Gender in Management & Entrepreneurship: Four Recent Texts*

Article excerpt

Gender in Management & Entrepreneurship: Four Recent Texts*

Attila Bruni / Silvia Gherardi / Barbara Poggio: Gender and Entrepreneurship: An Ethnographical Approach ISBN 0-415-35228-2, Routledge: London, 4th edition 2005, 231 pp., hardback $ 125.00

Elisabet S. Hauge / Per-Anders Havnes (eds.): WOmen Entrepreneurs: Theory, Research & Policy Implications ISBN 82-7634-667-7, Høskoleforlaget: Kristiansadn, 2005, 175 pp., softback $ 35.00

Sandra L. Fielden / Marilyn J. Davidson (eds.): International Handbook of Women and Small Business Entrepreneurship ISBN 1-84376-012-6, Edward Elgar: Cheltenham , 282 pp., hardback $ 165.00

Jane Pilcher / Imelda Whelehan: 50 Key Concepts in Gender Studies ISBN 0-7619-7036-3, Sage: London 2nd edition 2005, 193 pp., softback $ 34.00

Early research in entrepreneuship is characterised by a neglect of femal entrepreneurs (Buttner & Moore, 1997) and a gender neutral approach (Baker, Aldrich & Liou, 1997). Today the growing number of female entrepreneurs around the world (OECD, 2000) appears to be accompanied by an increase in published studies of the phenomenon. Here three of these manuscripts are reviewed, plus a fourth volume devoted to key concepts in gender studies.

Attila Bruni / Silvia Gherardi / Barbara Poggio:

Gender and Entrepreneurship: An Ethnographical Approach

Although the study of entrepreneurship is, to a considerable extent, rooted in economics, entrepreneurship also has a cultural component that is the focus on this book. This book explores the production and reproduction of gender and entrepreneurship in social practice. It is composed of three main parts: (1) an analysis of extant gender and entrepreneurship research, plus the development of a theoretical framework of gender as social practice and entrepreneurship as masculine activity, (2) methodology and findings from ethnographic research in five Italian enterprises, and (3) a reflection on the discursive and narrative practice in entrepreneurship research. This book offers its readers a truly reflective and rigorous interpretation of the gendering of entrepreneurship, in addition to deep theoretical and methodological insights.

In the first chapter, the authors distinguish their approach to the study of female entrepreneurs from that in most of the literature. They make the case for entrepreneurship as a cultural model of masculinity and argue that "to study women entrepreneurs without examining the gender structuring of entrepreneurship is to legitimate the 'gender blindness' which renders masculinity invisible and turns it into the universal parameter of entrepreneurial action, the model with which every entrepreneurial act must comply because it is the norm and the standard value" (p. 2).

Thus, they depart from the empirical feminist approach of gender as a variable (e.g. Fielden and Davidson, 2005) and instead take the social constructionist view of entrepreneurship (see, for example, Downing, 2005). The concept 'entrepreneur mentality' describes not only the entrepreneurs' language, but also the media coverage and academic research. The literature on female entrepreneurs presents their development as a process of Othering,' and women entrepreneurs are depicted as inferior to their male counterparts.

This literature is critically examined, generating a list of explanations and inherent gender sub-texts. For example, the authors point to the explanation of women's new ventures in services as being explained by previous employment in the industry, and the lack of technical skills and financial resources. These explanations have a gender subtext-that female entrepreneurs "construct ghettos" by starting businesses that require skills learned in their past work in sectors with low entry barriers and limited value. The authors go on to develop a theoretical framework of gender as social practice and entrepreneurship as a form of masculinity. …