Sumaya Hashim (2021)

Women Entrepreneurship: Masculinity, Legitimacy and Well-being

The overarching research purpose of this dissertation is to understand how women entrepreneurs establish and grow their businesses in a patriarchal society. This research question is addressed through the compilation of four research papers. The first research paper is a literature review that synthesizes current literature on women entrepreneurs in the Gulf States and identifies possible research avenues.

The remaining three papers are empirical studies that use Bahrain, one of the Gulf States, as an empirical setting. The first empirical study challenges the assumption of entrepreneurship as a gendered phenomenon and sets out to understand entrepreneurship as a new phenomenon in a context that is male dominated. It draws on masculinity theory to understand the interplay between women entrepreneurs and the different forms of masculinity enacted by men. The second empirical study challenges the persistent traditional representation of the male entrepreneur as the founder and leader of a family business by using legitimacy-as-perception as a theoretical lens to investigate how female-led family ventures gain legitimacy from family and non-family members. The third empirical study challenges the stereotypical view of women entrepreneurs in developing countries by drawing on eudaimonic well-being literature to understand why and how some women start or grow a business after initiating a divorce, while others do not.

The dissertation makes several contributions to (women) entrepreneurship and to the different theories that it adopts in various ways. First, the dissertation extends women entrepreneurship literature by showing how women entrepreneurs influence their social context to attain royal awards, deal with different forms of masculinity enacted by men, and rebuild their eudaimonic well-being through their entrepreneurial activities. Second, the dissertation introduces the notion of “Asabiyyah” to explain the unique social makeup that informs the behavior of women entrepreneurs. Third, the dissertation contributes to the theoretical lenses that it adopts, for instance to the legitimacy-as-perception lens by showing the reciprocal nature of legitimacy. It broadens the masculinity theory by bringing attention to “own-business” as an institution where the private and the public spheres overlap and organize gender relations. This dissertation also contributes to the growing literature on eudaimonic well-being by offering an understanding of the interplay between entrepreneurship, engagement in meaningful activities, and eudaimonic well-being, an area that has largely remained a black box. Last but not least the dissertation offers several practical implications to further improve and foster entrepreneurship for women in Bahrain.