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Women’s Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century

Women’s Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century

An International Multi-Level Research Analysis

Edited by Kate Lewis, Colette Henry, Elizabeth J. Gatewood and John Watson

Women’s Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century is the fourth in the series of books emanating from the DIANA International Research Network. The volume takes a multi-dimensional approach to coalesce a series of chapters around the central theme: gender and entrepreneurship today and in the future. The chapters span a diverse range of countries, methodologies, and levels of analysis – however, they all seek to contribute to an advancing understanding of women and their engagement with entrepreneurial endeavours.

Chapter 3: Gender congruency theory, experience of discrimination and access to finance

Natalie Sappleton

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, gender and management


Since the 1970s, there has been a massive upsurge in business ownership among women. In the United States, women now own around 28 per cent of all privately held, non-agricultural businesses (Center for Women’s Business Research, 2009). In 2008, American women started over 400 new enterprises a day – twice the rate of other groups (that is, male-owned and jointly owned); their firms generated $1.9 trillion in sales and employed more than 13 million people (Center for Women’s Business Research, 2009). According to the latest available data (US Census Bureau, 2011b), women own some 10.1 million businesses, representing more than a 25-fold increase since records began in 1972 (Center for Women’s Business Research, 2009). Between 1985 and 2000, the number of female-owned sole proprietorships grew at a faster rate than their male-owned and jointly owned counterparts; their business receipts grew at more than twice the rate of male-owned sole proprietorships; and their profits increased at an average annual rate of 6.9 per cent, compared with a 3.9 per cent average annual growth rate for male-owned sole proprietorships (Lowrey, 2005). In spite of this impressive record, women-owned businesses are overwhelmingly crowded into a narrow segment of the economy, particularly in retail and services.

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