Women in business
In its basic form, the term women in business means that women have the ability of starting, owning and controlling the operations of a business. In the United Kingdom (UK) and other parts of the world, there is a low proportion of women in business when compared to their proportion of the entire population. While in business, women fulfil all the three dimensions of entrepreneurship. These are the individual, corporate and social dimension. The individual dimension is related to the personality traits of women that help in discovery of opportunity. The corporate dimension is related to women cooperation within an organisation and the experience they can gain through that cooperation. The social dimension is related to women fulfilling the social needs of the society and how women gender conditioning helps them during any business activity (Peris-Ortiz, Rueda-Armengot & Osorio, 2012). However, just as has been mentioned, the number of women in business as entrepreneurs or employees or investors is not proportional to the proportion of women in most countries. While women have all the intuition to perceive opportunities, and be able to obtain support and cooperation from organisations, the traditional role of women in families has reduced their time and energy to perceive the business opportunities and act on them (Patterson, 2007). The reduced participation of women in business is also based on gender-based stereotyping. This is mainly based on perceptions and not on facts. One of the perceptions that men have had is that women are not good problem solvers as men. Men believe that women should take care while men take charge (Bible & Kathy, 2007). Due to this perception, women are expected to be homemakers in families and allow men to perform other duties.
Understanding gender, masculinity and hegemony
Gender may be defined as the different characteristics that distinguish feminity from masculinity (Budgeon, 2014). In many societies in the world, the UK and China included, men have asserted their dominant position over women in the affairs of the society. This shows the relational nature of the gender concept. The meaning of this is that gender is about relationships of power and desire in the society. The gender position constructed for men in the society may not be the exact position that men want to take. It is therefore important that masculinity is also studied. Masculinity may be defined the pattern of social practices that is related to the position of men in the society. These practices are socially different to those linked to women in the society (Connell, 2014). Masculinity is mainly determined by male biology (Kennelly, Merz & Lorber, 2001).
However, there have been significant structural reconfigurations of gender relations within different societal institutions like education, family, employment and the state. The transformation has been based on the patriarchal system that governs gender relations through the domination of women by men (Lecture 3). This has increased the participation of women in different spheres but they are still segregated in business and employment (Budgeon, 2014).This fact can be seen from Beverly’s case. Beverly’s mother worked hard to provide for her family. However, she did not do enough to influence and provide career guidance to the children. When Beverly was working in organisations, she experienced some form of systematic discrimination because of her gender. The male counterparts were not ready and willing to let her learn on the job. There are instances when she was shown porn magazines instead of being taught the job. This shows that in most societies, men want to continue their domination over women.
Women’s participation and role in business
Over the years, the number of women in business has increased both in China and the UK. In the UK for example, women represent almost 42% of the workforce and the number of graduates has significantly improved. However, the number of women driving businesses as senior corporate managers has not increased (Benito & Bunn, 2011). As has been mentioned, stereotyping is one of the reasons that have limited the participation of women in businesses. Stereotyping has made women to doubt their abilities in some instances. For example, in Beverly’s case, she had ideas on what she wanted to do but she always doubted whether she could perfectly do them. This is the same case for Sally who despite her excellent education was not also quite sure on what she really wanted to accomplish in life. These two and other cases highlight the problems that women experience while making decisions on their careers or businesses.
Women in China and UK have different roles that they can play in businesses. They can be corporate managers, employees, shareholders and even customers (Peris-Ortiz, Rueda-Armengot & Osorio, 2012). However, all this can happen if women are well empowered to take their respective roles within the businesses. For example, with good economic empowerment, women can be good customers of businesses because they are good consumers (Bjursell & Backvall, 2011).
Women entrepreneurs, gender roles / sex role
Entrepreneurship is the study of sources of opportunities and how the opportunities could be exploited to produce meaningful economic benefits (Shane & Venkataraman, 2000). There are different forms of entrepreneurships that can be associated with women. When women belong to a certain corporation and can use their knowledge and experience to discover new opportunities for the company, they are known as corporate entrepreneurs. They can use their individual abilities to configure the management of the corporation (Hayton, 2005).
