March 25, 2020, by Ingenuity Lab

Is Time Up for the Hero Male Entrepreneur?

HGI’s Dr Lorna Treanor was recently commissioned by the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) to undertake a ‘State of the Art Review exploring the implications of the gendered enterprise discourse for women’s entrepreneurship in the UK. The review, entitled “Is Time Up for the Hero Male Entrepreneur? A review of enterprise discourse and its effects was presented at the Shard in London as part of the “What next for Women’s Enterprise Policy?” event to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020.  

Hosted by the ERC and the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s Gender and Enterprise Network, the event brought over 60 delegates to central LondonThe focus of the event was to explore how UK policy makers, among others, might develop an enterprise ecosystem that better supports women to develop successful, rewarding and sustainable businesses. 

Lorna said: “It is important that a broader perspective on this issue is adopted and events like this, bringing academics, policy makers and practitioners together, are essential if we are to be successful in removing barriers and enabling interested women to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions.” 

Co-authored with Dr Sally Jones and Professor Susan Marlow, this review looks at the way language surrounding entrepreneurship can subliminally influence attitudes and actions 

A lot of the language used to describe an entrepreneur – bold, assertive, resilient, determined – is typically associated with masculinity – and often with a particular type of masculinity. This discourse supports the contemporary popular notion of the ‘hero male’ entrepreneur frequently portrayed in the media and as case studies in textbooks, and it can be exclusionary to both men and women, but particularly women,” Lorna explainedThis informs some of the reasons why women are significantly less likely to create and lead new entrepreneurial ventures. 

Presented alongside a series of reviews on gender and entrepreneurship, this review continues to discuss how government-funded business start-up provision is also informed by this masculine entrepreneurial discourse and associated performance expectations. These gendered assumptions are detrimental to women’s entrepreneurial efforts, as they position women as lacking in entrepreneurial know-how, and fail to acknowledge the structural barriers to attainment, such as the inflexibility of self-employment and sectoral channeling into lowervalue feminised industries.  

But this doesn’t just have implications for women!. This construction of a hegemonic, alpha-male ‘hero entrepreneur has potentially negative implications for many men too, and as long as this image pervades in media portrayals, policy papers and entrepreneurship classrooms, male entrepreneurs may perceive a pressure to emulate this enduring alpha-male entrepreneurial norm 

To read the paper in full, along with the other reviews presented at the “What Next for Women’s Enterprise Policy? at the Shard, visit the ERC SOTA website.

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