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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to direct attention to recent research on women's entrepreneurship, focusing on Nordic countries. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper encourages research that investigates how context, at the micro, meso and macro level, is related to women's entrepreneurship, and acknowledges that gender is socially constructed. Findings ‐ This paper finds evidence that recent calls for new directions in women's entrepreneurship research are being followed, specifically with regard to how gender is done and how context is related to women's entrepreneurial activities. Originality/value ‐ This paper assesses trends in research on women's entrepreneurship, mainly from the Nordic countries.
Leona Achtenhagen and Malin Tillmar
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Tillmar, M., Achtenhagen, L., (2012), With a focus on context - studies on women's entrepreneurship
from Nordic countries and beyond: Editorial, Special Issue guest editors, International Journal of
Gender and Entrepreneurship, 5(1), 4-16.
Original publication available at:
Copyright: Emerald
With a focus on context studies on women’s entrepreneurship from
Nordic countries and beyond
Published in: International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 2013, 5(1), 4-16
Leona Achtenhagen and Malin Tillmar
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to direct attention to (recent) research on women’s
entrepreneurship, with a focus on Nordic countries.
Design/method/approach: The paper encourages research investigating how context on the
micro, meso and macro level is related to women’s entrepreneurship, and acknowledging that
gender is socially constructed.
Findings: This paper finds evidence that recent calls for new directions in women’s
entrepreneurship research are being followed, for example regarding how gender is done and
how context is related to women’s entrepreneurial activities.
Originality/value: This paper assesses trends in research on women’s entrepreneurship,
mainly from the Nordic countries.
Keywords: Gender, women, context, Nordic countries
Paper type: Viewpoint
Guest Editor Biography:
Leona Achtenhagen, PhD, is professor of business administration, with special focus on
entrepreneurship and business development, at Jönköping International Business School in
Sweden. One of her main research areas focuses on entrepreneurial and strategic aspects of
small firm growth, often with a focus on the media industries. Other areas of research concern
the portrayal of (women’s) entrepreneurship in media as well as ethnic minority and
transnational diaspora entrepreneurs. She has published in journals such as Entrepreneurship
Theory & Practice, Entrepreneurship & Regional Development and the International Journal
of Media Management.
Malin Tillmar, PhD, is associate professor in business administration and deputy director of
the Helix Vinn Excellence Centre at Linköping University in Sweden. Her research focuses
on less illuminated kinds of entrepreneurship, often with a gender perspective. In 2002, she
defended her dissertation "Swedish Tribalism and Tanzanian Agency: Preconditions for Trust
and Cooperation in a Small Business Context". Since then, Tillmar has studied (women’s)
entrepreneurship in the area of public sector transformation and societal entrepreneurship. In
2005, she won the FSF-Nutek prize for young entrepreneurship researchers. Her research
results have been published for example in Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, the
International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship and the Scandinavian Journal of
The emergence of the academic topic of women’s entrepreneurship is often traced
back to the 1980s (Goffe and Scace, 1985; Hisrich and Brush, 1986). Since then, the
phenomenon of women’s entrepreneurship has triggered considerable interest, both by policy
makers in many countries worldwide as well as by academic researchers. In Sweden, a
pioneering study on women’s entrepreneurship was conducted by Elisabeth Sundin and Carin
Holmquist (1989, 1991). Provoked by statements that there were no women entrepreneurs,
these researchers traced and studied the total population of women business owners through
empirical groundwork. Their work was ground-breaking for the development of the field in
Nordic countries
and beyond (see for example Spilling and Gunnerud Berg, 2000, in
Norway). On the international scene, the Diana-project (initiated in 1997 by the US-based
professors Candida G. Brush, Elisabeth J. Gatewood, Nancy M. Carter, Myra M. Hart, and
Patricia G. Green) has of course played a crucial role for developing the academic field (see
also Holmquist and Carter, 2009) and for creating commitment among researchers. By now, it
has developed into an international research project involving scholars from 23 countries,
including several Nordic countries (see for example Alsos, Jensen and Ljunggren, 2010).
The term ‘Nordic countries’ comprises Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
Several scholars have pointed out the relevance of context for studies of entrepreneurship in
general (e.g. Johannisson and Monsted, 1998; Welter, 2011)and womens entrepreneurship in
particular (Hytti, 2005). This special issue originates from the Nordic context it is in
Sweden the guest editors work and the conference track
, from which selected papers are
published in this issue, took place. In addition, three of the full papers in this special issues
come from the Nordic countries and the fourth takes a world-wide perspective. Therefore, we
will take this opportunity to focus on research findings from Sweden and other Nordic
countries to set the scene.
Sundin and Holmquist (1989) studied the phenomenon of women’s entrepreneurship
in a country which, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2011, is characterized by a
comparatively small gender gap (ranking fourth after Iceland, Norway and Finland)
(Hausmann, Tyson and Zahidi, 2011). Sundin and Holmquists study found a total of 65,000
women running businesses in Sweden, representing around 25 % of the business owners.
Yet, they concluded that womens business ownership could be characterized by the three key
terms invisibility, diversity, and ‘adjustment. Namely, they found that despite the
relatively high percentage of women owning and running businesses, these women
entrepreneurs were largely invisible in many contexts. But just as male owned businesses, the
female owned businesses displayed a diversity of characteristics, depending on the industry,
size, legal form and geographical area. Furthermore, female entrepreneurs typically adjusted
their businesses to the family situation. The authors identified clear patterns in how the choice
The track ‘Gender and Entrepreneurship’ at the 2011 annual International Council for Small Business (ICSB)
world conference in Stockholm, see below.
