Frontiers in European Entrepreneurship Research
Edited by Robert Blackburn, Ulla Hytti and Friederike Welter
Chapter 3: Women, gender and entrepreneurship: why can’t a woman be more like a man?
In the 1964 film, My Fair Lady (based on the novel Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw), the character of Professor Henry Higgins undertakes a bet with his colleague to transform a working-class woman, Eliza Doolittle, into a ‘lady’ acceptable within aristocratic society. During this re-education process, Eliza proves to be less than grateful for the efforts invested in improving her character and prospects, often disputing the help and advice from Higgins. This causes him to lament to his friend Colonel Pickering with the general theme: why can’t a woman be more like a man? This film and musical play, frequently reproduced in contemporary modern theatre, focuses upon a time honoured theme – taking the difficult or uncultured woman and converting her into a tractable and socially acceptable subject reflecting the gender norms of the era. This is generally achieved when she finds ‘Mr Right’; the compensation of finding (heterosexual) love removes any further need to challenge the domination of masculinity and the associated inequitable gender hierarchy. In effect, everyone lives happily ever after. Thus, masculinity takes priority and value, women must acknowledge and accept this – so they need to accept what men do and how they think as natural and normal. If this creates difficulties or challenges for them, women must find solutions by adapting and adopting their behaviours rather than expecting men to change their attitudes or expectations.
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