Journey of an Entrepreneur: A feminist perspective by Joanna Thomas

Being female, for most women, is a significant component of their identity, not just personal, but entrepreneurial as well. While this might be an asset for some, it is seen as more of a liability for others. In a world where patriarchal laws have always challenged women’s right to vote, own property and have a career, the world of today seemingly supports women’s attempt at venturing out into businesses of their own, encouraging them to contribute actively to the economy.

This has enabled women to bring about a change in the way of doing business, allowing them to build communities of like-minded owners. This has resulted is erasing the image of entrepreneurs as that of the resourceful male captains of the industry, who are the only few capable of handling business ventures and practices. Women are now challenging the status quo. Women entrepreneurs represent a third of entrepreneurs worldwide. In the past 15 years, the number of women-owned businesses has grown by 54%; there are 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States as of 2012.

Where does feminism fit into this all? Feminism seeks to address the inherent issue of subordination while at the same time it attempts to enhance well-being of society and marginalized groups. Entrepreneurship offers women the ideals of feminism – the chance to be economically self-sufficient while improving the well beingof other. Entrepreneurship allows women to become the key agents of change, enabling them to create and share knowledge and skills. This has allowed venture creation to become an effective mean for women to gain control and power, and the ability to negotiate wider changes thus allowing for the redressal of gender inequality and discrimination. Women-owned businesses employ over 7.7 million people. This is 40% greater than the combined manpower of the largest employers, McDonalds’s, IBM and Wal-Mart. Women- owned firms generate sales of over $1.3 trillion. In the past 15 years, women-owned businesses have seen a 58% increase in revenue, from $546 billion to $1.3 trillion. The revenue generated by these businesses is more than the combined market cap of Microsoft, Apple, GE, Sony and Google. Additionally, in seven out of 13 of the most populous industries, women-owned firms have been seen to exceed overall growth in the industry.

Despite the advancement of female entrepreneurship, gender inequality still remains. This is mainly due to old-fashioned assumptions, educational practices and cultural norms. At the current rate of progression, women will not reach pay equality with men until 2058. Female students, as compared to male students, are also less likely to pursue entrepreneurial ventures, ignoring geography or discipline. The divide arises from the very beginning – women have lesser access to resources, both human and capital, from birth. Despite owning nearly 30% of U.S. businesses, women have attracted only 5% of the nation's equity capital. In terms of first-year funding, women receive 80% less capital than men. 61% of women-owned businesses have faced challenges when seeking access to capital markets. Additionally, academic curriculum seeks to identify entrepreneurs always as masculine, through both language and role models.

Another impediment to the acknowledgement of women in entrepreneurism is the economic invisibility of the female gender. Entrepreneurship was seen as an individual process, a process that requires the heroics and rationale of the male entrepreneur. Pro-typical feminine qualities have rarely been characterized as entrepreneurial. Thus, the phenomenon of entrepreneurship requires understanding at the local level, where gendered power structure have long since shaped entrepreneurial behaviors and experience.

It is this environment that entrepreneurial feminism is set to take off. Entrepreneurial feminism is the perfect and exacting response to the inherent and historical lack of women’s access to the levers of venture and business creation. And it is through this leverage on female capital that feminist entrepreneurs are able to break new grounds and become harbingers of wealth creation and social change. Hopefully, through this feminist lens, entrepreneurial feminism will held address, transform and eradicate the issue of gender inequalities and gendered outcomes of entrepreneurship.

 

References:

“10 Things You Didn't Know About Women-Owned Businesses”, Small Business Exchange,

http://www.sbeinc.com/resources/cms.cfm?fuseaction=news.detail&articleID=1641&pageID=25

“Women in Business Statistics that Might Surprise You”, Women on Business,

http://www.womenonbusiness.com/women-in- business-statistics- that-might- surprise-you/

“Facts and Figures”, Women Entrepreneurship Platform, http://womenentrepreneurshipplatform.eu/our-

work/facts-and- figures/

by Joanna Thomas

SIBM Pune

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