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Muir, Elizabeth Jean


Enterprising women in the European Union : redefining entrepreneurship, redefining


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A thesis submitted to the University of Bristol in accordance with the requirements of the degree of Ph.D.

in the Faculty of Social Sciences, School for Policy Studies.

December 1997 ABSTRACT This study provides a radical feminist analysis of women entrepreneurs. Respondents are drawn from an under-researched group: women who own companies with corporate headquarters based in one of the 12 member countries of the EU at this time. One-third of the businesses had an annual turnover in excess of one million ECU, the remainder more than 10 million ECU. Results are based on analysis of 32 in-depth interviews. The analytical framework builds upon the theoretical work of Sylvia Walby, Carol Gilligan and Carol Pateman. The analysis reveals tensions between sociological and feminist literature and views expressed by the research participants.

The study notes that women's lives are not confined to one arena; the cross-over and influence of each upon the others creates a seamless weave of women's lives where patriarchy is universal. It concludes that the public / private divide is dualistic, masculinist thinking and does not have relevance in women's lives. Women entrepreneurs have transformed gender relations in the workplace, introducing feminine aspects of care. They have also transformed the domestic arena by introducing capitalist processes of negotiation, management and employment. The research shows how the women entrepreneurs develop a 'Concourse of Relationships': dynamic and multidimensional continua through time, space and community which mutates as they develop through the 'process of becoming an entrepreneur' and then the 'practice of being an entrepreneur'.

Alienated from women by their material advantages by being deemed unique, different and extraordinary; and from male power by their muliebrity, women entrepreneurs experience the 'otherness' of 'others'. Greater dialogue is needed between feminists and women who have greatest access to capitalist power. The study confirms that entrepreneurship may be a route to individual material freedom, it is not a source of women's liberation.


This thesis would never have been considered possible without the motivation, enthusiasm and support which I have received from Dr Sara Delamont of University of Wales, Cardiff. I will forever be indebted to Sara for her endless generosity with her time, knowledge, criticism and, on occasion, tissues - her spirit remains with me always.

I would also like to thank the ESRC for providing three year's funding; it has been quite an experience to become a full time student when approaching my half-century!. Also, great thanks to Agnes Hubert and Marie Jouffe at the Equal Opportunities Unit, DG V of the European Commission for commissioning a report; the consultancy project which covered my travel costs throughout the EU.

There are countless people in companies, business organisations and women's networking groups throughout the EU who have been exceedingly kind and tireless in providing me with information and contacts Without their help I would not have been able to search out the participants of this study. Almost

all of the women who took the time to complete questionnaires provided suggestions for further contacts:

I thank them for their enthusiasm and generosity. To the 32 interviewees I am indebted. At times I was overwhelmed by their generosity, honesty and their enthusiasm for the project.

Corinne Lesage, an ERASMUS student on work experience translated questionnaires from German, French and Spanish and handled correspondence and telephone work in those languages. Melissa Knight conquered my systems to handle most of the distribution of questionnaires and type the responses. To them both I extend my heartfelt thanks for their hard work, patience and company. Tony Bowles has patiently helped me conquer computer technology and produced the tables and colour-printed charts, whilst Kathy Bowles supplied plenty of tea and support. Sasha Brewis, June and Pete Clark, Frederique Deroure, Rena and Costas Economides, Liz Harrison, Ioanna Hatzopoulos, Maria Kitzi and 'Mama' have all generously given me the run of their homes, fed and watered me and looked after me in various countries Sue Gibas, Caroline Turner, Nicos Vernicos and Irene Watson have been equally generous with their hospitality, use of cars, offices, contacts and their time. I thank all of the above together with Rivka Kashtan, John and Meg Knight, Jan Robson, Siin Trenberth and my parents, Ken and Elsie Muir who have showered me with love and support, listened patiently as I have rambled, and gently chided me to get on and get finished Judy Edwards has been unstinting in her support and our numerous study breaks spent at Gregynog have been both enjoyable and invaluable Professor Teresa Rees has been a wonderful pillar upon which to lean. Once we learned how to communicate across the business / academic divide Terry has agonised over my difficulties and shared my laughter, but throughout it all she has never lost faith in me. At times, she has been my only motivation to continue and I am extremely grateful to her for her generosity of spirit, her tolerance and for her diligent and profound criticism which has helped me shape this work Finally I thank Waldo Edwards, without whose deep love and generous support I would neither have embarked upon nor completed this project. Having lived through a recent master's dissertation and now a PhD thesis, he deserves his own award. He is the most pro-feminist man I know and I can never thank him enough for just being himself


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I declare that the work contained in this thesis is my own work. Any assistance which I have received has been of an administrative nature and has not contributed to the content. The views expressed in this dissertation are those of the author and do not therefore represent the views of the University of Bristol.

