To Examine Women Social Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Opportunities and Challenges

To Examine Women Social Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Opportunities and Challenges

Suja Ravindran Nair (Educe Micro Research, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2097-0.ch018


In the past few decades, the concept of social entrepreneurship has emerged as a popular area of research study and practice. However, despite women social entrepreneurs showing great potentials through a reduced gender gap in social entrepreneurship unlike commercial entrepreneurship where the gender gap is found to be high, not much literature is available on women's social entrepreneurial ventures. This study is an attempt to fill up this gap through a review of prior literature on the field of social entrepreneurship. By reviewing the existing literature, the author draws a comparison between social entrepreneurship and women social entrepreneurship, then examines the success factors in women's social entrepreneurship and also discusses the challenges. To build-up the link between the literature and practice two real case studies are presented in support of the discussed theoretical inputs. Finally, limitations and future research areas are discussed.
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Entrepreneurship ecosystem implicit to all entrepreneurs consist of a set of individual elements like leadership, culture, capital markets, and open-minded customers combined in complex ways (Isenberg, 2010) and alongside; equal access to resources, participation, and support conducive to sustain entrepreneurship (Brush, Edelman, Manolova, & Welter, 2019). While studies have referred to the importance of ‘entrepreneurship’, many have reported on gender-wise differences in entrepreneurship (e.g., Tsyganova & Shirokova, 2010) with some opining the need to focus on gender-based entrepreneurship research (Brush, Carter, Gatewood, Greene, & Hart 2006; Brush, de Bruin, & Welter, 2009) given that women entrepreneurial initiatives are synonymous with women empowerment; contributing to the economic growth and development through providing jobs, creating wealth, innovations, etc. (Brush et al., 2006). A recent study, Brush et al. (2019) states that “gender” matters in the ecosystems at the institutional, organizational, and individual levels, with others (Vossenberg, 2013; Nählinder, Tillmar, & Wigren, 2015; Nair, 2019) arguing on the need to address the ‘gender bias’ embedded into entrepreneurship so that women entrepreneurs take advantage of the available promotional policies that help in making significant macroeconomic and social impact. Emerald Publishing (2018) observed a reality often overlooked is that of women (especially in the developing countries) for whom entrepreneurship is a primary source of income.

Another concept that has gained prominence in the past few decades is the phenomenon of “social entrepreneurship” (SE) that plays a significant role in increasing the social value and overall well-being of the society. Of course, this also depends upon the social entrepreneur’s ability to integrate business models that help to address social needs, example-integration of economic and social wealth creation (Peredo & McLean, 2006; Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2012; Dionisio, 2019). Although the growth of social enterprises can be perceived from multiple perspectives, it is primarily underpinned by the provision of perceived social value, stated Hynes (2009). Similarly according to Greg Dees (referred to as ‘father’ of social entrepreneurship education) social entrepreneurs propel social changes by creating public value, pursuing new opportunities, innovating and adapting, acting boldly, leveraging resources not in their control, and exhibiting a strong sense of accountability to significantly improve the society’s capacity in addressing social problems like: poverty, illness, illiteracy, and environmental destruction (cited in Bornstein and Davis, 2010).

Surprisingly, while a gender gap in favor of male entrepreneurs is found in commercial entrepreneurship, in the SE arena, research has found this to be less preeminent. For instance, a study established that women and men who launch a new social venture differ only on one personality dimension–agreeableness, where women social entrepreneurs scored more than their male counterparts, otherwise no significant differences were found concerning the other personality traits (Bernardino, Santos, & Ribeiro, 2018). Another study reported that among social entrepreneurs across the world an estimated 55% are male, and 45% female, with the gender gap in social entrepreneurial activity, found to be significantly smaller than the estimated 2:1 gender gap in commercial, entrepreneurial activity found in some of the economies (Bosma, Schøtt, Terjesen, & Kew, 2016). In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, while the difference between women’s involvement in social versus commercial entrepreneurship was very striking, in Australia and USA both men and women were almost equally involved in SE, whereas, in Southern and Eastern Asia, Latin America and in the Caribbean region female representation in social entrepreneurial enterprises were found to be high irrespective of the type or phase of entrepreneurship (Bosma, Schøtt, Terjesen, & Kew, 2016, p. 21).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Women Empowerment: Women empowerment refers to a social transformation, with women having the power to act freely, exercise their rights, and make decisions on what and how to do what they want to do.

Social Networks: A social structure made up of individuals and organizations with similar interests who come together to share information or hold discussions of common interests.

Social Entrepreneurship: A process by which organizations lookout for innovative ways to address intractable social problems such as hunger, poverty, education, and others.

Social Innovations: Social innovations are new social practices aimed at meeting the social needs of the community in a better way than the existing one.

Women Social Entrepreneur: A woman who initiates, organizes, and runs a social business enterprise intending to create social value for the community.

Social Value: When an enterprise uses a business model that creates social impact, serving the common good of the community/society, it creates social value.

Sustainability: Sustainability means being consistent in meeting one's own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: The social, economic, and other environment domains in which an entrepreneur operates, and can, directly and indirectly, affect the entrepreneurial success and impact.

Social Enterprises: A social enterprise is a social cause-driven business whose main aim is to improve certain social objectives for the common good of the community.

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