In this review, we have searched for and included articles on women’s entrepreneurship drawing on empirical
material from the context of the Nordic countries and published in the following entrepreneurship journals:
Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, International Journal of
Gender and Entrepreneurship, International Small Business Journal, Journal of Business Venturing and Small
Business Economics. In addition, we have included relevant publications on the Nordic context where available
to us.
In 2004, women represented 24.8% of all self-employed in both Denmark and Sweden, 32% in Finland and
26.7% in Norway (Arenius and Kovalainen, 2006).
of typical sectors differed between women who were single, married/in a partnership or
running a business together with their partner. This led them to question the common
assumption that women entrepreneurs tend to prefer ‘typical female sectors’ per se, rather
suggesting that women entrepreneurs self-select into those sectors partly because of the
adjustment to the family situation.
Moreover, more recent studies have confirmed that the three key terms still seem
valid 20 years later (Sundin and Tillmar, 2010a). Especially, the invisibility of womens
entrepreneurship in various practices (Javefors-Grauers, 2002; Tillmar, 2007), discourse
(Pettersson, 2002) and in research (Ahl, 2004) has since the pioneering study by Sundin and
Holmquist (1989) been confirmed and further discussed by Swedish scholars. If women
entrepreneurs are invisible even in a country often praised for its gender equality, it is not
surprising that similar patterns emerge in other countries. For example, Achtenhagen and
Welter (2011) found in a recent study that women entrepreneurs are greatly underrepresented
in German newspaper reporting. Also the multitude of women’s entrepreneurship was
confirmed in international studies, finding that there is nothing like one generic kind of
women entrepreneur (Gatewood et al., 2003). This contradiction between the general image of
gender equality and persisting gender-based (i.e. largely male-dominated) power structures
and discourses might very well have contributed to triggering the great interest in gender
studies and women entrepreneurship present not only in Sweden, but also the other Nordic
countries. This research interest was further fueled by Swedish scholar Helene Ahl (e.g. 2004;
2006), who directed attention to the gendering of entrepreneurship research through her
discourse analysis of international research texts.
In Sweden, Carin Holmquist and Elisabeth Sundin continue to be important drivers
of the research focus on women’s entrepreneurship, i.a. through their ‘Female
Entrepreneurship and Management’ research program, funded by the Swedish Agency for
Economic and Regional Growth. The program engaged around a dozen researchers in the
field, putting Sweden firmly on the women’s entrepreneurship research map (e.g. Sundin and
Holmquist, 1996, 2002). This research program has also worked actively with complementing
(women’s) entrepreneurship theory with gender theory (e.g. Javefors-Grauers, 2002;
Lindgren, 2000; Lindgren and Packendorff, 2006) as well as with policy, practice and support
systems. The continuing tradition at many Nordic universities to write PhD theses in their
respective languages makes a bulk of the highly interesting findings that have emerged from
this research program not accessible for an international audience and thereby limits its
impact on developing the field internationally, though they of course inspire theory-building
efforts in the Nordic countries (e.g. Dareblom, 2005; Javefors-Grauers, 2002; Hedfeldt, 2008;
Ljunggren, 2003
; Näsman, 2000; Pettersson, 2002).
The Swedish research results led the country’s government to invest (this time via
the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems ‘Vinnova’), into a large-scale
research program ‘Research on women’s entrepreneurship’ (Forskning om kvinnors
företagande). Between 2007 and early 2011, this research program comprised ten different
research projects conducted at different Swedish universities. The government’s aim with
sponsoring this program was to revitalize research and increase knowledge on women’s
entrepreneurship in order to enable the development of better policy measures and,
eventually, increase the numbers of women entrepreneurs (Government Decision N
2007/5532/ENT). The government was driven by the assumption that there was untapped
potential of increased women’s entrepreneurship in the country and that existing policies to
foster entrepreneurship were oriented to men’s entrepreneurship and men-dominated
industries. Therefore, i.a. the need for research which would unmask (hidden) challenges for
This dissertation contains articles also in English.
women entrepreneurs was identified (ibid). This need is confirmed e.g. by a study comparing
the self-employment preferences among women in the different Nordic countries, which
found that despite the similarity of these countries in terms of gender position differences in
factors influencing women’s involvement in new venture formation exist (Arenius and
Kovalainen, 2006). And while national state support systems exist in all Nordic countries,
these are based on different paradigms and rationales (Pettersson, 2012).
In an anthology presenting findings from the different projects, Blomberg, Hedlund
and Wottle (2011: 31-32) identify and discuss three different dilemmas which politics and
policy-making face related to women’s entrepreneurship.
1. The first dilemma refers to how women entrepreneurship is portrayed as a problem,
in that it is perceived to be happening too little and in ‘wrong’ industry sectors,
namely those displaying too little growth and creating too few jobs. Men’s
entrepreneurship, in contrast, is rarely portrayed is such terms. Women entrepreneurs
are thus constructed as a ‘problematic’ group in need of specific support and help, and
whose entrepreneurial activities are seen as not innovative and productive enough.