The other form of entrepreneurial activity is social entrepreneurship. This is where women can use their passion and desire to bring about both social and economic changes (Nga & Shamuganathan, 2010). In most cases, women have the passion of improving living conditions and evenly distributing social goods to the members of the society (Ridley-Duff, 2008). This can help women to solve social problems in areas where the government cannot reach and solve. Sally’s case can highlight the social entrepreneurial nature of women where her mother was very maternal and always looked after them.
However, just as has been mentioned, the traditional role of women in families has limited their ability to engage in elaborate entrepreneurial activities. In most cases, women are faced with the question of balancing between their businesses, careers and family (Peris-Ortiz, Rueda-Armengot & Osorio, 2012). Since they cannot find the right answer to this question, women normally just open small businesses next to their homes. This will allow them to engage in other family roles.
There are different factors that affect the ability of women to excel in businesses in UK and China. Some of the factors include unavailability of mentors, discrimination in the workplace, family issues, funding availabilities and stereotypes and perceptions (Cai & Kleiner, 1999). In the workplace and even in homes, women have lacked mentors to guide them through the careers and giving them information on the best career choices (Lecture 5). Due to lack of such information, some women have not made correct decisions that can help them effectively utilise their potential. In addition, women lack mentors due to lack of skilled mentors who are ready to take women and mentor them (Bible & Kathy, 2007).
Despite the fact that UK has developed some of the best laws on equal opportunities for both men and women, there is still discrimination of women in the workplace. China does not have strong laws on discrimination. The discrimination of women is higher in China. In most cases, women are not considered to have the necessary traits that can help them to succeed in the business environment (Yin Yim & Bond, 2002). This problem is currently being addressed by promoting a positive approach among women so that they consider themselves as equals and that they can also be achievers when given managerial positions within organisations. In the UK, the number of businesses owned by women increased considerably from the 1980s (Marlow, 2006). There are different reasons for this. One of this is that self-employment has provided women with an option of escaping from workplace discrimination.
The Beverly and Sally cases have shown how women have the burden of family responsibilities on their shoulders. This has forced women to choose between ensuring the success of their families or having high flying careers (Bible & Kathy, 2007). This can be seen from the case studies as the women had to sacrifice their careers or businesses at one point or another that they were having children. The other challenge that women have had is that their prime child bearing age coincides with the prime career building age (Bible & Kathy, 2007). Family responsibilities have therefore taken a toll on women in their attempt to ensure the success of their families or careers.
The other issue that has affected success of women businesses is the lack of funding availability for the women. Women do not have equal access to credit and loans from banks and financial institutions. This is especially in China where most women do not have deeds with which they can secure funding. In the UK, women have found it harder to attract investors to their businesses (Marlow & Patton, 2005).
Gender stereotypes are just about perceptions that the society has on the ability of women (Bible & Kathy, 2007). Gender stereotypes are very difficult to avoid within the society. The success of women has been limited in the business world because of entrenched organisation cultures that have tended to be biased against women. For example, there are people who believe that if women succeed in management, then they are likely to run roughshod over the other employees. There are others who also believe that women are likely to use emotions in their decision making instead of using their logic (Bible & Kathy, 2007). These perceptions have played a role in limiting the success of women. The issue of gender perception and stereotyping has even affected women in their decision making. This can be seen from the two case studies where women have questioned their abilities to perform some tasks.
Women entrepreneurship and social enterprise
Women can also start businesses from scratch. However, there are different factors that limit the success of their enterprises that have been discussed above. Women also engage in social entrepreneurship. Social entrepreneurship is where women use their passion and desire to bring about both social and economic changes (Nga & Shamuganathan, 2010). Over the past few years, the number of social enterprises in China has increased (Yu, 2011). This increase has been driven by different factors including market reforms like the government’s efforts to privatise the economy and the growing interest of the private sector in corporate social responsibility (Yu, 2011). Due to the increase in number of social enterprises, the proportion of female social entrepreneurs in China is almost equal to that of male (Huysentruyt, 2014). On the other hand, the social enterprise segment in the UK is dominated by women (Huysentruyt, 2014).
