9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Gendered Pathways of Professional Success Building II, C4.01

How to explain the gender gap in self employment?

In the last 40 years much research was done on gender inequality in the labour market. We know a lot about the gender wage gap, women's participation in the labour market, sex segregation of jobs, gender educational attainment, and different opportunities of advancement. A lot of theories were developed to explain those differences (i.e. collective bargaining power, sex segregation of jobs, the disembodied worker, gender bias in the job evaluation system, etc.)
Contrary to employment we don't know much about the gender gap in self-employment and gender imbalances in enterprise development. Compared to male entrepreneurs in all of the European countries women entrepreneurs are less numerous. Self-employed women earn less money than their male counterparts, their enterprises start smaller and stay smaller. We conducted a research project on self-employment of women and will report empirical evidence for the gender gap (based on data from the German Mikrozensus, German income tax data and registries in the Commercial Register).
Some scholars argue that gender differences in self-employment can be explained by differences in the human capital. Others claim that women appreciate different values than men and that their different living conditions can affect their motivations and expectations for their businesses. We will instead argue that there are gender-specific barriers and constraints that may not be easily visible at first glance but nevertheless affect and shape women's self-employment. There are few conceptual frameworks regarding women entrepreneurs (i.e. the concept of biographical embeddedness, social exclusion and self-employment Apitzsch/Kontos). We need more theoretical concepts in order to understand how gender as a social institution works for female entrepreneurs in detail on different levels and for various female entrepreneurs differently. Together with sociologists from other countries we would like to discuss how to fill this theoretical gap and where to start.