2. The second dilemma refers to gender segregation. While the Swedish government
takes up both the labor market and entrepreneurship in its recent action plan towards
gender equality, it is not questioning the segregated labor market per se. Thus, the
action plan encourages women to become entrepreneurs but expects these activities
to take place within the ‘traditional’ confines of health and care services, transferring
low-income employed positions into low-income self-employment.
3. The third dilemma refers to women as a ‘means’, e.g. as an available, relatively
‘untapped’ resource to spark economic development through entrepreneurial activities.
While Sweden is characterized by relative gender equality when compared to most
other countries, gender issues remain present in Swedish public debate and are frequently
covered in mass media. Despite the public awareness of the topic which this debate fuels,
power structures (and discourses) in the country continue to be somewhat gendered and
unbalanced. Already in the 1970s, Sweden introduced a number of reforms which made it
easier to be part of the labor market: married couples were no longer taxed jointly, but
individually; maternity leave was changed to parental leave; and childcare facilities were
expanded. Thus, the country already a long time ago got rid of a number of formal
institutional bottlenecks commonly identified in empirical studies as great obstacles for
women’s entrepreneurship (e.g. Holst, 2001; Winn, 2004, 2005). An informal gender system
however remains. The gender segregation on the labor market is still strong and also the
hierarchisation is evident from national statistics (see SCB, 2010). Not only professions but
also industries are gender labeled (Lindgren, 2008). The same applies to entrepreneurship as
such, which continues to be gender-labeled as ‘male’ (Ahl, 2004; Ljunggren and Alsos, 2007;
Sundin, 2002). This labeling continues to be reproduced in media, though women
entrepreneurs contribute to discursive change (see for example Berglund, 2006). Naturally,
the gendered structures and discourses can be assumed to have an impact on the fact that
women entrepreneurs still represent only around 25-30% of business ownership in the Nordic
In an analysis of the Swedish welfare state, Bourne (2010) shows the difficulty of
dealing with issues of hierarchical ordering, where policies which were intended to break
down gender barriers appear to reproduce asymmetrical gender systems and a gendered labor
market structure. The impact of the welfare state on women’s entrepreneurial activities is
complex. Among other things, public childcare and elderly care facilitate womens
participation in the labor market, and these welfare states have been termed women friendly
(Hernes, 1987; see also Ahl, 2011). Yet, adjustment to women who are owner/managers has
not been sufficient. For example in the case of Denmark, Neergaard and Thrane (2011)
illustrate how though it had been taken for granted that public childcare would facilitate
increased women’s entrepreneurship, this might not necessarily be the case, as there appears
to be a schism between welfare models that facilitate employment and those that facilitate
In Sweden, women’s entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in social and health-care
has been supported by the government in a number of ways, for example by the National
Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (see e.g. Berglund, 2006; Tillmar, 2007 for
analyses of such projects from a gender perspective). In the political debate, the deregulation
of the public sector was presented as an opportunity for women, who represent the majority of
employees in welfare sectors. As we know from established research that a majority of
entrepreneurs start businesses related to their previous occupations (Shane, 2000; Sundin and
Thörnqvist, 2006), the hope that women would act on newly emerging entrepreneurial
opportunities was not far-fetched. The process of deregulation has involved outsourcing of
publicly funded education, healthcare and social care, and customer-choice systems are
currently being implemented in many municipalities. In these systems, the user decides on
which organization to deliver the publicly funded service. In an official report of the Swedish
government, it was for example stated that “In those municipalities and county councils that
introduce customer choice, small businesses and in particular female entrepreneurship will
be favored…” (SOU 2008:15). Unfortunately, research results assessing the outcomes are to
date contradictory and inconclusive (cf. Sundin and Tillmar, 2010b). If a fulfillment of the
political ambition described above is the best-case scenario from a gender-equality
perspective, the worst-case scenario is that the gender system is reproduced in business
ownership with a resulting “masculinization” of parts of the health and care operations (i.e.
predominant male ownership of newly founded businesses in the sector). In elderly-care, this
situation seems to be emerging, partly due to economies of scale and competition from
international corporations (Sundin and Tillmar, 2010a). However, an ongoing mapping study
will reveal how womens entrepreneurship has evolved in different parts of the (previously)
public sector and in different regions of the country (Sköld, forthcoming 2012).
In recent years, a number of new policy-related partnerships have emerged, which
had the potential to address the phenomenon of women’s entrepreneurship. However, this
potential seems to have been largely lost, i.a. as women with power in politics and the
economy did not manage to join forces in these partnerships (which include, among others,
the EU-funded regional Structural Funds), as a study of different Swedish regions showed
(Hedlund, 2011). However, as Hedfeldt (2011: 158) concludes from a study of the
representation of women in regional Structural Funds processes and projects, the question is
whether women interested and/or active in entrepreneurship actually could join forces to
formulate a shared agenda (despite their diversity, cf. Sundin and Holmquist, 1989), and
which issues they would in that case want to raise.
This special issue: background and contributions
In the summer of 2011, the guest editors of this special issue organized a track on
“Gender and Entrepreneurship” at the International Council for Small Business (ICSB)
Annual Conference in Stockholm, Sweden. We received close to 100 contributions, from
many corners of the world, but with a high representation of Swedish and other Nordic
scholars. This large number of submissions confirms the recent claim that the field of
women’s entrepreneurship has left its ‘early childhood stage (De Bruin, Brush and Welter,
2006), and rather is ‘at the brink to adolescence’, as Hughes et al. (2012) put forward in the
editorial to a special issue in Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice.
