Diverse Settings, Questions and Approaches
Edited by Karen D. Hughes and Jennifer E. Jennings
Chapter 10: Sectoral Segregation or Gendered Practices? A Case Study of Roles and Identities in a Copreneurial Venture
Maura McAdam and Susan Marlow INTRODUCTION Dyadic couples that share emotional ties within a domestic context and also a business relationship through entrepreneurial venturing are described as ‘copreneurs’ (Marshack, 1994, 1998). This form of business ownership is relatively common, representing at least 30 percent of all family businesses in the USA (Fitzgerald and Muske, 2002). The copreneur phenomenon is not surprising given the necessity for spousal or partner engagement and support, particularly during the period start-up phase of a new business. At this stage, the business is likely to draw heavily upon joint financial resources (savings) and require time and labour commitments from both partners to establish the venture. As such, a spouse or partner becomes a critical stakeholder within the business (Aldrich and Cliff, 2003; Ruef et al., 2003; Steier and Greenwood, 2000). Evidence indicates, however, that in the majority of cases where partners operate copreneurially, men undertake the leadership position, with the critical contribution of their female partners afforded little recognition or value. In effect, women become ‘invisible’ within these partnerships (Hamilton, 2006; Mulholland, 1996). Increasing numbers of women are now undertaking the role of entrepreneurial leader (Danes & Olsen, 2003; Seymour, 2002). However, little is known about the dynamics of these copreneurial relationships which represent a reversal of the normative gendered binary (with women taking the lead). Accordingly, Hamilton (2006) argues that the current debate ‘commonly reflects and reinforces the relative silence and invisibility of women in entrepreneurial discourse. Embedded in that discourse is the assumption that the...
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