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Contextualizing Entrepreneurship and Gender: A Life-Story Approach to Rural Family Businesses in Sweden
Linnaeus University, School of Business and Economics, Department of Management (MAN).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3671-9100
2023 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Entrepreneurship has gained increasing attention as a strategic area for rural development. Addressing environmental, demographic, and gender inequality challenges in rural areas requires contextualizing entrepreneurship. Moreover, applying contextualization as a critical lens provides a deeper understanding of how and why entrepreneurship happens in rural areas. This thesis examines the interplay between entrepreneurship and gender within the rural context and is situated in the growing body of literature expanding the knowledge on entrepreneurship in rural contexts. Thus, the thesis responds to the calls to contextualize rural entrepreneurship (McElwee & Atherton, 2021) and gender in entrepreneurship (Welter, 2011; Baker & Welter, 2020; Welter 2020). The thesis is based on a qualitative study on the life stories of women and men entrepreneurs engaged in their family businesses in the rural province of Småland in southern Sweden. The thesis further contributes with a systematic literature review describing the “state of the art” in rural entrepreneurship as well as the intertwinement between the rural, gender, and entrepreneurship fields. Methodologically, the thesis contributes to the operationalization of a rural proofing concept. To theorize on the intersection of these three, often separately studied, fields (Webster 2017), the thesis illustrates the dyadic influence of the rural context on entrepreneurship and gender relations. The thesis also provides theoretical contributions concerning the interdependence of the rural context, agency, and entrepreneurship, including the implications of this interdependence for policymakers, and practitioners. Contextualizing rural entrepreneurship and gender in entrepreneurship is crucial in the development of policies able to address the needs and capabilities of rural entrepreneurs to explore the impact of different policies on rural enterprise development (Smith & McElwee, 2014). Rural proofing policies that take into account the particularities of the rural milieu, such as gender, ethnicity, and traditions within the rural community, can increase the resilience of rural enterprises in the face of challenges arising from local and global contexts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Växjö: Linnaeus University Press, 2023. , p. 92
Series
Linnaeus University Dissertations ; 503
Keywords [en]
Rural Entrepreneurship, Gender in Entrepreneurship, Context, Proximity, Agency, Emancipation, Rural Family Businesses, Life-story, Contextualizing
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Economy, Business administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-124091DOI: 10.15626/LUD.503.2023ISBN: 9789180820691 (print)ISBN: 9789180820707 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-124091DiVA, id: diva2:1794515
Public defence
2023-10-02, D1136A, PG Vejdes väg, SE-351 95, Växjö, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Henry and Sylvia Toft FoundationAvailable from: 2023-09-06 Created: 2023-09-05 Last updated: 2024-03-13Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Rural proofing entrepreneurship in two fields of research
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Rural proofing entrepreneurship in two fields of research
2022 (English)In: International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, ISSN 1355-2554, E-ISSN 1758-6534, Vol. 28, no 9, p. 332-356Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how rural entrepreneurship is discussed by analyzing articles in the leading journals of the two main research fields, entrepreneurship studies, and rural studies, through the concept of rural proofing.

Design/methodology/approach

The systematic literature review centers on the two main fields where rural entrepreneurship is studied and covers papers in nine leading journals in entrepreneurship studies and two leading journals in rural studies, between the years 1989 and 2020. In total, 97 papers were reviewed and we utilize and operationalize the rural proofing concept based on Fahmy et al.'s (2004) 3 characteristics of rural: remoteness, accessibility, and rural locale and sense of place. The authors take stock of the dimensions of rural proofing addressed within each of the research fields to find similarities and differences; that is, if articles are rural proofed (or not) when discussing rural entrepreneurship.

Findings

The classification of articles across the three dimensions of rural proofing shows that the field of rural entrepreneurship is being addressed mainly in the dimensions of remoteness and accessibility, while few authors in rural studies journals give priority to the rural locale and sense of place dimension. The results of the authors' review reveal that out of a total of 97 articles on rural entrepreneurship, 56 articles address at least one dimension of rural proofing and 41 articles do not address any dimension. Among the 41 articles not rural proofed, rurality is not problematized when discussing rural entrepreneurship. Instead, the authors focus on specific topics such as social capital, community entrepreneurship/networks, entrepreneurs'/farmers' identity, illegality in rural areas, and institutional framework. The number of non-rural-proofed articles in entrepreneurship journals is almost double that in rural studies journals. This means that authors in entrepreneurship journals do not problematize rurality to the same extent as authors in rural studies journals when addressing rural entrepreneurship.

Research limitations/implications

The authors emphasize the need for increased cross-fertilization between the fields of entrepreneurship and rural studies as an avenue to develop the entrepreneurship field in the direction towards rural proofing. A close collaboration with academia and policymakers is essential to promote interdisciplinary research in order to make a distinctive contribution to rural development. Scholars in either of the two fields will benefit from our review and identification of similarities and differences in the research. The review is one step towards promoting a closer dialog between the two fields.