Based on Ahl’s (2006) critical review, these authors summarize three areas of
criticism of the literature on women’s entrepreneurship accumulated through the time of
publication of Ahl’s review. The first criticism states that the popular view on women’s
entrepreneurship as untapped resource for economic growth has triggered much research
documenting and explaining the performance and growth of women’s ventures, while
silencing other types of research questions (including research focusing on other possible
outcomes of entrepreneurial activities) (see also Berglund & Johansson, 2007).
The second
criticism addresses the highly individualistic orientation of entrepreneurship research in
general, and women’s entrepreneurship in particular. Building on Ahl’s (2006: 605-607)
arguments, Hughes et al. (2012: 3) point out how due to this individualistic focus rather little
attention has been paid to, for example, contextual and historical variables, and little explicit
use has been made of feminist perspectives to explain gendered power structures. In result,
there has been a tendency to attribute ‘shortcomings’ of female entrepreneurs to individual
women, rather than social or institutional arrangements (Hughes et al., 2012: 3; Ahl, 2006:
606). The third area of criticism is the objectivist stance, which by presuming the existence of
inherently ‘male’ or ‘female’ attributes and their measurability, contributes to the production
of gender differences.
Ahl (2006: 611) concluded in her review that new directions are needed in research
on women’s entrepreneurship, namely towards an expansion of the research object and a shift
This body of research also contains performance comparisons between men’s and women’s
entrepreneurship, for the Swedish context e.g. regarding self-employment among immigrants (Hammarstedt,
2004) or studies, which employ gender as a control variable (e.g. for a study on effects of unemployment on
firm formation in Finland, see Ritsilä and Tervo, 2002).
in epistemological position. As the author points out, researchers do not necessarily have to
abandon an objectivist perspective, but argues that it would be an improvement to account for
factors ‘outside’ the individual entrepreneur and her business, such as policies, social norms
or legislation. She suggests that internationally-comparative and contingency studies could,
for example, study relationships between family policies and women entrepreneurship as well
as how these are related to different contexts (ibid). A shift in epistemological position would
imply a shift from considering “gender as something that is to gender as something that is
done and from gender as something firmly tied to bodies to gender as tied to anything
concepts, jobs, industries, language, disciplinesor to businesses” (Ahl, 2006: 612). She
suggests that studies on how institutions are gendered could make important contributions, for
example investigating the institutionalization of support structures for women entrepreneurs.
How do the contributions in this special issue relate to these concerns and which
focus and findings do the articles have? The paper Entrepreneurship within social and health
care a question of identity, gender and professionalism by Anne Kovalainen and Johanna
Österberg investigates how entrepreneurial identity is adopted and how it is constructed
amongst female entrepreneurs in small businesses within social and health care in the Nordic
context of Finland. The authors have managed to conduct an epistemological shift, as called
for by Ahl (2006; see above), towards discussing how gender is ‘done’ by analysing the
emergence of an entrepreneurial identity and position in an occupational group that is
historically and presently embedded in paid employment patterns and practices. Kovalainen
and Österberg make an interesting contribution in elaborating on the interrelatedness of
different levels of context for women entrepreneurs in this specific industry sector. Namely,
the authors discuss the intersectionality of gender, identity and positions in professions and
occupations development.
An earlier version of the paper by Susan Clark Muntean ‘Wind beneath my wings:
Policies promoting high-growth oriented women entrepreneurs received the ICSB-IJGE-
NWBC Best Paper Award 2011 (for more information on this award, see Weeks and Duffy,
2011). In this paper, Clark Muntean investigates how countries’ stance towards gender
equality (in terms of women’s legal and social status, institutional presence and economic
empowerment) is related to opportunity-driven women’s entrepreneurship. Analyzing cross-
sectional data across a large number of countries, she finds support for her assumption that
gender equality is positively related to opportunity-driven entrepreneurial activities by
women. Though maintaining a largely objectivist perspective, this paper makes a relevant
contribution by pointing out the systematic impact of contextual factors beyond the influence
of individual female entrepreneurs on women’s entrepreneurships’ performance
representing one direction of research on women’s entrepreneurship called for by Ahl (2006,
see above).
The paper by Maria Bogren, Yvonne von Friedrichs, Øystein Rennemo and Øystein
Widding Networking women entrepreneurs fruitful for business growth?’ explores the way
how women entrepreneurs in rural areas in two Nordic countries, namely Sweden and
Norway, utilize various kinds of networks is related to their level of ambition to grow. This
paper draws attention to the relevance of the personal context of women for their
entrepreneurial activities and finds that women entrepreneurs in both country-contexts
perceive personal networks as more supportive than business networks for their
entrepreneurial endeavors.
The paper Women business ventures in Swedish university incubators by Åsa
Lindholm Dahlstrand and Diamanto Politis investigates the role of university incubators for
women's academic entrepreneurship. The authors take the vantage point that it is important to
develop an understanding of how women entrepreneurs in various industries differ. They
attempt to move beyond the individualistic focus discussed above by applying a multilevel
design that takes into consideration the relationship between individual firms and the
incubator environment (cf. de Bruin, Brush and Welter, 2007; Rothaermel, Agung and Jiang,
2007). Their study of academic women entrepreneurs starting up their ventures in incubators
refers to a knowledge-intensive context where men and women entrepreneurs possess fairly
similar levels of human capital, thereby avoiding a typical sampling bias (see Brush, de Bruin
and Welter, 2009). Their analysis, based on 19 Swedish incubators and over 1400 ventures,
out of which 210 ventures with women entrepreneurs, shows that there are large difference
between women’s ventures in the incubators.
