Not Easily Broken: A Poem From My Research in Celebration of  International Women’s Day 2020

Not Easily Broken: A Poem From My Research in Celebration of  International Women’s Day 2020

As we celebrate the 2020 International Women’s Day on 8 March 2020, I am pleased to share a timeline of my research on women (entrepreneurship) over the past decade.

Before I delve into the shortlist of papers, I crave your indulgence to state the obvious lest we forget. As far as women are concerned, we all do have them! Be it mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, nieces, female colleagues, acquaintances and/ or networks.

With that point established, it is now time to move on to my shortlist. Starting with my inaugural article Breaking the glass ceiling in Nigeria: A review of women’s entrepreneurship, which published in 2009 and currently cited 45 times on GoogleScholar, I explored the relevance of the age-long conundrum known as the glass ceiling as ever more questionable for a number of compelling reasons. On the one hand, its root in the invisible barriers (push factors) facing women’s career progression prospects in the corporate world is ever-changing at a rapid pace across every region of the globe. Research, on the other hand, shows some evidence of a major dramatic increase in women-owned businesses as being attributable to women’s desire to gain more flexibility in their work arrangements (pull factors). By providing a catalogue of pull factors in women entrepreneurship in the African context (especially Nigerian), I surmised that:

The glass ceiling problem may have well been shattered in numerous spheres, and thus become less tenable as a gender-specific reality in the twenty-first century.

The second article Micro-credit for microenterprises?, which published in 2010 and currently cited 38 times on GoogleScholar, is a co-authored paper that examined those factors that constrain women petty traders’ access to microcredit, and the innovative measures they have initiated in order to counter these constraints. Based on in?depth interviews with 20 women micro?entrepreneurs and/ or petty traders in the market town of Awka in Eastern Nigeria, the study identified three main constraints – internal, socio?cultural and policy induced – as the key moderating influences on their ability to access the arguably widely available micro?credit. 

Moving away, albeit only slightly, from the ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘credit’ challenges facing entrepreneurial women, the third article Setting an agenda for women entrepreneurship in Nigeria, which published in 2011, highlights how the discourse on women, especially in a developing world context, seems to have moved from the margins of international obscurity to the mainstream. Adopting a narrative analysis of a single book on women written by “a woman of status” – i.e. Dr (Mrs) Faseke, a graduate of the University of Ibadan and former Head of the Department of History at the Lagos State University (Nigeria), the study highlights:

The “silent voices” of African women [in an unsung] publication that was encountered purely by chance – Modupe Faseke’s  The Nigerian Woman published by Agape Publications (Ibadan, Nigeria) in 2001.

An Emirati Woman

With three of the aforementioned articles having been based on the Nigerian context, the fourth study brings a breath of fresh air, as the focus is on the Middle East context. The article is a rather interesting one for two main reasons. First with was co-authored by a woman. Second, the acquaintance was coincidental as we struck a mutual relationship having been both conferred Emerald Literati Awards at an event in Dubai in 2010. 

Entitled Broken silence: a commentary on women’s entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates, the study took quite a while to eventual publish in 2012, in an equally well sought out journal, which made the longwinded process worthwhile. Currently cited 56 times on GoogleScholar, the study draws upon the scant literature on women’s entrepreneurship in the Arab world context – notably the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Some of the highlights from that study include observations of:

Growing numbers of women graduates and businesses are observed, which suggests that the historical silence among this group is gradually being broken and that changes in government policies and the socio-cultural environment are the key drivers behind this evolution.

The fifth article is actually a book chapter entitled Women entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africapublished in 2015, which highlights the challenges of women business owners in Sub-Saharan African using in- depth interviews from four different countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa. The primary aim of the study was to pinpoint shared challenges of these women entrepreneurs and/ or business owners drawing upon their narratives and attributions. Four critical dimensions on these similarities and/ or differences in experiences were:

The owner’s background (nationality, ethnicity, education, family etc.); prior motivations (why they chose to start- up); challenges (including start- up capital, government regulations, personal achievements), and plans for the future.

The sixth article, which comes with its own uniqueness as a full case study entitled Heaven Kigali-Knocking on Heaven’s Door, was published in a leading textbook, Strategic Marketing: Creating Competitive Advantage published in 2015. The case study narrates the story of Heaven Restaurant & Bar in Kigali, the capital city of one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, Rwanda. Owned and managed by an American woman doing business in a foreign Francophone African country, the study develops narratives of a woman who sought to overcome the liability of foreignness – not to mention gender. The case was triggered by a CNN documentary focusing on developments in Rwanda – dubbed Africa’s Singapore. Here’s a sneak peek:

Given Rwanda’s tourism plan in its Vision 2020 commitment to improving hospitality and supporting tourism, the story of Heaven, provides an ideal contribution to the realities of doing business abroad and the attendant liability-of-foreignness [associated with it].

Overall, the case highlights how a resilient woman, despite the observed portmanteau of challenges, overcame the liability of foreignness and gender disadvantage. 

Last, but not least, is my interrogation of gender stereotypes in the workplace, which is more international in focus, but drawing rich insights from the UK environment and celebrity chefs.  This 2013 article Sex in the kitchen: changing gender roles in a female-dominated occupation, speaks to the conversation on misplaced gender stereotypes at work and the changing dynamics in this space. It also highlights subtle elements of occupational segregation, safety in the workplace, and rather interestingly, identity and empathy in chef life. These issues, in addition to several others, have prompted both scholarly and policy intervention across unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral levels.

That study was only recently cited in a World Health Organisation report Delivered by Women, Led by Men: A Gender and Equity Analysis of the Global Health and Social Workforce Human Resources for Health Observer the delight of the publishers as reported in WHO recognises research in Inderscience journal. Here are a few excerpts:

He offers a gender entrepreneurship slant on the evolving landscape of the “culinary underbelly”. The well-known occupations stereotypically associated with women more than men social work, nursing, and elementary education.

The research cited brings to the boil the notion of “chef life” and gender segregation in the world of the commercial kitchen. Traditionally it seems cooking has been the preserve of women, in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa. The modern culture of celebrity chefs and the prestige associated with glamorous restaurants has, however, enticed men to don the white apron more than ever before. It is as if men have adopted and adapted to this one last bastion of female career choice.

Overall, women are making major strides globally, are “not easily broken,” and worth acknowledging and celebrating. If not for the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis, irrespective of the cultural contexts, be it Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates, or the United Kingdom, and how they cope with these challenges, one thing remains a given, we all do have them!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Share this post

Post Comment