A Research Perspective
Edited by Candida G. Brush, Anne de Bruin, Elizabeth J. Gatewood and Colette Henry
Chapter 6: The Embeddedness of Women’s Entrepreneurship in a Transition Context
Friederike Welter and David Smallbone INTRODUCTION There is growing recognition in entrepreneurship research that economic behaviour can only be understood within the context of its social relations (for example, Davidsson, 2003; Katz and Steyaert, 2004). This chapter applies an institutional theory perspective to women’s entrepreneurship in transition economies, exploring the different levels of embeddedness as well as the impact of change. During Soviet times, women experienced different institutional ‘realities’ (Ashwin, 2000; Kandiyoti and Azimova, 2004; Kiblitskaya, 2000, Zhurzhenko, 2001), with implications for their opportunities to engage in entrepreneurial activities once transition started. This includes the officially propagated gender equality fostering women’s labour market participation, as well as the Soviet model of ‘worker-mothers’. This contributed to an ongoing double burden for women and the ‘renaissance of patriarchy’ (Zhurzhenko, 1999: 246) that both European and Central Asian societies experienced after transition had started. This is not surprising in Central Asian countries, where cultural values emphasizing patriarchal family relations survived throughout the Soviet period. However, there is a similar trend in European countries, such as Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, reflected in ‘widely held public assumptions that business is a masculine occupation’ (Zhurzhenko, 1999: 246). With regard to (women’s) entrepreneurship, the variety of institutional contexts can either be a liability or an asset. Thus, an institutional analysis of women’s entrepreneurship in a transition context needs to take into account gender roles as supported by Soviet governments as well as pre-Soviet legacies. The chapter begins by conceptualizing the different layers of institutional embeddedness with respect...
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