Women Entrepreneurship: Painting It Bright While Missing the Dark.

AuthorBiju, Reena

This paper critically analyses the on-going global and Indian narratives and actions related to women entrepreneurship which shows a consistent long-held focus on its benefits, particularly construing it as a means to women empowerment. These brightening dominant narratives miss the costs that women entrepreneurs pay and their sources. Based on the recent research on critical entrepreneurship, the authors foreground the invisible and argue that the source of the costs is the male-dominant masculine structure that underlies the conceptualization and actions related to entrepreneurship. The costs, particularly related to emotional labor which even the recent research ignores, and its source disempower women entrepreneurs. Hence, for the talks and actions on women entrepreneurship to be meaningful, we need broader discussions of affective or emotional, cognitive-structural and behavioral costs that women entrepreneurs are made to bear in their day to-day life and an interrogation of the masculine entrepreneurship-related discourses and actions.

Women entrepreneurship has been increasingly recommended as an effective means for job creation, poverty alleviation, social change, and women empowerment in workplaces, to name a few. A recent illustration occurred on March 8, 2019 during the launch of 'Speed Mentoring for Women by Women' program--a startup India related Central Government initiative-wherein aspiring women entrepreneurs were 'given opportunity' to interact with renowned 'women leaders' to gain more empowerment and create social impact(https://www.startupindia.gov.in/ content/sih/en/women_entrepreneur ship.html)

The discourse and actions that highlight the bright side of women entrepreneurship, particularly as a women empowerment tool, is not confined to India but widespread across the globe. A recent example is the 'International Women Entrepreneurs Summit 2018' which was organized by the South Asian Women Development Forum (SAWDF), a SAARC recognized body (http:// sawdf.org/portfolio-item/international-women-entrepreneurs-summit 2018/). However, the growing research on the gender aspects of women entrepreneurship points to potential dark sides of women empowerment through women entrepreneurship. Hence, instead of excessively focusing on the bright sides, workplace leaders and policy makers should consider the dark side of women entrepreneurship and related women empowerment and should be willing to interrogate the widespread hype and hope around it.

Painting it Bright

Women entrepreneurs are considered as 'untapped source of economic growth', development and empowerment (Minniti & Naude, 2010). Organizations as varied as charity organization and NGOs, knowledge institutes and business associations, transnational public institutions, national and local governments, and private companies have adopted programs or policies to stimulate women entrepreneurship (Vossenberg, 2013).

The World Economic Forum has been consistently promoting women entrepreneurs, 'particularly of color' as 'the way forward' to empower them and strengthen the economy (World Global Gender Report, 2012; 2018), and the media seems to have celebrated this news (https://www.financialex press. com/economy/wef-2018-first-to-be-chaired-entirely -bywomen-and-this-indian-woman-entrepreneur-is-amongthem/ 1022212/; https://www.mastercar dcenter.org/insights/leading-women-gender-2018-davos-agenda; https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/ not-just-a-man-s-world-all-women-chair-for2018world-economic-forum/storyhGiSTkk3PV 9dfYXEyEOAlM.html). A similarly celebrated initiative is Cocoki, a Rwandan 'ground breaking' sewing cooperative with more than 40 women employees, supplying home decor crafts and fashion accessories to high-end retailers like Anthropologie and DANNIJO and US-based high-profile fashion designer, Nicole Miller. A set of newsprint media ranging from the Washington Post to the Huffington Post to InStyle has highlighted Cocoki as a 'great women entrepreneurial success' and a women empowerment. Further, promoting women entrepreneurship has been associated with enhancing organizational and leadership abilities, fostering creativity and engendering women empowerment (The New Times 2012 https:// www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/ 50238). The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor has been consistently advancing similar arguments (e.g., GEM 2016-17 women's entrepreneurship report; GEM 2018-19 global reports)

Similar to the global narrative above academic scholarship, in general, also has been showcasing the social benefits of promoting women entrepreneurship that includes women empowerment. For example, female entrepreneurs have been identified as the engines and agents (connoting empowerment) for growth of the economies in developing countries; a growth which enhances welfare, prosperity, innovation, employment, wealth creation and empowerment (Brush et. al., 2009, Vossenberg, 2013). Women entrepreneurship has also been linked to increase in sustainable economic, social and ecological practices, women empowerment (Qazi & Rashidi, 2018) and reduction in poverty (Sutter et al., 2019). This pattern...

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