Purpose – This paper aims to identify and ranks constraints faced by women entrepreneurs in developing countries. It offers a framework to differentiate between the constraints faced by male and female entrepreneurs.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper engages in an exhaustive literature review and uses a qualitative methodology to categorize and rank entrepreneurial constraints.
Findings – Constraints faced by women entrepreneurs in developing countries arise from gender discrimination, work-family conflict, difficulty in raising capital, lack of infrastructure, unstable business, economic and political (BEP) environments, lack of training and education and personality differences. The study suggests that in addition to financial constraints, unstable BEP environments need to be addressed as top priorities.
Originality/value – This study offers a broad overview and ranking of the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs in developing countries. It brings together literature on women entrepreneurship from multiple countries and creates a condensed body of knowledge. This paper bridges the gap between entrepreneurship theory and practice and gives direction to policy makers in creating a conducive environment for the success of women entrepreneurs.
Promoting women entrepreneurship contributes to socio-economic development of countries (Jamali, 2009; Verheul et al., 2006). The rate of increase of women entrepreneurship, especially in developing countries, has created a positive impact on overall household welfare and consumption (Minniti and Naudé, 2010). Women’s unique role in the household creates a network effect resulting in increased entrepreneurial activities (Datta and Gailey, 2012; Minniti, 2010). Entrepreneurship offers economic security to women (Itani et al., 2011), provides them a platform for self-expression and fulfilment (Eddleston and Powell, 2008) and empowers them as individuals (Jamali, 2009).
There exist variations between the number of men and women entrepreneurs, and the rate of women entrepreneurship varies across countries due to heterogeneity in their structural characteristics (Baughn et al., 2006). While the absolute number of women entrepreneurs has increased worldwide, their number is considerably less than that of their male counterparts (De Bruin et al., 2006; Verheul et al., 2006). Women entrepreneurship is especially challenging in developing countries because such women lack opportunities, are resource-constrained and face unique challenges (Panda and Dash, 2014, 2016; Verheul et al., 2006). Balancing work and family life, handling patriarchal societies and gender discrimination are just some of the unique challenges facing women.