Finally, the research note by Sylvain Max and Valérie Ballereau proposes a
promising research method to identify stereotypical thinking, which could be fruitfully
employed to unmask even latent discrimination of women (or other groups of entrepreneurs).
Making use of the research method discussed by these authors could support theory-building
e.g. regarding the question of whether and how female entrepreneurs are discriminated against
by those who might have a say in evaluating their businesses, such as banks (Holmquist,
2008: 16), which is an area where research results to date deliver inconclusive results (Carter
et al., 2007; Eriksson, Katila and Niskanen, 2009; Fay and Williams, 1993).
Concluding remarks
Recently, Brush et al. (2009) argued for the need to acknowledge that
institutionalized social structures at the micro, meso and macro levels can have a significant
impact on women’s entrepreneurship. The papers included in this special issue clearly
demonstrate that the understanding of entrepreneurial processes and realities of female
entrepreneurs can be enhanced by employing different perspectives, from micro level e.g.
how individuals make sense of their entrepreneurial identity (captured in Kovalainen and
Österberg’s paper) to macro level understandings, e.g. showing sensitivity to different
national and institutional contexts (as in Clark Muntean’s contribution). But not the least we
need studies which focus on the meso level (as represented by the role of business networks in
Bogren et al.’s paper as well as that of incubators in Lindholm Dahlstrand and Politis’ paper).
Judging from the range of papers submitted to our conference track mentioned
above, we are not witnessing a revolution towards new directions in research on women’s
entrepreneurship, but rather an evolution. This special issue is attempting to contribute by
further exploring the relevance of context for women entrepreneurs. Thereby, we follow in the
footsteps of a previous special issue published in this journal, which had focused on the role
of context in international studies and comparisons to illuminate the role of context, e.g. in
terms of culture and socio-economic situation (Ashe and Treanor, 2011). The papers in this
special issue also illustrate the multitude of women’s entrepreneurship. This diversity is
contingent not least on the different industry sectors where the entrepreneurs operate as well
as the business models applicable in these contexts. As entrepreneurship theory has to date
dominated over gender perspectives in studies on women as entrepreneurs, there is a risk that
women are squeezed into the theory which has evolved around entrepreneurship (Berglund,
2007). A promising trend for current and future studies is the increase in articles integrating
gender theory with entrepreneurship (Mirchandani, 1999), challenging and contributing to
entrepreneurship theory from a gender perspective (e.g. Achtenhagen and Welter, 2011; Ahl,
2007; Bruni, Gherardi and Poggio, 2004; Calas, Smircich and Bourne, 2009). Research on
women’s entrepreneurship can be further strengthened by employing gender perspectives
especially following a social constructivist perspective investigating ‘how gender is done’
(Ahl, 2006).
The authors wish to thank professor Helene Ahl, Dr Karin Berglund, Dr Katarina Pettersson
and professor Elisabeth Sundin for their valuable comments on earlier versions of this paper.
Achtenhagen, L. and Welter, F. (2011): ‘Surfing on the ironing board’ – The representation of
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Arenius, P. and Kovalainen, A. (2006), Similarities and differences across the factors
associated with women’s self-employment preferences in the Nordic countries, International
Small Business Journal, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 31-59.
Ashe, F. and Treanor, L. (2011), Situating the subject: gender and entrepreneurship in
international contexts, International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 3, No. 3,
pp. 185-199.
Blomberg, E., Hedlund, G. and Wottle, M. (2011) (Eds.), Kvinnors företagande mål eller
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Berglund, K. and Johansson, A.W. (2007), The Entrepreneurship Discourse - Outlined from
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entrepreneurship, International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 8-
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Management Review, Vol. 34, No. 3, 552-569.
Carter, S., Shaw, E., Lam, W. and Wilson, F. (2007), Gender, entrepreneurship, and bank
lending: The criteria and processes used by bank loan officers in assessing applications”,
Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, May, pp. 427-444.
Dareblom, J. (2005), Prat, politik och praktik Om individers möten med strukturer i en
kommunal satsning på kvinnors företagande, PhD Dissertation, Stockholm School of
Economics. [Talk, politics, and practice About the meetings of individuals with structures in
a local project on women’s entrepreneurship]
de Bruin, A., Brush, C.G. and Welter F. (2006), Introduction to the Special Issue: Towards
Building Cumulative Knowledge on Women’s Entrepreneruship, Entrepreneurship Theory
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... Research avoids essentialist assumptions and recognises the impact of context. Special issues and books in the field have focussed on context (Díaz-García et al., 2016;Yousafzi et al., 2018;Knezovi c et al., 2020;Achtenhagen and Tillmar, 2013). Risks of US-centric approaches and comparisons without consideration of contextual differences have been brought to attention (Marlow et al., 2008;Dana and Ramadani, 2015). ...
