Book review: Karen D Hughes and Jennifer E Jennings (eds), Global Women's Entrepreneurship Research: Diverse Settings, Questions and Approachesby N. Sappleton

Work, Employment & Society


Book reviews 509 applicable across the whole workforce of Defra, the UK Civil Service and to the middle class of western economies is questionable. The book may have benefited from further justification of the selection of late-capitalist writing to clarify the relevance and applicability of these examples.

Overall, this book may be of interest to academics and students with an interest in business and management literature and history. Given the disparate bodies of contemporary literature explored, the book might appeal to readers in its component parts and as a whole.

Karen D Hughes and Jennifer E Jennings (eds)

Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Research: Diverse Settings, Questions and


Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2012, £63, (ISBN: 9781849804622), 272 pp.

Reviewed by Natalie Sappleton, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

The stark rise in female business proprietorship that has occurred over the past three decades has been accompanied by an unprecedented scholarly interest in the motivations, activities and experiences of women business owners. However, this literature suffers from three major deficiencies, the redressing of which is taken up in Global

Women’s Entrepreneurship Research: Diverse Settings, Questions and Approaches.

First, published studies on female entrepreneurs are overwhelmingly North Americancentric, which limits the generalizability of conclusions to other cultures and nations, and, perhaps more damagingly, serves in the ‘othering’ of women entrepreneurs in

Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The second deficiency is the gender-as-a-variable approach that predominates in empirical studies. The ‘female entrepreneur’ is too readily treated as a monolithic, homogenous category, while crucial contextual factors (e.g. national culture, business sector, ascriptive characteristics) tend to be downplayed or ignored altogether. This preoccupation with understanding ‘the female entrepreneur’ is unsettling and dangerous.

Just as gender is a continuum rather than a dichotomy so there are many different types of women business owners and women-owned firms. It is thus misleading to study the similarities between women entrepreneurs without considering the differences between them. Third, women’s entrepreneurship research suffers from methodological provincialism. While sociological studies of gender have adopted and adapted sophisticated research designs and are beginning to exploit the research potential of digital technologies, when it comes to women’s entrepreneurship, survey-based methods or in-depth qualitative interviews with small samples still reign.

This collection of 12 studies is ambitious in seeking to address those weaknesses and the book itself is arranged in a tripartite structure that considers Diverse Settings,

Questions, and Approaches to the study of women entrepreneurs at the macro, meso and micro level of analysis. In this endeavor, Part 1 of the book, ‘Diverse Settings’, comprised of four chapters, is perhaps the most successful, for it brings together research that considers the differences as well as the similarities among women in business. Chapter at University of Sydney on May 3, 2015wes.sagepub.comDownloaded from 510 Work, employment and society 28(3) 1, for example, compares the experiences of migrant women entrepreneurs in Turkey and the UK, which differ highly in terms of pertinent variables such as uptake of selfemployment, ease of doing business and acceptance of religious diversity. In contrast,

Chapter 4 looks at the factors influencing women’s academic entrepreneurship in institutions within similar contexts – Spain and Scotland. Within these diverse settings, familiar questions – that is, those that have been heavily addressed by researchers in Anglo-Saxon countries – are re-examined in different cultural contexts, revealing that women in countries such as Turkey and Bangladesh encounter barriers, challenges and opportunities of a very different sort to those experienced by women in, say the USA and the UK. For instance, while there seems to be a growing consensus among UK and North American researchers that there is no systematic or willful gender-based discrimination against women entrepreneurs by financiers, the huge list of requirements that Bangladeshi women must fulfill to obtain a loan to support business start up (including convincing their spouse to act as guarantor) reported by Zohir and Greene (Chapter 2) would suggest that women in Bangladesh do encounter unique challenges in raising finance. The study of familiar topics such as finance acquisition, firm performance and networking practices in contexts that will certainly be unfamiliar to some readers seems to me to mirror the feminist epistemological approach of revising, re-examining, reappraising and rewriting research that has previously been undertaken in a patriarchal and androcentric framework, and it is most welcome.

Part 2 of the book, ‘Diverse Questions’, abandons the familiar to address oft- overlooked topics such as ‘how do welfare regimes influence women’s entrepreneurship?’ and ‘are women more likely to pursue social and environmental entrepreneurship?’ The chapters in this section do a worthy job of transforming the empirical circumstances of women entrepreneurs into important research questions. Thus, rather than simply reporting the experiences and activities of women copreneurs, in Chapter 6, Sharifian, Jennings and

Jennings query whether it is wise for women to go into business with their partners.

The book’s addressing of the problem of methodological narrow-mindedness is, however, much less successful. The methodological bases of the four studies in the third part (‘Diverse Approaches’) reflect the predominant disciplinary approaches.

In addition, it is lamentable that just one chapter in the whole collection draws on

Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) data – surely our richest data resource relating to women’s entrepreneurship globally. There are myriad approaches that would enrich this young and developing discipline: ethnographic observations of the interpersonal interactions of women entrepreneurs, multi-level accounts that are cognizant not only of gender and ethnicity, but of other sources of difference, such as sexual orientation and social class, real-life experimental methods. This book represents a preliminary step toward overcoming the major lacunae in the extant literature, but it is only partially successful in its efforts. The good news is that the collective behind this book, the Diana