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Edited by Lize A.E. Booysen, Regine Bendl and Judith K. Pringle

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) have become features of organizations as a result of both legal and societal advances, as well as neoliberal economic reasoning and considerations. Current research approaches frequently fall short of addressing the challenges faced in EDI research, and this benchmark Handbook brings up to date coverage of research methods in EDI, and advances the development of research in the field.
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Edited by Lize A.E. Booysen, Regine Bendl and Judith K. Pringle

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Bridget Irene

Bridget Irene’s chapter analyses the work–life balance issues that impact the success of women entrepreneurs in South Africa. Addressing the need to identify the factors that affect success in SMEs owned and managed by women, Irene presents an overview of the perceived impact of work–life balance and the perception of success amongst women entrepreneurs. Maintaining a balance between business and family life has gained attention in the mainstream research on women’s entrepreneurship. Irene’s findings suggest that most South African women entrepreneurs are concerned with achieving a better work–life balance and do not seek financial success at the expense of their family lives, whether their own or those of their employees. Therefore, it is necessary to reconsider women’s entrepreneurship as an avenue for social and cultural change, not just a route to financial emancipation. While, in contrast to the constraints of a traditional job, entrepreneurship offers a woman the flexibility to manage her multiple obligations, some women see their success as being hindered by their first priority (given the societal views and obligations), which is always family, not their businesses. Female entrepreneurs also consider their personal competency vital to their success, and feel the need for self-development in order to succeed in a society that still undermines and doubts the abilities of women to manage a business.

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Women Entrepreneurs and the Myth of ‘Underperformance’

A New Look at Women’s Entrepreneurship Research

Edited by Shumaila Yousafzai, Alain Fayolle, Adam Lindgreen, Colette Henry, Saadat Saeed and Shandana Sheikh

Taking a fresh look at how performance is defined by examining the institutional power structures and policies, eminent scholars herein explore ways to overcome constrained performance and encourage women’s entrepreneurial activities through a variety of methodological approaches and geographical contexts.
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Shandana Sheikh, Shumaila Yousafzai, Federica Sist, Aybeniz Akdeniz AR and Saadat Saeed

Shandana Sheikh and her co-authors argue that, although evaluation of entrepreneurial activity in terms of financial performance, wealth creation and firm survival is important, it often results in a one-sided analysis in which entrepreneurship is evaluated and appraised solely in monetary terms, without reference to its social impact and other types of value. They suggest that such approaches limit the contribution of entrepreneurial activity that is initiated by disadvantaged and marginalized groups, even though these groups often create significant value beyond financial value. They argue that, while women entrepreneurs are often labelled as ‘underperformers’ in business because of their businesses’ low rate of growth and low success rates, these criteria are those that society expects women to meet, not those that women expect or want to meet. Hence, one must look beyond standard measures of performance and success and focus on what success and performance means to the woman entrepreneur. Their study presents narratives from two women entrepreneurs who highlight the unique ways in which they create value and contribute to their economies and societies. The authors’ findings suggest that women create value at multiple levels, including value to their lives (individual value), to their businesses (business value), to their families and households (household/family value), and to their societies (society/community value).

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Joan Lockyer, Cherisse Hoyte and Sunita Dewitt

Joan Lockyer, Cherisse Hoyte and Sunita Dewitt put forward an agenda that demands, rather than encourages, parity between the sexes in terms of entrepreneurial performance. Reconceptualizing entrepreneurship, the authors review the discourse on women’s entrepreneurship by highlighting key aspects of the discourse, including entrepreneurship, instrumentality and women entrepreneurs as ‘Others’. Engaging in this debate, the authors highlight the need to challenge the construction of all three concepts in the field of women’s entrepreneurship and illustrate how the concept of the entrepreneur is limiting for women. They suggest the importance of using a feminist lens in exploring the ‘Otherness’ of women, as a feminist stance on the field of entrepreneurship would help build new theory and clarify the challenges women entrepreneurs face.

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Milka Milliance

Milka Milliance’s article adopts a feminine leadership paradigm to enrich the discussion on redefining performance in entrepreneurship and contributes to the discussion on women’s entrepreneurship and its underperformance stereotypes. She highlights the importance of women using their whole selves instead of only their feminism to achieve self-efficacy and drive change. This chapter presents a multi-disciplinary review of the literature across the fields of entrepreneurship, leadership, gender studies and archetypal psychology, and takes a radical feminist point of view to disavow the notion of gender neutrality in entrepreneurial leadership. Drawing on rich insights from heroines’ case studies in the USA, Milka engages with social constructs such as gender and race, deconstructs gender neutrality, and develops an account of women entrepreneurs’ self-redefinition journey. She suggests that the first step to achieving self-efficacy is a call for change when women conquer their fears, gain the courage to acknowledge and serve their own needs, and create a vision of the world they would like to see. Milka insists that feminine leadership is not about separation from others to go on a heroic quest, only to return transformed, but about going within, to contribute to transforming self and society.

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Roshni Narendran

Roshni Narendran adopts a social constructionist view to advance the debate on the constrained performance of women entrepreneurs. Narendran highlights the social construction of masculine dominance in entrepreneurship by studying misconceptions and inconsistencies in the perceptions of officials who are responsible for implementing programmes to facilitate female entrepreneurship in Kerala, India. In doing so, Narendran contributes to the discussion on the myth of women entrepreneurs’ underperformance, finding that masculinity overshadows entrepreneurship activity when men are treated better than women. This chapter highlights the constraints that women entrepreneurs in Kerala face in their ecosystem, which widen the gender gap and result in low business performance and low growth of women-led enterprises.

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Atsede T. Hailemariam and Brigitte Kroon

Atsede T. Hailemariam and Brigitte Kroon explore the meaning of success for female Ethiopian entrepreneurs. Taking a contextually embedded approach using qualitative data and considering structural, familial and cultural constraints, the authors challenge the notion of the underperformance of women entrepreneurs by highlighting how various female entrepreneurs define success. They explain that women entrepreneurs evaluate success in business both in financial and non-financial terms. While some women entrepreneurs define success as achieving self-fulfilment and in terms of their contribution to society and family, others emphasize communal and religious values in their definition of success. It tends to be the young, educated females and those who have experience and operate more than one business or engage in male-dominated sectors who define their success in terms of profit and growth. The implication for policy-makers relates to the need to pay more attention to the heterogeneity of women entrepreneurs and to non-financial measures of performance as they design policy and support programs to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is conducive to entrepreneurship.

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Shumaila Yousafzai, Alain Fayolle, Adam Lindgreen, Colette Henry, Saadat Saeed and Shandana Sheikh