Purpose Contrasting Sweden and Tanzania, this paper aims to explore the experiences of women entrepreneurs affected by entrepreneurialism. This study discusses the impact on their position in society and on their ability to take feminist action. Design/methodology/approach This paper analysed interviews conducted in the two countries over 15 years, using a holistic perspective on context, including its gendered dimensions. Findings The results amount to a critique of entrepreneurialism. Women in Sweden did not experience much gain from entrepreneurship, while in Tanzania results were mixed. Entrepreneurialism seems unable to improve the situation for women in the relatively well-functioning economies in the global north, where it was designed. Research limitations/implications In mainstream entrepreneurship studies, there is a focus on the institutional context. From the analysis, it is apparent that equal attention must be given to the social and spatial contexts, as they may have severe material and economic consequences for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. The paper raises questions for further studies on the gendering of markets in different contexts, as well as questions on the urban-rural dimension. Practical implications In Sweden, marketisation of welfare services led to more women-owned businesses, but the position of women did not improve. The results strongly convey the need for a careful analysis of the pre-existing context, before initiating reforms. Originality/value The paper adds to the understanding of context in entrepreneurship studies: Africa is largely an underexplored continent and contrasting North and South is an underexplored methodological approach. This paper further extends and develops the model of gendered contexts developed by Welter et al. (2014).
... How gendered structures impact women entrepreneurs in different economies is increasingly discussed (Ramadani et al., 2015b;Anggadwita et al., 2016). Empirical studies from Nordic contexts (Sundin and Holmquist, 1989;Alsos and Kolvereid, 2005;Kovalainen and Arenius, 2006;Neergaard and Thrane, 2011;Achtenhagen and Tillmar, 2013), transition economies (Palali c et al., 2020;Ramadani et al., 2015a;Ramadani et al., 2015b) or African countries (Mazonde and Carmichael, 2016;Tillmar, 2016a;Langevang et al., 2018), show that women entrepreneurs in different economies must deal with gendered institutions, but the nature and kind of these institutions, not least the market and the state, differ between the contexts, as do the implications for women. ...
Purpose Contrasting two countries with different gender regimes and welfare states, Sweden and Tanzania, this paper aims to analyse how the institutional context affects the ways in which a neo-liberal reform agenda is translated into institutional changes and propose how such changes impact the preconditions for women’s entrepreneurship. Design/methodology/approach This study uses document analysis and previous studies to describe and analyse the institutions and the institutional changes. This paper uses Scandinavian institutional theory as the interpretative framework. Findings This study proposes that: in well-developed welfare states with a high level of gender equality, consequences of neo-liberal agenda for the preconditions for women entrepreneurs are more likely to be negative than positive. In less developed states with a low level of gender equality, the gendered consequences of neo-liberal reforms may be mixed and the preconditions for women’s entrepreneurship more positive than negative. How neo-liberalism impacts preconditions for women entrepreneurs depend on the institutional framework in terms of a trustworthy women-friendly state and level of gender equality. Research limitations/implications The study calls for bringing the effects on the gender of the neo-liberal primacy of market solutions out of the black box. Studying how women entrepreneurs perceive these effects necessitates qualitative ethnographic data. Originality/value This paper demonstrates why any discussion of the impact of political or economic reforms on women’s entrepreneurship must take a country’s specific institutional context into account. Further, previous studies on neo-liberalism have rarely taken an interest in Africa.
... While analysing the influence of cultural contexts on entrepreneurship, researchers claimed not to view entrepreneurship as a universally generalised phenomenon, and that more emphasis should be placed on differences in entrepreneurship across varied contexts (Morrison, 2000). Some researchers firmly hold that context in the nature of culture and socio-economic conditions are highly relevant to the process of women entrepreneurship (Achtenhagen & Tillmar, 2013). Women entrepreneurship has been found to be greatly affected by the size of the state sector, i.e. services provided in health, education, and the like. ...
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The paper aims to explore the connection between microfinance and women entrepreneurship. This paper is based on existing empirical as well as theoretical literature across different contexts. Existing literature supports, microfinance enables disadvantaged section of women to start own micro-enterprises as well as expand already established micro-enterprises. Further, women have been able to generate employment in their micro-enterprises mainly in their localities. However, initial loans are generally diverted towards non-productive uses. These initial loans are seldom used for productive purposes, in some context, due to certain challenges such as small size of loans, frequency in loan repayment, lack of training and knowledge, marketing problems faced by women beneficiaries. It was found that women beneficiaries, however, are able to utilize their subsequent loans for productive purposes i.e. start or grow their micro-enterprises. The challenges which women confront in starting their own business ventures must be identified and addressed promptly. Further, there is a void in the empirical literature regarding impact estimation of microfinance on women entrepreneurship to be filled.
... Zgheib (2018) compared American and Lebanese women to define their entrepreneurial motivation. Furthermore, Achtenhagen and Tillmar (2013) examined that the role of micro, meso and macro levels are related to Nordic women's entrepreneurial activities. Despite the diversity of studies focusing on different geographies, America and Europe are the more studied regions. ...
