Purpose - There has been increased policy and research interest in the growing number of female entrepreneurs and their potential contribution to both the local and global economy. Nevertheless, the extant literature on female entrepreneurship is often limited to the start-up phase of business. An important gap in the literature is an inquiry into the development of these female-owned organizations from inception to maturity, and their growth in domestic and/or international markets. This paper therefore aims to address key themes such as motivation to start-up, growing the business, gender issues and the challenges faced by these women.
Introduction the global outlook for female entrepreneurs has never been more encouraging (Riebe, 2003). Internationally, one in ten women is self-employed, and it is estimated that women own and manage up to one third of all businesses in developed countries. Nelton (1998) regarded this growth of female entrepreneurship since the 1970s (from 5 per cent to 38 per cent in 30 years, Hisrich et al.,
1997) as one of the most significant, yet quietest, revolutions of our time.
In addition, it is evident that the entrepreneurial activity of these female entrepreneurs is making a distinct difference in their communities and economies, in both the developed and developing countries. Yet despite the growing number of female entrepreneurs:Ã¢ÂÂ¦ we know surprisingly little about women entrepreneurs' business practices, survival and growth strategies, and their perceptions of their entrepreneurial careers (Starr and Yudkin, 1996).
In addition, despite the extent of female entrepreneurs involvement in new business formation, "the economic impact of women led businesses has been down-played" (Carter et al., 2002):Female entrepreneurship is an under-researched area with tremendous economic potential and one that requires special attention (Henry, 2002).
This paper, therefore, endeavors to address these issues through a six-country study...