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Beyond baby food: film narrative as a limiting factor for female entrepreneurship advancement

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 19:02 authored by Bronwyn EagerBronwyn Eager, Birdthistle, N, Grant, S, Flynn, A

Principal Topic: This study contributes to the entrepreneurship and gender literatures through illuminating the gendered nature of narrative arcs in films about female entrepreneurs and discusses implications for career trajectories.

Theory and Conceptual Framework: Investigation of visual discourse is increasingly important for shaping entrepreneurship futures in light of society’s predilection for screen-based consumption over traditional print media, and hence prompts the focus of the current study. The study focuses on the importance of role models for female entrepreneurs and provides readers with evidence of why females are more likely to see themselves in an enterprising role if they self-ascribe male characteristics due to the paucity of female characters in traditionally masculine industries.

Literature Background: When considered through the lens of Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1989), there is much suggestion in the entrepreneurship and gender literatures to provide an evidence-based platform for proposing that female entrepreneurship ‘underperformance’ (see: Kepler & Shane, 2007; Klapper & Parker, 2011; Poggesi, Mari, & De Vita, 2016) may be somewhat symptomatic of the media-messaging, which informs the environment in which female entrepreneurs must work. For example, Eikhof, Summers and Carter’s (2013) analysis of female entrepreneurship messaging in a women’s magazine finds that media messaging influences female perceptions of realistic, appropriate and attainable entrepreneurship pathways. The authors report that such messages have the potential to entrench existing gender inequalities in the entrepreneurship sector. Given that gender portrayals on screen contribute to young girls’ self-belief and their understanding of women’s role in society (Behm-Morawitz & Mastro, 2008; Myers, 2013), they may hence influence entrepreneurship aspirations and career trajectories for women, as well as how men perceive female entrepreneurship potential.

Methodology/Approach: English language feature-length films featuring female entrepreneur protagonists (inclusive of small business owners) were identified based on a search of the and iTunes databases, through obtaining referrals, and reading popular-media articles about females in film. The scope of filmography was limited to post-1980, coinciding with the rise of female entrepreneurship literature in the scholarly domain. Films featuring female entrepreneurs in solely supporting roles were excluded from the analysis. Eleven films were identified, and a thematic analysis was conducted.

Findings/Expected Findings:

The key findings illustrate the prevailing gender stereotype of females being motivated by a desire to attend to the needs of others. Furthermore, on-screen depiction of female entrepreneurship activity is somewhat congruent with scholarly research which shows that women to be more likely than men to be drawn to entrepreneurship through necessity, and establish and/or run ventures that are ‘small scale’ or ‘no scale’. Findings suggest that there is much ground to make up to bring balance to the long-held position of males as normative entrepreneurship actors. Findings contribute to the emerging body of knowledge of female entrepreneurship media narratives by providing insights into the experiences of female entrepreneurship as portrayed on screen and discusses the implications for the trajectory of female engagement in entrepreneurship careers.

Contributions and Implications: This study is novel in its examination of entrepreneurship film narrative as a window to gendered discourse, and its focus on media-messaging as a potentially limiting factor in female entrepreneurship career and venture growth.


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Diana International Research Conference 2019

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Expanding knowledge in the mathematical sciences

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