Snippet: “Female Social Entrepreneurship” by Miriam Gerlach

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Female Social Entrepreneurship. Challenging boundaries and reframing gender and economic structures

by Miriam Gerlach


About the book

The confluence of entrepreneurship, gender, sustainability and especially the social dimension is intricate and underestimated. This book analyses social entrepreneurship through a gender lens by portraying German female social entrepreneurs and their political, social and economic contexts. Within a descriptive qualitative research design, a secondary analysis of different dimensions of the social entrepreneurship system and twenty-five in-depth interviews with social entrepreneurs and experts were conducted. The author shows that this sector entails potential to re-do gender and reframe the economy, challenging norms and borders towards systemic change.

Snippet: pp. 83-87


3.6 Challenges for Female Social Entrepreneurship

Just as there are many potentials in the field of female social entrepreneurship, there are also many challenges that the field itself and the research of this sector should tackle.


3.6.1 Challenges Faced by the Field of Female Social Entrepreneurship

The most relevant challenges within the field of female social entrepreneurship are generated by the gendered labour division and the perpetuation of gender stereotypes. Here the role of structural conditions and macro and meso level frames are highly important when figuring out how to overcome these challenges. Measuring and Demonstrating Social Impact

The few studies analysing social entrepreneurship and gender have difficulties capturing the impact these types of enterprises are accomplishing. Wilkinson et. al (2014) report that rarely countries have nationally recognised systems or common methodologies for measuring and reporting social impact; and where they exist, they are not usually mandatory. This results in rare large-scale available information about social impact, which is a significant challenge also because of the need for sex-disaggregated data related to social impact (Usher Shrair, 2015). Lack of a Gender Approach in Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives in Europe

The WEstart report informs that within the European Social Business Initiative, until the date, no mention of women or gender, or any evidence that there were or will be efforts to focus specifically on women, to apply a gender lens, or to disaggregate any data by sex was found. The European Commission has one position dedicated to women’s entrepreneurship; however, they do not work together with the Social Enterprise unit. The European Parliament has a FEMM Committee, focused on women’s rights and gender equality. They have published reports on women’s entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship such as ‘Women’s Entrepreneurship: Closing the Gender Gap in Access to Financial and Other Services and in Social Entrepreneurship’, briefly discussing the intersection of both (Usher Shrair, 2015). Gendered Labour Division and the Perpetuation of Stereotypes

The current conceptualization of the gendered labour division originated in the industrial revolution, when the combination of hard labour and caring as well as the blended public and private life, was substituted by the separation between public and private, so that the factory became the workplace, and value was created through the production and sale of goods for capital. Women were increasingly made responsible for family life and domestic production and were consigned to the private sphere; while men dominated the economic production, and controlled capital in the public sphere. Thus, the Industrial Revolution has instituted a male ideal worker model of someone who can work as though they have no social or caring obligations, which has resulted in a gendered concept of work, assuming that idealised masculine characteristics are necessary to be effective at the workplace, placing women into a secondary position and making it more socially acceptable for women to do paid work which replicates and reproduces their stereotypical gendered labour roles; becoming the ideal female head of household. In general, all kind of work related to health, social tasks, and protection of the environment is considered a feminine task, and therefore devalued or lacking a fair monetary compensation (Usher Shrair, 2015). In general, under the dominant gendered globalized capitalist economic regime, men and masculinities are privileged, producing gender inequalities in economic power and influence (Clark Muntean & Ozkazanc- Pan, 2016).

Thus, there are many challenging consequences of this gendered ideal work model and the perpetuation of the stereotypes. Following, I shortly describe some of the most important of these consequences. The Double Bind

A ‘double bind’ might be generated when female social entrepreneurs internalise and reproduce gendered stereotypes, also in their practice of leadership, and they are then punished for being ‘feminine’, or on the contrary, criticised if they adopt a masculine style. Women are therefore ‘bind’ either way. Here, women are either perceived as too soft or too tough, but never just right. Moreover, there is a high competence threshold, were women leaders face higher standards and lower rewards than men. The female social entrepreneurs who participated in the WEstart project and the study in Spain acknowledged that being a woman affects the way they manage their enterprise; however, it remains unclear for them if their inclination towards for example participatory management styles is inherent or internalised (Cordobés, 2016; Usher Shrair, 2015). Gender Pay-Gap

A research in the United Kingdom indicated that there is a pay gap of almost 23% among women social entrepreneurs, which means that women pay themselves 23% less than men (Estrin et al., 2014); however, at the same time, female social entrepreneurs report a higher job satisfaction compared to males; demonstrating the paradox of the ‘contented female (social) business owner’ (2014, p. 21), meaning that female social enterprise owners are willing to tradeoff pay for job satisfaction (Usher Shrair, 2015). As previously mentioned, evidence shows that although women earn less in the third sector than in the public sector, the gender differential is less. Some theorist state that the skills required from women (caring, communication, etc.) are considered inherent and less valuable than learned skills, which would explain the gender pay gap. Thus, the horizontal segregation of women into ‘caring’ industries might explain much of the gender pay differential. Further research is needed to explore whether pay differentials exist across different fields within the third sector (Teasdale et al., 2011). Glass-Ceiling and Other Gendered Barriers in Entrepreneurship