Purpose: Entrepreneurial Initiative is believed as being a prosperity engine. Islamic organizations are presently committed to promoting entrepreneurship to generate economic growth, provide job opportunities, reduce government centrality, enhance innovation, and sustainable development. The purpose of this article is to identify which factors affect Islamic entrepreneurial endeavours with particular emphasis on the role of gender. Additionally, how education, age, moral constraints, self-perception and social support will affect those entrepreneurial intentions based on Islamic principles. Once identified, policy actions will help to overcome extant gaps, reinforcing the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Design/methodology/approach: Determinants of the entrepreneurial initiative will be appraised in the set Islamic countries present in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) dataset from 2016. Following the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) list, 14 countries were identified establishing a total sample of 36407 individuals. Using a set of predictors included in the theoretical framework a statistical analysis was performed followed by logit estimations. The significance of explanatory variables such as gender, age and social context towards entrepreneurial propensity reinforced the importance of specific tools rather than broad policies. Findings: Entrepreneurial propensity is affected by three branches of factors: individual characteristics, individual behaviour and individual perceptions along with the economic environment. The analysis shows that holding equal conditions, Islamic women in the sample are less prone to start a business compared to their male counterparts. Knowing other entrepreneurial endeavours enhance the entrepreneurial initiative. Fearing failure unconstraint entrepreneurial projects, but the self-perception of skills strongly triggers these initiatives. Originality/value: The article identifies gender differences in entrepreneurial propensity among Islamic Economics. The potential enhancers of the entrepreneurial initiative are firstly put in theoretical terms followed by an empirical analysis, encompassing descriptive analysis and econometric estimations. The results allow identification of accurate policy packages fostering gender equality in entrepreneurship in Islamic gender gaps as well as other individual and context characteristics affecting entrepreneurial endeavours. Empirical evidence casts light to policymakers elaborating Economics, aiming to increase overall entrepreneurial activity and leveraging socio-economic development. Finally, the article addresses recommendations to overcome gender differences relating to the entrepreneurial activity considering the singularities of the context. Research limitations/implications: The empirical analysis relates to GEM database, and, as a consequence, only 14 countries were considered, but it covers 36407 individuals whose representativeness cannot be statistically proved, however, due to sample dimension the robustness is granted. Second, the sample is sectional covering the 2016 year, as a consequence results may be classified as exceptional. Lastly, other factors, such as institutional and behavioural determinants were not considered, despite its theoretical importance, due to their absence in the database. Still, the empirical results reinforce the theoretical debate and offer robust evidence to build environmental welfare (Machmud et al., 2018), a policy package, adapted to the Islamic singularities.
... Accordingly, women are often viewed as a group in need of support and not innovative enough (Achtenhagen and Tillmar, 2013). García and Welter (2013) furthermore point out two issues that need to be further studied in women entrepreneurship: first, the use of masculine constructs that position women as the other who needs to adapt to existing systems and structures, and second, the heterogeneity of women's entrepreneurship. ...
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This study explores women entrepreneurs’ participation in networks with focus on local community collaboration. Using case study methodology with 14 qualitative interviews in two phases with business counsellors and women entrepreneurs, participatory observations and document studies, this study explores women entrepreneurs in smaller cities in Sweden and their collaboration in networks. Results state that women entrepreneurs participate in various local community networks and that networks are viewed as valuable assets for business development. Women entrepreneurs strategically choose to join strong networks that have an impact on local community development. Challenges faced are mainly related to the role as entrepreneur and running a business in a smaller city. However, some specific gendered challenges are lack of trust or respect from other business and public actors, especially in contact with authorities. The main sources for renewal processes and knowledge sharing are co-owners, staff, digital tools, networks partners, families and friends.
... This has spurred a research interest in studying wo/men entrepreneurs from a feminist perspective (Ahl, 2006;Wee & Brooks, 2012;Achtenhagen & Tillmar, 2013). Studying entrepreneurship as a gendered phenomenon could avoid the unfortunate tendency to reproduce women entrepreneurs as 'others'. ...
... While analyzing the influence of cultural context on entrepreneurship, researchers claimed not to view entrepreneurship as a universally generalized phenomenon and more emphases need to be put on differences in entrepreneurship across varied contexts (Morrison, 2000). Some researchers firmly hold that context in the nature of culture and socio-economic conditions are highly relevant to the process of women entrepreneurship (Achtenhagen and Tillmar, 2013). Hence, understanding the literature on entrepreneurship, we define women entrepreneurship, in this paper, as the process whereby women take risks to start a new income generating activity (new business venture) or expand already established income generating activity (established business venture) ( Mahmood, 2011;Mahmood et al, 2014). ...
... Moving to our second moderator, gender is considered a main factor in the entrepreneurship literature. For example, some researchers directed a special focus on female entrepreneurship (Achtenhagen and Tillmar, 2013;Adam et al., 2017;Mahrous, 2019). Others (Dilli and Westerhuis, 2018) discussed how gender plays a significant role in the business model selection of existing business or the strategy used by the entrepreneur (Kumar, 2013;Hodges et al., 2015;Eijdenberg et al., 2019). ...
