In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Women’s Entrepreneurship

  • Introduction

Management Women’s Entrepreneurship
Karen D. Hughes, Jennifer E. Jennings
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 March 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 April 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0042


Women’s entrepreneurship research focuses on the processes, contexts, and outcomes of female-led business. It seeks to understand why women become entrepreneurs; how they identify opportunities, mobilize resources, and build business ventures; and what types of outcomes they experience. While a central goal is to build knowledge about women’s experiences, a closely related goal is to understand how gender shapes entrepreneurship by comparing the experiences of women and men. Studies examine women entrepreneurs in a wide range of settings, from self-employment to micro and home-based business to high-growth enterprises and university spinouts. This diversity reflects different approaches to, and definitions of, women’s entrepreneurship—an important issue to keep in mind when drawing comparisons across studies. Research first emerged in the mid-1970s. Numerous developments since then—including special issues, books, a dedicated journal, and conferences such as the Diana International Research Conference—have created a vibrant, multidisciplinary area of study that attracts attention from scholars, policymakers, governments, and practitioners around the world. The keen interest is a reflection of several factors, including the appreciation of entrepreneurship’s critical role in building robust economies, the growing recognition of women’s (historically ignored) economic contributions, and broader scholarly discourse regarding the nature, causes, and consequences of gender differences. Work in the area serves multiple audiences, exploring a wide range of topics through diverse theoretical and methodological approaches. Although it draws strongly from business-related fields such as entrepreneurship and organizational studies, it also casts a wide intellectual net, drawing on disciplines such as sociology, psychology, economics, and women’s/gender studies. Our selected readings attempt to reflect this diversity. The first section provides an introduction to general resources, including general overviews, critical reviews, edited collections, books, journals, special issues, and statistical reports. The second section contains readings in key topic areas, ranging from standard entrepreneurship topics—such as opportunity identification and resource acquisition—to specific topics discerned by women’s entrepreneurship scholars, such as gender stereotyping, work-family issues, and gendered macro and policy environments. Selecting just a few readings for each section is difficult, given the rapidly growing scholarship available. Our goal has been to offer a broad overview of the field that highlights influential, exemplary, and innovative work. The authors gratefully acknowledge the excellent research assistance provided by Qin Han, Amanda Kraus, Hannah Kraus, Kurtis Letwin, Karen Lund, Jess Ng, Sarah Stahlke, and Emily Wooding, as well as the constructive feedback from the external reviewers.

General Resources

A number of resources provide valuable introductions and orientations to the field. The following sections identify influential and frequently cited publications, including general overviews, critical reviews, edited collections, books, academic journals, and statistical reports.

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