Invisible entrepreneurs: the neglect of women business owners by mass media and scholarly journals in the USA

We examine a paradox: gains in women’s business ownership in the USA have been extraordinary, whereas popular press coverage has actually declined, and academic articles on women owners are also exceedingly rare. We offer three simple explanations for this: (1) the media no longer consider women’s business ‘news’; (2) scholars are not interested in women’s firms because they are mostly small and relatively unimportant; and (3) documented differences between men and women owners are few and thus reporters and scholars no longer look for them. Two dissenting voices, however, complicate the picture: small but significant gender differences have been found in studies of social behaviour and leadership; and, advocacy groups have strongly asserted that women owners possess unique advantages. Why haven’t these voices been heard? We argue that androcentrism has clouded our perceptions of gender differences and blinded journalists and academics in two ways: (1) women’s distinctive contributions have been muted as they have adapted to institutions of business that were already gendered, and (2) the search for distinctive contributions by women owners has been thwarted by assumptions that traditional ways of doing business are ‘natural’.

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