Female entrepreneurship to date represents a key component of the business sector worldwide as, in 2012 more than 187 million out of 400 million entrepreneurs were women (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2013). In academia the gender factor in entrepreneurship emerged in the late 1970s Schwartz (Journal of Contemporary Business, 5(1), 47–76, 1976) and especially since the beginning of the new millennium a substantial growth in the investigation of this topic has been registered. Thus, the time has come to systematize the academic progress on this issue and to reflect on future research directions in order to gain deeper insights into the female entrepreneurship domain. In this vein, our paper aims to enrich the conversation on female entrepreneurship by reviewing 248 papers published in the last 14 years. In doing so, we identify and analyze the new insights that have emerged in the literature from both a managerial and a sociological perspective, thus responding to the numerous calls for a more interdisciplinary approach to the study of this topic.
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Over the years, a number of relevant studies have attempted to differentiate “entrepreneurs” and “business owners” on the basis of Schumpeter’s seminal work (1934); according to Carland et al. (1984), for example, the first category includes those individuals who establish and manage a business mainly led by growth and innovation objectives. Conversely, business owners are identified as those individuals establishing and running a business, using most of their resources to achieve personal goals, strictly related to their families’ needs. However, a clear consensus on such differences has not yet emerged. Also in the female entrepreneurship research domain the terminology is still fuzzy and, indeed, “female/women entrepreneurs”, “female/women small business owners” and even “female/women owners/managers” are often used interchangeably. Accordingly, in this review the terms female/women entrepreneurs and female/women small business owners are used synonymously.
A thematic analysis is a method for identifying, analyzing, and reporting research patterns (or themes) within data (Boyatzis 1998). It involves searching across a dataset in order to provide a rich thematic description of the data and give the reader the feeling of the predominant or important themes. The step-by-step thematic procedure applied in this work is illustrated in Methodology section.
The asterisk at the end of a search word allowed for different suffixes (i.e. “woman” or “women”).
An exception is the paper by Bourne (2010) where, adopting a social feminism perspective, the scholar depicts the connections between women’s entrepreneurship in Sweden and its social, economic, and political context.
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Poggesi, S., Mari, M. & De Vita, L. What’s new in female entrepreneurship research? Answers from the literature. Int Entrep Manag J 12, 735–764 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-015-0364-5
- Female entrepreneurship
- Women entrepreneurs