Although entrepreneurship is a way to realize the individual’s potential with no formal entry barriers and theoretically, a meritocratic accessible field, women have limited possibilities to be entitled as entrepreneurs (Ahl & Marlow, 2012). The social attribution of gender roles and the gendered socialization limits the field for women (e.g., biased educational focus areas, unequal access to resources and activity expectations between sexes). Consequently, a glass ceiling is created; gender differences are found at each stage of entrepreneurship (motivation, opportunity recognition, acquisition of resources, and entrepreneurial performance/venture success) (Clark Muntean & Ozkazanc- Pan, 2015), and women are presented as less entrepreneurial than men all over the world (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2016) based on the fact that the proportion of women as owners of businesses or self-employed is lower than the proportion of women in the labour market. Much has been discussed around the reasons for this low percentage, and Gawell & Sundin (2014) summarize them into lack of capital, neglect of women, identity, family obligations, lack of adequate knowledge and experience, and the male label attached to entrepreneurship. Thus, when women start a business, they have less capital, because they usually earn less and therefore collect less. Besides, financial institutions and public support systems rate men’s ideas and business plans more highly than women’s, which leads to women entrepreneurs being ignored and to women not valuing an entrepreneurial identity as highly as men. Moreover, men are more likely than women to be managers in organizations, which gives them experiences and access to a network. Also, Clark Muntean & Ozkazanc- Pan (2016) mention that women and femininity are considered best for microenterprise, limited scale, slow growth, and socially oriented ventures, while rapid growth oriented, scalable, highly regarded, and resourced firms remain in the male domain. ‘Ghettoization’ of Women into Social Entrepreneurship

The expectations and the socialization of the gendered role of who women can be and do is very problematic in social entrepreneurship. ‘This field might involuntarily ‘ghettoize’ women entrepreneurs into slow growth, low-profit microenterprises in feminized and undervalued industries by advocating self-employment as the highest goal for women’ (Clark Muntean & Ozkazanc-Pan, 2016, p. 19). By removing barriers and providing more support for women to run businesses in feminized industries, compared to male sectors like information technology, women might keep self-selecting these gendered fields (Clark Muntean & Ozkazanc-Pan, 2016). Also, literature suggests that while a growth in social entrepreneurship may lead to increased employment and management opportunities for women, such opportunities would be of a lower status, over-represented in caring sub-sectors, in non-management position, in smaller organizations, and with lower pay than men in similar roles (Teasdale et al., 2011).

There are no physical, biological, or social reasons nor evidence, why both men and women should be confined only to a type of work. However, social representations of the division of labour, as well as portrays of women in research and literature continue to reproduce these stereotypes. Media usually identifies social enterprises as especially appropriate for women, assuming that women are more caring or have more experience in social, education and health sectors; without discussing the gender labour divide, the reasons why women choose social fields, or their exclusion from public and powerful sectors. Additionally, in traditional masculine sectors men may enforce their internalised gender stereotypes on women, for example by not taking them as seriously as men. However, women have also internalized many of these stereotypes and repeat them when describing for example themselves as more empathetic or communicative than men, without questioning the origin of these stereotypes and the fact that these are gendered. The authors could identify in most of the interviewed women a shared belief that, because they are women and they are caring, motherly and usually have experience in social tasks, they have valuable capacities for their social entrepreneurship occupations (Usher Shrair, 2015). Moreover, Clark Muntean & Ozkazanc-Pan (2016) argue that, although women assuming positions of leadership in social entrepreneurship constitutes progress and could promise a reduction in gender inequality and greater entrepreneurial legitimacy for female social entrepreneurs; an exaggerated connection of women with non-economic goals and social entrepreneurship may create the perception that women, compared to men, are less focused on success, hindering their access to financing. The authors underline that the relative success of women in social entrepreneurship, compared to their status in mainstream entrepreneurship, may magnify the gendered dimensions of the entrepreneurship field. If the sectors in which women are legitimate entrepreneurs are only micro and social enterprise and social, the field continues to exclude according to gender, confining women to less profitable ventures and therefore remaining economically marginalized. It could be stated, that in social entrepreneurship such gendered characterizations are prominent, and these may limit the ability of women to negotiate social hurdles, including implicit bias. Also problematic are the assumptions around Global South’s women’s abilities and roles in the global economy within the social entrepreneurial discourse.

Finally, Teasdale et al. (2011) discuss the perpetuation of stereotypes with regards to the third sector. On the one hand, statistical differences in gendered attitudes contribute to explain why women are comparatively over-represented in less profit-orientated social ventures. On the other hand, feminist researchers with a structuralist approach have argued that the hierarchical organizational structures of many commercial businesses have historically been developed to serve the interests of powerful men. These can be overcome by rejecting the idea of the individualistic (male) hero, and reconstructing entrepreneurship in different (less hierarchical) ways, which might explain why women are more equally represented in social entrepreneurship within the third sector. As already mentioned, the third sector is horizontally segregated: the same proportion of women and men attain lower managerial positions, but access to the highest levels favours men; therefore, third sector organizations are ‘gendered’ in a similar way to public sector organizations considering access to positions of power, but less vertically segregated than private sector organizations.


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3D Cover Female Social EntrepreneurshipMiriam Gerlach: Female Social Entrepreneurship. Challenging boundaries and reframing gender and economic structures



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