Center for Women & Work

Virtual Library - Books and Articles for Women Business Owners


Birley, S.

Female Entrepreneurs: Are They Really Different?

(1989, Journal of Small Business Management, 27 (1), p. 32-37.) 

This article reviews the findings of several studies examining female entrepreneurs. The key points discussed include: 1) the characteristics of female entrepreneurs, 2) their past experiences and 3) challenges they commonly encounter. Some common characteristics among them include motivations for beginning businesses, family background and marital status. Birley notes the most likely motivations for entrepreneurship include dissatisfaction with previous supervision, subservient roles and low paying occupations. A desire for increased flexibility to manage the balance between work and family roles is another factor. In terms of previous experience, many women come from service-sector positions, primarily retailing. The greatest challenge facing women business owners involves obtaining financing for business start-up. 


Brush, C.

Research on Women Business Owners: Past Trends, A New Perspective and Future Directions

(1992, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, 16 (4), p. 5-33.

This article reviews a number of factors relevant to female business ownership including motivation, measures of success, organizational structure and common barriers. The key motivations discussed include a desire for greater work/family balance and an interest in helping others. The structure of these organizations emulates a web, with little or no hierarchy and open communication across all lines. The "integrated perspective" is discussed, whereby women view their business relationships as blended with other relationships in their lives, including family, as well as their ties to the community. Women base business success on several factors including: 1) the ability to achieve a healthy work/family balance, 2) the degree to which their ventures benefit the lives of others and 3) the extent to which they lead self-fulfilling lives. Difficulty obtaining financing funds and minimal knowledge about financing are again discussed as the greatest obstacle for women business owners. 


Egan, M.

Getting Down to Business and Off Welfare: Rural Women Entrepreneurs

(1997, Journal of Women & Social Work, 12 (2), p.215-222.) 

This article explores the motivations for business ownership among 17 rural women. The importance of having empowering families and entrepreneurial role models were common themes discussed by participants. Many of the women were raised by families that encouraged independence, self-efficacy and goal setting. Mothers and fathers demonstrated determination and confidence, traits later adopted by these women. Positive entrepreneurial role models outside the family also shaped the women's values early on and heavily influenced their decisions to start businesses. Other motivations included dissatisfaction with previous positions and mentoring experiences. 


Godfrey, J.

Our Wildest Dream: Women Entrepreneurs Making Money, Having Fun, Doing Good

(1992, New York, NY: Harper Business.) 

This book discusses women who have left corporate environments to pursue business ownership. The author is a business owner and also discusses her own experiences. She explains how unresponsive work environments (in terms of glass ceiling issues, work & family, and inflexibility, etc) have forced many women to flee corporate organizations in search of positions that better meet their needs. Through entrepreneurship, these women are finding satisfaction through both work and personal lives. They enjoy work, and allow themselves the flexibility to take pleasure from what is most important: living life. Godfrey offers valuable insight on managing businesses, which can be applied to all organizations. The content offers inspiration for women considering entrepreneurial roles, plus provides valuable resources for starting out. 


Moore, D. & Buttner, E.

Women Entrepreneurs: Moving Beyond the Glass Ceiling

(1997, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications) 

This book is the product of a study that researched women who left corporate environments to pursue entrepreneurial roles. One hundred and twenty-nine female entrepreneurs from metropolitan areas across the United States were surveyed and interviewed. The study examined issues such as motivations for beginning businesses, barriers and challenges of building businesses, the role of support networks, measurements of success, and management and leadership styles. The key findings discussed include: dissatisfaction with stifling corporate environments as a primary motivator for business ownership; the importance of networks that supported the growth of their ventures; the positive management style they developed after enduring years of poor managers; and the relationship orientation of their business, frequently concerning themselves with the welfare of their employees. 


National Foundation of Women Business Owners

Women of All Races Share Entrepreneurial Spirit

(Press Release, April 28, 1998. Online, http://www.nawbo.org)

This article discusses how women of all races are increasingly becoming involved in business ownership. NFWBO surveyed women from several races (Asian, Black, Caucasian, Hispanic and Native American) and found similarities among their motivations for business start-up and the challenges they experienced. Motivations for pursuing entrepreneurship were similar among all women, including improving condotions for themselves and their families, achieving independence and hoping for greater flexibility as the most common themes. Obtaining access to capital and financing were discussed as the greatest obstacle facing women business owners.