contribution that has made an important impact; indeed, we do not hesitate to label, it decisive both for politics and research. In the 1980s, the government ordered an official report on the distribution of power in the Swedish system. Four researchers were hired to do the work, one of whom was the historian Yvonne Hirdman. For the final report, she wrote a chapter on the “gender system,” a power system in action, where she developed the concept “gender” and “gendering.” By way of response, a minister and leader of the liberal party proclaimed that this chapter opened his eyes and changed his understanding of the world. As then, the term “gender” is used in public debate, politics and research. Unfortunately, gender has come to mean not only gender but also is frequently used as a substitute for the concept of biological sex.
In the academic community, the concept of gender has been successful, but not in the same way and not to the same extent as the concept of entrepreneurship. In many disciplines, the gender dimension is part of the curriculum, but not a great part and, where it is present, it relies on the efforts of dedicated individuals. Gender research is also an academic discipline of its own, with teaching and research activity evident for almost 40 years. There is a scientific journal for gender studies and gender research also in Sweden.
Gender and entrepreneurship
Gender and entrepreneurship as a field is constructed of two comparatively young perspectives in academia. Our story is, for the first few decades, based on the Swedish context. Women as owners and managers seemed to be a topic where we could combine our competencies, and also engage in studies on women. Early on, we found a striking lack of information and knowledge on the group of women as entrepreneurs – on all levels. There were no statistics; women were not mentioned in local archives.
Given the lack of relevant research – we only found a few studies from the USA – we took an empirical stance and started to find out how many women entrepreneurs there were, which was not known at the time. As mentioned, we used public census data for the whole Swedish population, and we constructed and distributed an extensive questionnaire with the help of Statistics Sweden. Hence, we got access to information, directly from women, on Swedish households and gender structures. By way of example, many women were working in family firms on an equal basis with their husbands. Women had the same reasons for going into business as men but some arguments were also very sex- (or maybe gender-) specific, and last but not least, entrepreneurship was (and is) as gender-divided as employment.
Our first book on women as entrepreneurs indicated (in its subheading) that invisibility, diversity and adaptation were characteristics of the behavior of women entrepreneurs. Invisibility referred to the lack of knowledge of this group that at the time made up 25 per cent of all entrepreneurs in Sweden. Diversity referred to the huge variation in the group, not only in all demographic aspects of the entrepreneur but also in firm characteristics. Adaptation referred to our finding that women choose certain business types and manage their firms differently, depending on their private and family status. We used theories and concepts from gender research, and also entrepreneurship research, to formulate our research questions and to analyze our empirical findings. Of course, at the time, we used the terms feminist theories/women studies and SME theories rather than gender and entrepreneurship.
Our research was met with interest once we had results from our large studies. We wrote mostly in Swedish leading to massive interest from the business world, policymakers and also the media. We were, for instance, invited to all Swedish political parties (except one) at the national level to present our findings. Despite having a few publications in English, we also got international attention and participated in several international workshops and conferences. We found out that there were others who were also interested in women as entrepreneurs, and found ourselves to be part of what today is labeled as a “tribe” of researchers and others that paved the way for a broader interest in the field. We have been happy to see the development and huge expansion of gender and entrepreneurship as a research field. Let us just mention the international Diana project and the establishment of the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship as noteworthy developments.
Over the years, we have continued to research women entrepreneurs in different forms, for instance, in a large program with almost 10 researchers involving studies of a more qualitative nature. We have also witnessed the transformation of attention – from the surprise that women were entrepreneurs, to the add-on studies, and later to the acceptance of women as “normal” entrepreneurs, and to the identity-based studies of what it means to be a woman and an entrepreneur. We have also followed the development of policies – from the awareness that women entrepreneurs exist and that support system was not adapted for them and their firms, to a period of specifically directed support for women, and now to the mainstreaming policies where it is implied that women will not be discriminated against.
In our earliest papers, we described the phenomenon of women as entrepreneurs as a phenomenon at the intersection between “women’s world” and the “world of entrepreneurship.” This description is still valid and we have witnessed that this intersection has been, and still is, constructed as a research field of its own – gender and entrepreneurship. Still, this research field is connected to, and relies heavily on upon, the two fields that it combines – gender studies and entrepreneurship studies.
Consequently, one interesting (two-part) question is: what is the position of gender in entrepreneurship-studies and what is the position of entrepreneurship in gender-studies? Our impression is that entrepreneurship research has accepted that “women” is a category to be used in empirical studies. As mentioned, quantitative studies with large databases are now dominating international research on entrepreneurship and SMEs. Gender or in practice biological sex is nowadays often a variable acknowledged by mainstream entrepreneurship researchers. The underperformance of women is often found and stated and even discussed, albeit from a framework building on firm size, profitability and growth – but seldom from the perspective of power.
