Female Entrepreneurship in Portugal: Case Study for Micro-Companies in the Northern of Portugal

Female Entrepreneurship in Portugal: Case Study for Micro-Companies in the Northern of Portugal

Maria Clara Ribeiro, Liliana Santos, Diana Martins
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6942-8.ch004
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Entrepreneurship is an increasingly studied international phenomenon, often being understood as a way of creating jobs and boosting economic growth, development, and innovation. This chapter aims to take on the problem related to gender and entrepreneurship in the Portuguese society. The goal is to explain the concept of entrepreneur, behavioral, and social differences between the masculine and the feminine gender as entrepreneurs and identify Portuguese female entrepreneurs. A qualitative, multiple case studies methodology is applied to the sample of eight Portuguese female entrepreneurs, the data collection instrument being the semi-structured interview. Regarding the obtained results, it can be stated that the majority of the interviewees has entrepreneurs in the family, the father being the most mentioned figure as booster of entrepreneur activity. The wish for personal realization and independence are the main factors that motivated self-employment. No entrepreneur felt any discrimination or gender inequality as a female entrepreneur.
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The tertiarization of the economies, the decentralization of the value chain on a global level and the introduction of new technologies have translated into a reduction of the number of workers and a rise in precarious, temporary and partial employment. Thus, aspects such as labour stability and lifelong employment have become less and less common to many individuals. A category of workers emerges, without labour stability and with a very precarious perspective towards the future, and who look for alternative ways to create employment and family subsistence.

Entrepreneurship is a rising professional category that arose as an alternative way of creating a job position and of social inclusion due to the large social inequalities that one sees in the job market.

In Portugal, there is a growing number of entrepreneurs who look to seize a business opportunity, hand in hand with those who became entrepreneurs because they could not find a better job opportunity (GEM, 2012).

Entrepreneurship has a very differentiated scope of interpretations, although there are some aspects which are common to all authors, connecting it to innovation or creation. According to Robbins (2001), entrepreneurship is a way for individuals to look for opportunities, organising the resources they need and, through innovation, open their own business, without fear of taking on their risks and possible rewards, satisfying their needs and wants.

The different concepts and definitions of entrepreneurship do not distinguish between gender, as entrepreneur features can be found in both men and women, although the first definitions are mainly directed at the masculine gender. However, literature on the gender influence on entrepreneurship supports that men are in bigger number at the beginning of activities (Langowitz & Minniti, 2007; McKay, Phillimore & Teasdale, 2010; Singer, Amoros & Moska, 2015; Themudo, 2009).

Studies demonstrated that there has been a growing increase in entrepreneur women in the last years. However, comparing men and women’s participation in the job market is not an easy task. Murani (2003) claims that the growth of female participation in the working world is real, still holding, however, several issues and constraints connected to inequality and precariousness. Delors (1996) mentions that “inequalities are, in fact, at the root of the permanent inferiorities that weigh on women through their lives”; Eagly (1987) ran in accordance, pinpointing how difficult it is for women to have an entrepreneur activity and also be responsible for domestic chores, for raising children and for supporting the elderly.

Even today, women continue to be vulnerable to attitudes and behaviours of discrimination such as inequality in remuneration, difficulty on integrating or reintegrating into the job market, limited access to progression in their career and other resources. Although women have on average higher levels of qualification when compared to men, their condition in a job context is more precarious, often leading to the decision of creating their own job.

There are several studies that evaluate women’s insertion on independent work, analysing their characteristics and potential consequences. Regarding psychological and behavioural features, entrepreneur women present a heavy desire for independence and realization. Some studies have demonstrated that women open companies because of their wish to feel fulfilled and independent, because they realise there are market opportunities, because of difficulties in career progression, because of the need of survival and as a way to conciliate work and family (Machado, St.-Cyr, Mione & Alves, 2003).

Entrepreneurship represents a new sector for female economic activity. There are now new markets and work perspectives offered for women to develop their enthusiasm, energy, abilities and competences. The flexibility associated with this type of work is an additional encouraging factor, especially for women that need this work flexibility in order to deal with their family responsibilities (Apergis & Economou, 2010).

It is proposed, in this work, to identify the main differences related to gender in the exercise of an entrepreneur activity in Portugal, and focus on female entrepreneurship in particular.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gender Discrimination: Historically, studies show that men have an advantage over women when it comes to starting a business. More recent studies indicate that the perceived disparity between male and female entrepreneurs doesn’t actually exist and gender is not a determining factor in the success or failure of a new business venture, even though, in practical terms, the different segmentation of family responsibilities includes gender discrimination.

Family Responsibilities: In many cultures, women are more likely to shoulder a greater share of child-caring duties and they support more the elder family members. Children may demand their mothers’ undivided attention, which can be a challenge for female entrepreneurs to deal with. Women in this situation must balance their family life with their duties as entrepreneurs.

Multiple Case Studies Methodology: Qualitative analysis means that the observations are analyzed without the support of numerical methods and coding the observations to quantitative scales. Instead, it is based on the context of the observations, the experiences of the observer and rational argumentation. The strength of conclusions from case studies is not very high, and it is claimed that the use of multiple cases yields more robustness to the conclusions from the study.

Entrepreneurship by Opportunity: Results from the desire to seize, by self-initiative, a possibility of business that exists in the market, through the creation of a company at the nexus of individual aspirations with economic and social conditions perceived as favorable to create a new product or service, either in an existing market or a new one. Emerges generally in a pro-cyclical economy.

Female Entrepreneurship: Female entrepreneurship is an economic activity of the women who think of a business enterprise, initiate it, organize and combine the factors of production, operate the enterprise, and undertake risks and handle economic uncertainty involved in running a business enterprise.

Entrepreneurship by Need: Results from the absence of other opportunities of obtaining income (namely, dependent work) and that makes individuals create a business, since they consider they have no better alternatives. Emerges generally in a strongly countercyclical economy.

Entrepreneurial Initiative: Individual’s ability to turn ideas into action. It includes the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives, but also creativity, innovation, and risk taking.

Micro and Small Companies: Micro companies have fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover (the amount of money taken in a particular period) or balance sheet (a statement of a company's assets and liabilities) below €2 million. Small enterprise: fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet below €10 million.

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