As social entrepreneurs, women tend to focus more on achievement of social goals as opposed to economic goals. This can be explained from the fact that women are naturally more loving and caring than men. They are therefore more concerned with redistribution instead of accumulation of wealth (Huysentruyt, 2014). The other reason for this is that women are naturally more averse to competition. This is true both for women in UK and China. They are therefore more likely to engage in social enterprise activities because of the limited competition and the fact that the social enterprise markets are still new (Huysentruyt, 2014).
Gender differences in entrepreneurship persist
In most parts of the world including the developed nations, there is a higher proportion of men engaging in entrepreneurial activities when compared to women (Klapper & Parker, 2010). Men have a preference for self-employment and creation of new businesses (Bonte & Piegeler, 2013). When looking at China, it is seen that this is a country that is still undergoing social transition whereas the UK has a well established social market. In addition, the average household income is lower in China. This forces many women into employment in order to supplement their family income. However, within the UK society itself, there are enumerated reasons why there are few women in business. These reasons have not changed over the years making it difficult for women to engage in business (Bible & Kathy, 2007).
There are many gender differences in enterprises that exist in both China and UK businesses. These gender differences can also be highlighted by the Sally and Beverly case studies. Some of the gender differences include lack of access to funding, inadequate experience of women in business, the leadership styles of women and the perception that may be created due to their leadership and management styles and the traditional role of women in families (Roper, 2012).
Feminism – theory and perspectives
Feminism is the concept of ending the domination and oppression of women in the society. Many feminists have a different meaning to the term woman; the term woman is not a sex term but a gender term that depends on social and cultural factors. Different women have different perspectives towards the issue of feminism. Radical feminists are opposed to the current system where the traditional role of women in family and childrearing has negatively affected women’s success in business and career (Snelling, 1999). Liberal feminists perspective focus on the promotion of equality of men and women within the family set up. All these perspectives do not consider the issue of race, class and sex as important. Rather they look for increased empowerment of women so that women can increase their role in the society (Mccann & Kim, 2013). Social constructionist is mainly concerned with construction of feminity and masculinity in the society (Ahl, 2006).
The complex intersection between gender and ethnicity, class, sexuality
There are different factors that determine and shape the identity of an individual. Some of the factors include class, race and gender. The intersection of these factors has been studied. Intersection is concerned with the manner in which the factors intertwine and the combined effects of the intertwining. The different races in UK and China may experience poverty differently. For example, black women may interpret poverty differently and colored women may have different reasons for their social class within the society. On the socio-macro level, there is a statistical relationship between race/ethnicity, gender and social class (Holvino, 2008). The complex intersection between these three factors of race, gender and ethnicity postulates that minority members of the society are discriminated against based on one or more of their social characteristics including color of their skin, poverty levels and gender (Arrighi, 2007).
It is important to note race, gender, class and sexuality are not merely additive. Rather, intersection represents interactive and independent systems of control. As has been mentioned, this is based on the differences in the factors affecting income levels across the different genders and ethnic groups. Inequality patterns across gender and race are multiple and may be conflicting (Mintz & Krymkowski, 2011).
When considering China and UK societies, one can see that there is gender stratification in these societies. These forms of discrimination have produced some form of inequality across the society (Lecture 4). The inequality has affected the access to business opportunities, political representation and educational opportunities (Toren, 2009). In the business sense, it has been seen that discrimination has limited women’s access to credit and other business opportunities. Through this, the number of women engaging in business has reduced. In addition, discrimination has also reduced the number of educational opportunities for women. This means that they do not have access to knowledge that can help them improve their business acumen (Arrighi, 2007). This discrimination has sustained men domination over women in most societies. The patriarchy that maintains men domination over women is practiced in these societies. However, with economic empowerment, women are likely to be more assertive and increase their role in business and affairs of the society (Toren, 2009).
The debate on women businesses took a new twist by the coining of the term mumpreneurs. This is a category of women who have children but still engage in entrepreneurial activities. Mumpreneurs came about due to the difficulty that women in the UK in motherhood had while working on their businesses. The women share the same problems and find a manner in which they can identify themselves. There are some cases when the women have formed network groups from where they have been able to share information and ideas on how to improve their businesses (Ekinsmyth, 2012).