Neglect rather than integration
Conversely, our impression is that gender research has not accepted or included entrepreneurship as a topic. The field has moved from the add-women perspective, where quantitative studies were quite frequent, to postmodernist perspectives, where qualitative studies or purely theoretical studies are more common. From the outset, entrepreneurship was not typically part of gender studies, and when it was, it was as an example given by historians of how survival in bad times was achieved. Gender research has always had an interest in the position of women (and men) in the labor market, but entrepreneurship and self-employment has not been in focus or elaborated on. More recently, “the theoretical turn” has made entrepreneurship and also empirical work even less visible in gender research.
Summing up, we see no signs of integration – or even strong relationships – between the field of entrepreneurship and that of gender. The place for gender in entrepreneurship research is still mainly restricted to the add-on of the variable “gender” (i.e. biological sex), while in gender research, for the most part, there is no place for entrepreneurship. A quick search for articles with the word “gender” in the Journal of Business Venturing from 2018, and a search for articles with the word “entrepreneurship” in gender, work and organization from the same period shows this pattern, i.e. more than 100 articles in Journal of Business Venturing deal with gender, predominantly as a variable, and only one article in Gender, Work and Organization mentions entrepreneurship.
Development – where do we go from here?
A new economic situation
So far, we have discussed our perspective on how gender and entrepreneurship have evolved over time. The main reasons for the changes described are the same as in other social science research fields. One is the change in the social context – the development of SME research into entrepreneurship research is an obvious example of how changes in economic structures influence how we perceive certain kinds of phenomena such as the firm. As the impact of SMEs on job creation was established in the 1980s, policymakers have stressed the need for more entrepreneurship. Policies around women’s issues have also changed, from a focus on equal rights for women and men to a focus on all forms and bases of discrimination, leading to an intersectionality approach, where gender is only one of the aspects to consider.
A new academic system
Another influence has been the change in the academic system. Competition and meritocracy have always been key characteristics of the academic system. What is new is the exponential growth of academic research and how “merits” are operationalized. In the past decades, methods for evaluation used in the natural sciences – i.e. valuing international publications in good journals and citations – have been introduced and established also in the social sciences. This promotes simple questions that can be formulated and answered in unambiguous ways. It also promotes shorter publications, compared to reports and books, all of which leads to the abandonment of more complex questions being researched in their entirety. At a seminar on one of our reports, we became acutely aware of this when a (helpful) colleague pointed out that our decision to publish our material as one report rather than divide it into several articles was a bad strategy.
In empirically based research, we also find that quantitative methods have taken over to a large degree in social sciences. Compared to 40 years ago, we see much less discussion on qualitative methods, such as case studies, in-depth interviewing and participant observation. This trend has been quite marked in entrepreneurship research and, unfortunately, to some degree, we blame the internationalization of research for this skewed development. Quantitative methods do not demand any special language skills; the languages of mathematics and statistics are sufficient. Many researchers writing in English – currently a prerequisite for international publishing – do not have English as their native language, which, of course, hampers their opportunities to express themselves in scientific writing. We believe this is one of the reasons driving the trend in writing articles with quantitative data. Another reason is that statistical methods have become much more refined and also easier to use given the technological development of programs and computers. This quantitative turn is expanding and, if the merit system remains unchanged, will totally dominate the field of entrepreneurship research. As entrepreneurship is a complex and context-dependent phenomenon, these dominating trends are a threat to knowledge and relevance of research as we see it.
In gender studies, we see almost the opposite trend, namely, that empirical data (we know that some will argue there are no data) is neglected. Consequently, we find that the theoretical turn presents other dangers. “Women” as individuals of flesh and blood no longer exist, and instead, intersectionality, not gender, is now emphasized. The appropriate methods for conducting research along these lines include some type of qualitative analysis and theoretical (very theoretical) reflections and concepts. This research can also be published in “bits and pieces,” with empirical presentations used as illustrations rather than observations. In the early radical days of gender studies, the topic of “women as entrepreneurs” was not at all in focus. Interestingly, we find it equally neglected today, although the reasons behind this neglect are quite different.
Consequences for entrepreneurship and gender research
During our time as researchers, we have seen a total shift in research as a profession in Sweden (and we believe this to be the same globally). When we started out in the 1970s, most of the research produced within the social sciences were written in Swedish. Furthermore, books and reports were the normal forms for reporting research results. Tenure was granted based on experts reading the applicant’s work. The practical relevance of research was stressed, which might be one reason for the high response rates that surveys had in Sweden at that time (less than 50 per cent was considered quite poor). Today, most research is written in the form of articles in English, and tenure is given based on a set number of articles. Practical relevance is seldom stressed, and hence, response rates today are on a par with, for instance, those in the USA.
These and other changes in modern societies have led to changes in the fields of entrepreneurship and gender research. The divide we saw when we started our studies in the 1980s has not been bridged but it has changed character. One way of describing it is that entrepreneurship research has moved in the direction of economic theory, and gender research has moved in the direction of a philosophical theory. Both research areas have moved away from research close to the empirical settings that (some) of the research addresses. So, referring to the question posed in the title of our essay, our answer would be no, there is no given place for entrepreneurship in gender research and for gender in entrepreneurship research. As a new Ph.D. student seeking a place within the mainstream of either of these fields, our guess is that neither studying entrepreneurship as a gender researcher nor studying gender as an entrepreneurship researcher is the optimal career choice. This is not necessarily good, especially for those who – like us – think that research should be based on the real issues posed by the empirical context. Women make up around one-third of all entrepreneurs, and hence, gender is an issue in entrepreneurship. Millions and millions of women choose (or are forced) to be entrepreneurs; it is a common way of life for many women, and hence, entrepreneurship is an issue from a gender perspective.