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APPENDICES Appendix 1 Related business and research findings 244 Appendix 2 Summary of attempted development of magazines for entrepreneurial women 245 Appendix 3 Women and citizenship Appendix 4 Self-presentation options for introduction to potential interviewees 248 Appendix 5 Profile of the women in the sample and their businesses 249 Appendix 6 ECU exchange rates Appendix 7 People involved in the pilot study Appendix 8 Questionnaire 252 Appendix 9. Unstructured interview discussion topics Appendix 10. Confirmatory letter to interviewees Appendix 11: Cascade of referred contacts Appendix 12. Sources of contacts Appendix 13 Examples of gaining contact for opportunist interviewing Appendix 14. Strategic options on telephone contact for making interview appointments 264 Appendix 15- Financial benefits in addition to salaries Appendix 16: Samples of edited transcripts of interviews Appendix 17: Experiences of the women entrepreneurs in gaining access to capital Appendix 18: Education and training of women entrepreneurs and their employees 293 Appendix 19: Women's friendships with other women 296 REFERENCES iii


Table 3-1: Private and Public Patriarchy Table 6.1: Nationality, HQ and Interview Locations Table 6.2: Origin of the Women Interviewee's Businesses Table 6-1 Number of Companies Currently Run by Women Entrepreneurs

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EC European Commssion: (formerly Commission of the European Communities) ECU European Currency Unit EEC European Economic Community EU European Union EUR8 refes to eight countries of the European Union: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Republic of Ireland and the UK.

EUR10 refers to ten countries in the EU: Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Republic of Ireland, Spain, U.K.

EU-12 12 member countries of the European Union at the commencement of this research:

Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom.

EU-15 15 members of the EU post January 1st 1996 which includes the 12 listed above plus Austria, Finla.nd and Sweden IRLR International Review Law Reports

–  –  –

USSR Unites States of So% let Russia


This thesis is a study of women entrepreneurs in Europe. Already, one sentence into the project and a myriad of concepts and images will have been formed as to the subject and context of the research. The words 'women', entrepreneur' and 'Europe' take on differing meanings according to one's gender, business experience, politics, geographical knowledge together with a lot of other influences. The analysis draws upon feminist and sociological epistemologies in the context of the European labour market.

There has been an increasing academic interest in entrepreneurs in recent years (Green & Cohen 1995:297), yet there is a dearth of in-depth feminist literature specifically on women entrepreneurs (Green & Cohen 1995:298; Moore 1990). Some studies of entrepreneurs express a patriarchal standpoint in that they either ignore or fail to differentiate women's experience (LeeGosselin & Grise 1990; Stevenson 1990; Goffee & Scase 1985). Projects which have focused upon aspects of women's experience of entrepreneurship are either small scale, local studies (Green & Cohen 1995; Chwarae Teg 1994; Smith 1992), focus on women running small businesses (Cannon, Carter, Rosa, Baddon & McClure 1988; Carter & Cannon 1988a), women at the point of starting their own businesses (Chwarae Teg 1994; Smith 1992; Rosin & Korabik 1992), women as owner / managers (Allen & Truman 1993) without specific reflection as to the size of business (Green & Cohen 1995), or ethnic minority women running small businesses (Westwood and Bhachu 1988). Small business is considered to play a vital role in regenerating the economy (Green & Cohen 1995:297; Binges, Lizkovitz & Lebrun 1990) and entrepreneurship mooted as beneficial in that it provides an opportunity for personal prosperity (Jennings & Cohen 1993) and facilitates freedom and flexibility to manage one's own time (Marshall 1995). This latter benefit is deemed particularly important for women (Hakim 1996, 1989: Cromie and Hayes 1988).

The above studies are quite fluid in their descriptions of the people studied; 'self-employed', 'owner / manager', 'entrepreneur' are words used with little distinction and often they are interchanged. There have been attempts to construct definitions of entrepreneurship. Harwood (1982) and Schumpter (1934) perceived innovation to be a central attribute in connection with the means of production, whereas Carland, Hoy, Boulton & Carland (1984) linked innovation with the individual entrepreneur's character and behaviour. However, women entrepreneurs, simply by being so, are crossing traditional boundaries rendering them automatic innovators, as argued by Lee-Gosselin & Grise (1990). The element of financial risk is the locus of entrepreneurial definition for some researchers (Harwood 1982; Hull, Bosley & Udell 1980;

McClelland (1961), whereas Green and Cohen (1995) identify psychological and personal risks as being central to the experiences of women entrepreneurs in their study. Financial risk-taking is not an activity enjoyed by entrepreneurs, according to Stevenson (1989) who rejects constructed definitions of entrepreneurship which centre on economic factors and / or the entrepreneurial personality. Rather, he argues that it is managerial style and the organisation of resources for the purpose of pursuing opportunities which are definitive. Whilst Green and Cohen (1995) agree with this, they conclude that the process of discerning opportunities which are accessible is, in fact, divided according to gender.

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