More UK women have increased their participation in business due to rising living costs including childcare costs. Mothers have therefore decided at home, fending for their families and also looking after the businesses that they have setup (Christie, 21 April 2014).
The term mumpreneurs is also related to the Beverly and Sally case studies. In both case studies, it can be seen that mothers were working hard to fend for their families. However, the childbearing responsibilities took a toll on them after sometime and they had to shelve some of the business plans.
Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of women in business in UK and China. In the UK, the increase has been due to the rising costs of living that UK citizens have been experiencing. This has forced women to engage in business so as to supplement their family income. On the other hand, China is undergoing some form of social transformation. This has reduced government control in businesses and allowed the private sector to thrive. However, the bureaucratic nature of the Chinese system could be hurting the growth of women businesses (Yu, 2011). In the future, it is expected that women’s role in business will improve in both UK and China. This is based on the socio-economic transformations that are occurring in these two countries and the entire globe.
The research on women to determine the best way of increasing their participation in business should change. The changes should be based on changing the empirical focus, having a better theoretical grounding, carefully considering the social and cultural factors of women engagement in business, increased use of female-gendered instruments and the use of power perspectives (Ahl, 2006).
The UK government has focused on improving the support accorded to women so that their participation in business can be improved. This is because while the number of women in entrepreneurship has increased over the past few years, the increase has not been representative of the population of women in UK. This is mainly due to the higher exit rates exhibited by women while they start businesses (Patterson, Mavin & Turner, 2011).
In conclusion, women play an important role in the development of the economy. This is because of their role in businesses acting as customers, managers, shareholders and employees. However, the number of women in business has been low in China and UK when compared to the number of men. This is based on different factors including the traditional role of women within families and gender stereotyping of women roles. The other factors that have limited the participation of women in businesses include unavailability of mentors, discrimination in the workplace, family issues, funding availabilities and stereotypes and perceptions.
In most cases, the patriarchal system of the society has sustained men domination over women (Lecture 3). Social transformations have increased women participation in education, politics and other social spheres. However, women have experienced systematic discrimination that has limited their participation in business. Women can either be corporate or social entrepreneurs. Corporate entrepreneurship is the women’s use of their knowledge and skills to discover new opportunities to improve the performance of the organisations that they are working for. On the other hand, social entrepreneurship is concerned with improving the living standards of families and other members of the society. Women as social entrepreneurs are more concerned about improving other people’s lives and not about profits.
Feminists have tried to end gender discrimination against women and increase their participation in business and other sectors. Despite the different perspectives, the main objective of feminists is to increase the empowerment of women. This will help in eliminating the complex intersection between gender, ethnicity, race, class and sexuality. The intersection is concerned mainly with the manner in which the factors intertwine and the combined effects of the intertwining. In most cases, different races have different interpretations of poverty levels. The intersection postulates that minority members of the society are discriminated against based on one or more of their social characteristics that include poverty levels, gender and colour of their skin (Arrighi, 2007).
The actions by feminists and others have empowered women and currently there are mumpreneurs who juggle between their motherhood roles and businesses. Mumpreneurs have even had networks from which they can share information and ideas on improving their businesses. Through this, it is expected that women will have improved roles in businesses in China and UK.
Ahl, H. (2006). Why research on women entrepreneurs needs new directions. Entrepreneurship
Theory and Practice, pp. 595-621.
Arrighi, B. A. (2007). Understanding Inequality: The Intersection of Race/ethnicity, Class, and Gender. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
Benito, A. & Bunn, P. (2011). Understanding labour force participation in the United Kingdom.
Quarterly Bulletin, 51(1), pp. 36-42.
Bible, D. & Kathy, L. (2007). Discrimination: Women in business. Journal of Organization
Culture, Communication and Conflict, 11(1), pp. 65-76.
Bjursell, C. & Backvall, L. (2011). Family business women in media discourse: the business role
and the mother role. Journal of Family Business Management, 1(2), pp. 154-173.