So, we are pessimistic about the possibility that gender studies will contribute further to the knowledge on gender and entrepreneurship. However, we are slightly more optimistic that gender issues will impact mainstream entrepreneurship studies. Generally speaking, we believe that the field of gender and entrepreneurship will benefit most by establishing a specific subfield. We are convinced that it is necessary to maintain the view that gender is a vital key-concept, and also to keep the connections to biological sex in focus. As long as statistics show that women are paid less just because they are women, and, for example, that violence toward physical women is a fact, women and the construction of gender must be relevant in research. Entrepreneurship is important in its understandings of firm creation, growth and innovation and in its understanding of SMEs. Changes in contemporary economies, such as the gig-economy and the re-organization of the public sector, concern entrepreneurship, as these phenomena affect the lives of people and their form of employment/self-employment/project work. While the field of gender and entrepreneurship is based on other fields, we strongly believe that the time has come to focus on generating domain-specific theories for our field, as this is how other fields have emerged. Research on gender and entrepreneurship also demands empirical studies that use quantitative, as well as qualitative methods, and that account for differences in contexts. In this regard, we find that the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship has a very important role to play.
At that time, research on entrepreneurship was mainly framed as “small business research” as it focused on SMEs. This is discussed below.
At that time, research on gender was mainly framed as “women’s studies.” This is discussed below.
This essay is written in the scientific, political and national context in which we have lived for almost five decades. Our views are based on discussions with many colleagues over the years. Our scientific fields are entrepreneurship and women/gender, interpreted from a social science perspective.
Early influential inspirations from the women/feminist-perspective
Acker, J. (1990), “Hierarchies, jobs, bodies; a theory of gendered organisations”, Gender and Society.
Baude, A. (1979), “Public policy and changing family patterns in Sweden 1930-1977”.
De Beauvoir, S. (1949), “The second sex”.
Fox Keller, E. (1996), “Reflections on gender and science”.
Haraway, D.J. (1988), “Situated knowledges: the science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective”, Feminist Studies, Vol. 14 No. 3.
Harding, S.G. (1986), The Science Question in Feminism (an Inspiration for the Title of Our Essay).
Harding, S. (2016), “Whose science? Whose knowledge?: Thinking from women’s lives”.
Hirdman, Y. (1987), “The Swedish welfare state and the gender system: a theoretical and empirical sketch”, The Study of Power and Democracy in Sweden (Maktutredningen), No. 7. Swedish Government Official Reports, Stockholm.
Hirdman, Y. (1988), “Genussystemet: Reflektioner kring kvinnors sociala underordning”, Kvinnovetenskaplig Tidskrift.
Hernes, H.M. (1987), “Welfare state and woman power: Essays in state feminism”.
Moss Kanter, R. (1977), “Men and women of the corporation”.
Waerness, K. (1984), “The rationality of caring”, Economic and Industrial Democracy, Vol. 5 No. 2.
Early inspirations from the SME-perspective
Birch, D.G. (1979), “The job generation process”.
Boswell, J. (1973), “The rise and decline of small firms”.
Boltonreport (1972), “Small firms: report on the committee of inquiry on small firms”.
Ramström, D. (Ed.) (1971), “Mindre företag – problem och villkor”.
Ramström, D. (Ed.) (1975), “Små företag – stora problem”.
Inspirations from research in the nexus gender and entrepreneurship, from contemporary research, and from some of our own publications
Ahl, H. (2004), “The scientific reproduction of gender inequality: a discourse analysis of research texts on women´s entrepreneurship”.
Bacchi, C.L. (1999), “Women, policy and politics: the construction of policy problems”.
Birley, S. (1987), “Female entrepreneurs: are they really any different?”.
Bruni, A., Gherardi, S. and Poggio, B. (2004), “Doing gender, doing entrepreneurship: an ethnographic account of intertwined practices”, Gender, Work and Organization.
Brush, C.G. (1992), “Research on women business owners: past trends, a new perspective and future directions”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 16 No. 4.
Brush, C. Carter, N. Gatewood, E. Greene, P. and Hart, M. (2004), “Clearing the hurdles: Women building high-growth businesses”.
Czarniawska, B. and Joerges, B. (1996), “Travels of ideas”, in Czarniawska, B. and Sevón, G. (Eds), Translating Organisational Change.
Du Rietz, A. and Henrekson, M. (2000), “Testing the female underperformance hypothesis”, Small Business Economics, Vol. 14 No. 1.
Esping-Andersen, G. (1996), “Welfare states in transition: National adaptions in global economies”.
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