What’s new in female entrepreneurship research? Answers from the literatureby Sara Poggesi, Michela Mari, Luisa De Vita

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What’s new in female entrepreneurship research?

Answers from the literature

Sara Poggesi1 & Michela Mari1 & Luisa De Vita2 # Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Abstract 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.

Keywords Entrepreneurship .Femaleentrepreneurship .Womenentrepreneurs .Review

Int Entrep Manag J

DOI 10.1007/s11365-015-0364-5 * Michela Mari michela.mari@uniroma2.it

Sara Poggesi sara.poggesi@uniroma2.it

Luisa De Vita luisa.devita@uniroma1.it 1 School of Economics, Tor Vergata University of Rome, Via Columbia, 2, 00133 Rome, Italy 2 Faculty of Political Science, Sociology, Communication, Sapienza University of Rome,

Via Salaria, 113, 00198 Rome, Italy


The purpose of this paper is to analyze the progress made by academia in the female entrepreneurship 1 domain in the last 14 years, adopting a thematic approach that combines a managerial and a sociological perspective. To this end, a systematic literature review (SLR) of 248 papers has been conducted.

The rationale behind this research interest lies on the awareness that research on female entrepreneurship has expanded exponentially in the last years and thus the time has come to evaluate its progress and to reflect on its future directions in order to gain deeper insights into the topic. For the sake of clarity, other reviews on the topic, both systematic and narrative, already exist (for a comprehensive list see Jennings and Brush 2013). However, this work is different from previous analyses for at least three reasons.

Firstly, it adopts a thematic approach2 for the analysis of the selected 248 papers, thus contributing to fill a gap in the extant literature. The other existing SLRs use indeed different lenses to read the phenomenon (see Appendix) and those (narrative) reviews that are based on the same approach mainly consider papers published before 2002 (see

Carter and Marlow 2006). Secondly, this study adopts both a managerial and sociological perspective in the analysis of the advancements in the academic literature in the last 14 years, thus responding to the numerous and recent calls for a more interdisciplinary approach (e.g. Brush and Cooper 2012; Jennings and Brush 2013). Thirdly, compared to previous SLRs, this work adopts a more inclusive search criterion, as the research is not limited to the selection of any specific journals, thus contributing to depict a more comprehensive picture of the female entrepreneurship phenomenon.

Stemming from these considerations, we examined the selected 248 papers on female entrepreneurship throughout a coding frame and we inductively synthesized and categorized them into five major themes, namely Entrepreneurial characteristics,

Financing, Management & Strategy, Performance and Connections developingdeveloped countries. A detailed analysis of each of these allows us to state that research on the topic has definitely progressed in the last 14 years as new insights not, or only accidently, analyzed in the ’80s and ’90s (e.g. the role of venture capital, the noneconomic measures of performance, the connections between developed and developing countries) have increasingly appeared in the researchers’ agenda. Moreover, advancements in those topics (or even the identification of new topics) that cross the different themes, such as the link between gender and entrepreneurship and the role of 1 Over the years, a number of relevant studies have attempted to differentiate Bentrepreneurs^ and Bbusiness 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, Bfemale/women entrepreneurs^, Bfemale/women small business owners^ and even Bfemale/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. 2 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.

Int Entrep Manag J family factors, have been identified and commented, thus contributing to demonstrate that this field of research has definitely moved ahead.

Our paper is primarily intended for those scholars and practitioners who want to improve their knowledge about the evolution of research on female entrepreneurship.