Bonte, W. & Piegeler, M. (2013). Gender gap in latent and nascent entrepreneurship: driven by
competitiveness. Small Business Economics, 41, pp. 961-987.
Budgeon, S. (2014). The dynamics of gender hegemony: Feminities, masculinities and social
change. Sociology, 48(2), pp. 317-334.
Cai, Y. & kleiner, B.H. (1999). Sex discrimination in hiring: The glass ceiling. Equal
Opportunities International, 18(2), pp. 51-55.
Christie, Sophie (21 April 2014). Rise of the ‘mumpreneurs’ as childcare costs hit £12,000. The
Telegraph. Retrieved from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/10772101/Rise-of-the-mumpreneurs-as-childcare-costs-hit-12000.html
Connell, R. (2014). Gender, men, and masculinities. Encyclopaedia of life Support Systems, pp.
Ekinsmyth, C. (2012). Family friendly entrepreneurship: New business formation in family
places. Urbani Izziv, 23(S1), pp. S115-S125.
Hayton, J. C. (2005). Promoting corporate entrepreneurship through human resource
management practices: a review of empirical research. Human Resource Management Review, 15, pp. 21–41.
Holvino, E. (2008). Intersections: the simultaneity of race, gender and class in organisational
studies. Gender, Work and Organisation, pp. 1-30.
Huysentruyt, M. (2014). Women social entrepreneurship and innovation. OECD Local Economic
and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, 2014, pp. 1-22.
Kennelly, I., Merz, S.N. & Lorber, J. (2001). What is gender? American Sociological Review,
66(4), pp. 598-605.
Klapper, L. F. & Parker, S. C. (2010). Gender and the business environment for new firm
creation. In O. U. Press (Ed.), The World Bank Research Observer, 1–21.
Lecture 3 by Dr. Karen Jones.
Lecture 4 by Dr. Karen Jones.
Lecture 5 by Dr. Karen Jones.
Marlow, S. (2006). Self-employed women – new opportunities, old challenges. Entrepreneurship
& Regional Development, 9, pp. 199-210.
Marlow, S. & Patton, D. (2005). All credit to men? Entrepreneurship, finance and gender.
Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 29(6), pp. 717-735.
Mccann, C. & Kim, S-K. (2013). Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. New York: Routledge.
Mintz, B. & Krymkowski, D.H. (2011). The intersection of race/ethnicity and gender in
occupational segregation. International Journal of Sociology, 40(4), pp. 31-58.
Nga, J. K. H., & Shamuganathan, G. (2010). The influence of personality traits and demographic
factors on social entrepreneurship start up intentions. Journal of Business Ethics, 95, pp. 259–282.
Patterson, N., Mavin, S. & Turner, J. (2011). Experiences of gender within entrepreneurial
leadership: complexities and tensions from women entrepreneurs’ perspectives. Referred Paper.
Patterson, N. (2007). Women entrepreneurs. Jumping the corporate ship or gaining new wings.
Institute for Small Business Entrepreneurship, 27(2), pp. 173-192.
Peris-Ortiz, M., Rueda-Armengot, C. & Osorio, D.M. (2012). Women in business:
entrepreneurships, ethics and efficiency. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, 8, pp. 343-354.
Ridley-Duff, R. (2008). Social enterprise as a socially rational business. International Journal of
Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 14(5), pp. 291–312.
Roper, S. (2012). Entrepreneurship: A Global Perspective. New York: Routledge.
Shane, S., & Venkataraman, S. (2000). The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research.
Academy of Management Review, 25, pp. 217–226.
Snelling, S.J. (1999). Women’s perspective on feminism. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23,
Toren, N. (2009). Intersection of ethnicity, gender and class: oriental faculty of women in Israel.
Gender Issues, 26(2), pp. 152-166.
Yin Yim, P.C. & Bond, M.H. (2002). Gender stereotyping and the self-concept of business
students across their undergraduate education. Women in Management Review, 17(8), pp. 364-372.
Yu, X. (2011). Social enterprise in China: driving forces, development patterns and legal
frameworks. Social Enterprise Journal, 7(1), pp. 9-32.