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Purpose The purpose of this research paper is to study the relationship between entrepreneurial marketing strategy (EMS), institutional environment (IE) and business performance (BP). Further, it examines the role of gender and entrepreneurial experience (EE) as moderators of EMS-BP and IE-BP relationships. Design/methodology/approach Based on the literature review, the authors proposed a conceptual model that was tested using a quantitative approach. Questionnaires were filled by 202 owners/entrepreneurs of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Egypt. Because of the absence of a formal population-frame for the Egyptian SMEs, non-probability quota sampling technique was used that considered differences in gender and EE. SmartPLS software was used for data analysis. Findings The results indicated that EMS has significant positive effect on BP. IE has significant positive effect on EMS but insignificant effect on BP. Gender was found to be moderating significantly both the EMS-BP and IE-BP relationships. However, EE was found to be an insignificant moderator in the EMS-BP relationship. Practical implications The findings communicate insights to the SMEs on the importance of undertaking proactive, risk-taking and innovative activities while creating and delivering value to their customers. Also, it encapsulates further implications for policymakers to promote a better IE for entrepreneurship in Egypt. Originality/value This study contributes conceptually to the interdisciplinary research that investigated the integration between entrepreneurship and marketing as a successful functional strategy in SMEs and its effect on enhancing BP and market share. Empirically, it adds value to the available literature on contemporary strategic entrepreneurship by analysing these IE-EMS-EE-Gender-BP relationships in a promising, yet under-researched, transitional economy.
The current research investigates the regional differences in benefiting from innovation toward growth ambitions in a sample of female entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and Nordic region. A sample of 4,048 early-stage female entrepreneurs from these two regions who were participated in annual surveys of Global Entrepreneurship Monitor was selected for further analysis. The results of data analysis using hierarchical linear modeling (mixed models) revealed that innovation benefits growth ambitions of early-stage female entrepreneurs. Further, the regional differences affect the benefit of innovation in shaping growth ambitions, so that, in Nordic region, the early-stage female entrepreneurs expect more growth out of their innovation as compared with their counterparts in MENA region. These results have been discussed regarding to existing literature, and future research directions have been suggested based on the results.
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of gender on the usage of different funding sources in a sample of Finnish small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The aim is also to embed the results into the country-context, which is characterized by the long history of women's economic activity and bank-based capital markets. Design/methodology/approach – The database includes variables on terms of credit for the firms' most recent loans and detailed information on the firms' banking relationships. The total number of firm-year observations in the database is 3,519. The analysis is based on multivariate tests. Findings – The funding patterns of women-owned SMEs (WOS) and men-owned SMEs (MOS) in the data are different: WOS are more likely to use additional equity investments by current owners as a funding source. They do so at least partly because of their positive attitudes towards this funding source. The results also contradict prior studies, which indicate that MOS have easier access to bank lending. The results suggest that there are no gender-related differences in the use of bank debt. Also in contrast to prior studies, the paper finds no differences in firm size or profitability between WOS and MOS. Research limitations/implications – The results of study both confirm and contradict the results of prior research and the paper suggests that this is due to the context-specific features of the Finnish labour market and the gender system as well as the bank-centered financial markets. Practical implications – Concerning the issues of gender and finance, policy makers and financial experts in any country should not uncritically rely on the research results arrived at in other countries. Originality/value – Only a handful of studies have investigated issues of gender and finance in SMEs embedding the results into the country-context.
We engage in a critical theoretical exercise to extend the boundaries of entrepreneur-ship theory and research by reframing "entrepreneurship as positive economic activity" to "entrepreneurship as social change." Reframing entrepreneurship through feminist analytical lenses, we argue that more theoretical frameworks are needed for exploring the varieties of social change that entrepreneurship may bring about. We also discuss what difference this would make in extant entrepreneurship perspectives. Theoretically, methodologically, and analytically, such reframing is the main contribution of this paper.
The author would like to express her gratitude to Sigrid Hedin, Anu Henriksson, Veera Lehto, Lise Smed Olsson, Tanja Ståhle and Asli Tepecik Dis at Nordregio (Nordic Centre for Spatial Development) for helping out with compiling material for this paper. The author would also like to thank the members of the reference group for their help in relation to the project. The research project that this paper is part of – Women's Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Sparsely Populated Areas of the Nordic Countries – is financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers.
OLAV R. SPILLING IS WITH THE CENTRE FOR Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship, Norwegian School of Management, Sandvika, and Nina Gunnerud Berg is with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway. The first is based on the Population Census, 1990 and provides representative data on self-employment and (self-reported) management positions in private as well as public businesses in the whole population. The second data set, from 1995, links data on all registered firm managers and board chairmen to data on firms recorded in the Central Register of Firms and Establishments. It provides comprehensive data on the share of male and female managers in various industries and size groups of companies. As far as self-employment is concerned, the data reveal a share of female self-employed of 25 per cent, which is comparable with the situation in other European countries, but below shares reported from the United States. However, the data reveal that self-employment has different meanings to men and women as female self-employment generally means to be in an economically more marginal position than is the situation for self-employed men. The data on business managers (top executives) reveal very small shares for women compared with men. Women managers are mainly in smaller firms, and even among these the share is rather small with, on average, about 16 per cent; for board chairmen the percentage is even smaller with about 10 per cent. The larger the firms, the smaller is the share of female managers, and they are virtually absent in the larger firms. When summarising the data, it turns out that businesses with female managers account for about 7 per cent of total private sector employment, and about 5 per cent of total turnover. Furthermore, the data reveal that to the extent women go into business as managers, they do so in sectors where women traditionally have a strong position in the labour market but even among these sectors very few have a majority of female managers. The general conclusion of this paper is that current research based on data on self-employment tends to give a too optimistic picture of the role of women in business. the vast majority of businesses managed by women are very small, and taking into account the 'weight' of their businesses, the role of women in business is still rather marginal.