Originality/value

Previous reviews have focused mainly on what rural entrepreneurship entails (e.g. what topics are discussed) rather than how rural entrepreneurship is discussed. This paper centers on the differences and similarities of the two main fields and provides an in-depth qualitative analysis of how rural entrepreneurship is discussed by utilizing the rural proofing concept.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2022
Keywords
rural entrepreneurship, rural proofing, remoteness, accessibility, rural locale and sense of place, literature review
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Economy, Business administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-117032 (URN)10.1108/IJEBR-05-2021-0323 (DOI)000865406700001 ()2-s2.0-85139502940 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2022-10-19 Created: 2022-10-19 Last updated: 2024-01-23Bibliographically approved
2. Gender roles or gendered goals? Women's return to rural family business
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Gender roles or gendered goals? Women's return to rural family business
2023 (English)In: International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, ISSN 1756-6266, E-ISSN 1756-6274, Vol. 15, no 1, p. 44-63Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: This paper aims to add to the theorization of the gender dynamic in rural areas by investigating the motives of women who join their family firm (or their spouse's family firm) and thereby defy the demographic trend of rural flight. The context of this study is the depopulation of rural areas with the closing of basic services and relocation of the younger population, and educated women in particular, to urban areas. Consequently, rural family businesses risk failing to find successors and suffering forced closure or relocation. The empirical site of the study is rural family firms in Sweden, a context characterized by a high level of gender equality in legislation and culture but gender-conservative business structures in rural regions.

Design/methodology/approach: The empirical case in this paper builds on a qualitative study of nine (9) life course narratives of women entrepreneurs in a rural region of Southern Sweden who have returned to rural areas to join their family business. The authors follow the view established by gender scholars that women are active agents in navigating their lives, and their life story narratives offer insight into the considerations that inform their choice to stay or return to rural locations. In Sweden, the setting for the study, gender equality is widely supported by legislation, policy and institutional frameworks and popular understanding of gender relations. In contrast to the gender-progressive policies of Sweden at large, women's entrepreneurship in rural regions of Sweden tends to follow traditional gender hierarchies and face similar constraints as in rural areas of other countries. The juxtaposition of these competing sets of ideals makes Sweden an important and interesting place to study and draw insights from the experiences of women entrepreneurs.

Findings: The findings reveal that women who choose to join rural family firms view them primarily in a positive light and see this choice as aligned with their need for professional flexibility and assertiveness, rewarding relationships, and a calm, secure, well-balanced life. Theoretically, the study implies that women choosing to engage in rural family firms seek non-material benefits, such as work–life balance and social support, and may be driven in part by a sense of psychological ownership that extends to the rural community.

Originality/value: The findings provide novel insights on women as active agents in navigating their lives and the intrinsic (e.g. alignment of personal values) and extrinsic (e.g. community support) motives that inform their decisions. The study also raises questions regarding how women perceive themselves as “fitting in” to rural settings and to what extent the sense of security within these settings that the women describe may be contingent upon factors such as their families' embeddedness within the community as well as their conformity to the local social norms.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2023
Keywords
women's entrepreneurship, agency and choice, gender, work-life balance, psychological ownership
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Economy, Business administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-116112 (URN)10.1108/ijge-09-2021-0152 (DOI)000844837600001 ()2-s2.0-85136779315 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2022-09-02 Created: 2022-09-02 Last updated: 2024-01-23Bibliographically approved
3. How do women entrepreneurs influence the strategic orientation of family businesses? A typology of Swedish decision-making in Småland community
Open this publication in new window or tab >>How do women entrepreneurs influence the strategic orientation of family businesses? A typology of Swedish decision-making in Småland community
2024 (English)In: Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, ISSN 1750-6204, E-ISSN 1750-6212, Vol. 18, no 2, p. 117-144Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: This paper aims to add to the theorization of family dynamics and women’s entrepreneurship by examining women’s influence on decision-making in family businesses. Business decisions in family firms, in particular, are not free from family influence in terms of goals and strategies, and the role of women in decision-making processes is of particular interest. Consequently, the role of women entrepreneurs in family firms and their influence on business development requires a more fine-grained analysis of the family dynamic within the family and the business.

Design/methodology/approachThis study draws on a qualitative study and focuses on the life story narratives of nine women in rural family businesses in rural communities of Småland province in Sweden to empirically examine the decision-making processes. This region is known both for its entrepreneurial culture and traditional gender order. Based on the narrative accounts of women entrepreneurs in family businesses, the data analysis method is thematic, using a Gioia-inspired method.

FindingsThe complexity of decision-making in rural family firms is further complicated in part due to a closeness with the rural community. Thus, a typology of three decision-making modes in family firms emerges an informal family-oriented mode, a semistructured family/employee consensus mode and a formal board mode with at least one nonfamily member. Moreover, the advantages, disadvantages and strategies that women use to influence decisions within the respective mode are outlined.

Originality/valueThis work contributes to the study of women’s agency and its implications in family business and entrepreneurship in the rural context. The study implies that women’s agency shapes the (rural) entrepreneurship context and, likewise, the (rural) entrepreneurship context influences women’s agency. Hence, the author challenges the view of women as only caregivers and sheds light on the practices and processes behind the scenes of entrepreneurial family businesses.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2024
Keywords
Rural entrepreneurship, gender, women entrepreneurship, work-life balance, psychological ownership
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Economy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-116111 (URN)10.1108/jec-06-2022-0091 (DOI)000844807400001 ()2-s2.0-85136811287 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2022-09-02 Created: 2022-09-02 Last updated: 2024-02-27Bibliographically approved

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Gashi Nulleshi, Shqipe

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