Chapter

Invisible Entrepreneurs? Women and Business in Twentieth Century Britain

Katrina Honeyman

in Business in Britain in the Twentieth Century

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199226009
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191710315 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199226009.003.0006
Invisible Entrepreneurs? Women and Business in Twentieth Century Britain

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It is reasonable to assume that entrepreneurial talent is distributed evenly through the population, yet the world of business is presented as one dominated by men. Business historians have perpetuated the myth that women were marginal to commercial activity despite growing evidence of the female contribution to family businesses and to innovative practice. For centuries women have been instrumental as partners in or originators of business, yet the nature and impact of their commercial acumen has been seriously under-reported. This chapter is concerned with identifying and exploring three dimensions of women's interaction with 20th-century business, namely: their specific contribution to business activity; the barriers to such activity; and the way in which business historians have understood or interpreted women's commercial engagement. It uses data on self employment as an indicator of entrepreneurship and argues that through their business activity women made a significant contribution to the expansion of the commercial sector in Britain during the second half of the 20th century. The location of the majority of women's businesses in the service sector paralleled their experience of employment, but by the onset of the new millennium women were seizing the opportunities presented by the new economy. It is now time for business historians to move outside their narrow focus of analysis and to consider the diversity of businesses and business people.

Keywords: women; gender; business; entrepreneurship; services; self-employment

Chapter.  8358 words. 

Subjects: Business History

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