Making the Case for Public Support of U.S. Women Business Owners: The Push for Gender Neutrality

4. 6. 2018
ve 14:00 hodin, zasedací místnost 207, Jilská 1, Praha 1

Sociologický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i., a katedra sociologie Institutu sociologických studií FSV UK si Vás dovolují pozvat na jarní cyklus Čtvrtečních sociologických seminářů.

Entrepreneurial Support Organizations (ESOs) aim to connect business owners with training, services, and linkages to their business communities.  ESOs offer support for business owners who are economically marginalized due to gender, race, ethnicity, income, or disability. Women business owners (WBOs) are the fastest growing segment of US entrepreneurs. Yet, the “gender gap” for women-owned businesses (WOBs) in terms of profitability and growth is well-documented and includes disadvantages in access to funding, networks, and perceptions of competency.  Moreover, cultural expectations about women’s roles as mothers and the lack of government support for parental leaves in the United States disadvantage WBOs in starting and growing their businesses. Most US business scholars and policymakers still advocate a gender-blind approach for supporting entrepreneurs that centers economic growth and profitability potential as the main rationale for helping women entrepreneurs. Swedish business scholar, Helen Ahl argues that the preoccupation of research and policy with business growth- and profitability-potential simply replicates masculine-centric conceptions and ignores important goals of power and equality for women. 

The presentation focuses upon research on ESOs in Phoenix, Arizona.  One ESO commissioned a large survey to document the “facts” about local WOBs.  At that time, I conducted 43 interviews with local WBOs to provide a more in-depth look at their experiences.  I recount the production of a public report by the ESO that sponsored the survey.  I attended meetings and participated in the on-line editing process to develop this report.  The report production process entailed myriad negotiations to agree on the major findings.  Despite owner interview comments about childcare and work-life balance issues as well as sexist incidents in business interactions, the survey findings concentrated on documenting the profitability and growth potential of WOBs.  ESO practitioners prioritized countering stereotypes that WBOs were life-style businesses with limited growth potential.  They were anxious to convince policymakers that WOBs were a large source of untapped revenue in the state.   Ironically, this stance called for increased funding for gender-aware programming while simultaneously obscuring evidence that women experienced any unique disadvantages.  ESO actors failed to challenge economic priorities as the rationale for assisting WBOs.  Gender equality goals were not viewed as convincing justifications for state expenditures, and non-growth oriented WBOs were somewhat disparaged.   


Nancy Jurik is a PhD in Sociology and Professor in the School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University. Her interests focus on gender, work organizations, occupations, and entrepreneurship.  Her books include Doing Justice, Doing Gender: Women in Legal and Criminal Justice Occupations (Sage, 1996, 2007), Bootstrap Dreams: U.S. Microenterprise Development in an Era of Welfare Reform (Cornell University Press, 2005), and Provocateur for Justice: Jane Tennison and Policing in “Prime Suspect” (University of Illinois Press, 2012). She is a distinguished faculty in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and recipient of the 2014 Feminist Mentor Award from the Sociologists for Women in Society.