Business ownership and women’s subordination: A preliminary study of female proprietors

Over recent years some sociological attention has been devoted to the position of women in the labour market and in the domestic sphere. However, the study of women as business proprietors has been almost entirely neglected.1 This is a serious omission because the ownership of small businesses could become an increasingly important area for female economic achievement within ‘no‐growth’ industrial economies.2 Further, as trends in the United States would suggest, female proprietorship may have important implications for developments within the women’s movement.3 On the basis of interviews with a small number of women business owners, we explore the personal motives for and consequences of proprietorship. We suggest that although women may be compared to many other subordinate groups in their expectations of the gains to be derived from proprietorship they encounter, as women, quite distinct experiences and difficulties. Business ownership, then, does not offer a straightforward solution to women’s subordination. Further, claims that female proprietorship merely incorporates a minority of women to the disregard of the majority appears, on the basis of our evidence, to be misleading.

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