The purpose of this study is to explore the potential of women’s entrepreneurship to bring about greater gender equality. Understanding women’s entrepreneurship as a gendered process (Bird and Brush, 2002), the study presents the challenges encountered by women entrepreneurs as a result of gender ideologies. It documents structural barriers, discriminatory interactions and oppressive gender scripts and their effects on the women and their businesses. Acknowledging women’s possibilities for agency and resistance, the study analyzes how women entrepreneurs conform, contest or negotiate gender scripts and constraints, and looks at the consequences of these actions.
Drawing from elements of social interactionism and the doing and undoing gender theories, the authors use a feminist theoretic framework to guide analysis of qualitative data from two focus groups conducted with 19 women entrepreneurs in Colombia.
Gender ideologies were manifested in the forms of interrelated structural barriers that restricted women entrepreneurs’ access to resources. Social interactions represented spaces in which gender ideologies were reinforced, but also spaces women used to produce changes through resistance and accommodation strategies. Entrepreneurship was associated with positive changes toward greater gender equality, although negative consequences were reported.
Due to the limited sample, more studies across countries may be needed for the consolidation of a generalizable theoretical framework.
This study presents a feminist theoretic framework in dialogue with the lived experiences of women entrepreneurs. It observes the processes of change toward gender equality embedded in business development.
This research paper is part of an academic requirement for the completion of the doctoral degree of the first author and it uses data already collected by a bigger research initiative belonging to Oxfam. The authors participated from this research initiative, which included focus groups in other Latin American countries, had a broader focus and aimed to support Oxfam’s programming. The authors acknowledge Oxfam for allowing them to use their data for academic publications like the present one. The analysis, opinions and content expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not reflect the view of Oxfam or of any of the mentioned organizations. The authors would like to specially acknowledge Fabian Llinares Koller – Oxfam – and Tim Chambers and Norman Sarría – Value for Women – for trusting them this study and for their contributions throughout the broader research project. They also acknowledge Paula García, Paula Rodriguez Rueda, Rajiv Ram and Celia Santillán for their contributions to the management and implementation of the project, as well as Oxfam’s and Fundación Capital regional offices. They gracefully acknowledge Boston College Associate Professor Dr Crea, Professors Dr Mahoney and Dr Pitt-Catsouphes, as well as Dr Nina Kammerer, faculty member at Brandeis University, for their insightful reviews on previous versions of this manuscript. Special thanks to the courageous women entrepreneurs who shared their stories and insights for all of us to learn from.
Bianco, M., Lombe, M. and Bolis, M. (2017), "Challenging gender norms and practices through women’s entrepreneurship", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 338-358. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJGE-10-2017-0060Download as .RIS
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