Women's experiences of entrepreneurship in the context of East London

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: School of Business and Management


My research project will investigate the factors that determine women's ability to become entrepreneurs and maintain entrepreneurial activity in a sustainable and meaningful way in East London.
Using a broadly interpretivist approach, my research will collect and analyse new empirical evidence drawn from in-depth interviews to demonstrate how the privileges and disadvantages related to intersecting social positions of gender, race and ethnicity, class and motherhood are experienced by female entrepreneurs in East London. It will use this evidence to explore the idea, often discussed in the context of developing economics, that entrepreneurship can lift women out of poverty.
It will also link women entrepreneurs' experiences and the creation of entrepreneurial identities to the space they inhabit and work in. A further premise to be explored is that when female entrepreneurship is located close to the home, or within the home it can act as a powerful agent of social and urban change.
Despite considerable variations between countries, research concurs that female entrepreneurship is growing, desirable and should be encouraged.
Focusing on female entrepreneurship has increasingly helped policy makers and aid organizations identify an effective way of lifting people out of poverty in developing countries, and increased the participation of women in the workforce in developed economies.
It is a view that resonates with policymakers in the UK. Female enterprise has been a distinct focus of recent successive administrations, demonstrated by the formation of the National Association for the Promotion of Women's Enterprise (2002), the publication of the Strategic Framework for Women's Enterprise (2003), the Women's Business Council (2012) and the Burt report, Inclusive Support for Women in Enterprise (2015).
However, there is very low awareness of government-supported initiatives - just 0.06% of female entrepreneurs had used the Business is Great website - the UK government's main platform for disseminating key business advice and support (FSB, 2016).
It would seem that policy makers are hampered by a deep lack of understanding regarding the diversity of female entrepreneurship and the expertise deficit in the policy domain undercuts the capacity to devise ways to support women entrepreneurs.
Why East London?
East London is one of the most diverse area in Europe in terms of ethnicity, race and class. Traditionally a gateway to the UK for immigrant populations, East London is now home to large communities originally from, or with roots in, Caribbean, Asian, African and European countries.
There is evidence that entrepreneurial activity is growing in the region. Three east London boroughs are ranked in the top 20 in the country in terms of number of start-ups per head (Centre for Entrepreneurs 2016). Yet, there is also higher child poverty and fewer working mothers than elsewhere in the country (End Child Poverty Campaign 2016), suggesting not all women are accessing entrepreneurial opportunities equally.

I propose an interpretivist methodology based on the analysis of semi-structured, qualitative interviews that explore in depth the lived experiences of women entrepreneurs in East London.
The interviews will be with female entrepreneurs active in a wide range of business sectors at different stages of the entrepreneurial cycle, eg, planning, start-up, and mature businesses. Questions of motivation, financial resources and barriers will be explored and the interviews will be structured to help interviewees reflect on their own identities and experiences in order to capture as rich as possible a picture of what it is to be a woman entrepreneur in East London.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1917970 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 31/12/2021 Sarah Louise Marks