Female Entrepreneurship – The Time is Now


Female Entrepreneurship Book

I am a Senior Lecturer in Management at Queen’s Management School with an interest in how gender shapes and informs women’s experiences of entrepreneurial activity.

At Queen’s Management School, our teaching philosophy is research-led and practice-driven teaching. Therefore, students are taught by staff who bring their latest research findings into the lecture theatre. I am the module coordinator of the final year module Entrepreneurship – which is an optional module taken by Business Management, Business Economics, Accountancy and International Business with Modern Language students. One of the tools I use in my module is music –and my module has its very own entrepreneurship playlist! So I thought I would use song titles in this blog to illustrate the changing role and status of female entrepreneurship in the academic literature and in today’s business context.

What it feels like for a girl – Madonna

As a research area, female entrepreneurship is still relativity young. Indeed, the first academic paper which represented the start of a stream of research detailing women’s experiences of business ownership was only published in 1976 in the Journal of Contemporary Business and was called “Entrepreneurship: A new female frontier” by Eleanor Schwartz. Prior to this entrepreneurship was considered to be a gender neutral concept (Bruni et al., 2004) with the term entrepreneur, which originates from the French word entreprendre (to undertake) referring to a generic creature (De Bruin et al., 2006). Since the early 1990s, it is fair to suggest that the literature on female entrepreneurship has grown from a mere trickle to a veritable flood!

It’s a man world – James Brown

Despite female entrepreneurship gaining increasing attention in the 1990s, entrepreneurship has produced its own subject; the entrepreneur and not the entrepreneuse! Indeed, entrepreneurship has traditionally been associated with men and considered as a form of masculinity. Some have even gone so far to claim that entrepreneurship requires high levels of testosterone (Guiso and Rustichini, 2011). Helene Ahl in her seminal piece in 2004, drew our attention to how those characteristics linked to men are seamlessly associated with the entrepreneurial character and concluded that the entrepreneur is ‘consistently described in exactly the same words as those used to describe manhood’ (Ahl 2007: 687).

If I were a boy – Beyoncé

Accordingly, the body of work which emerged at the turn of the twenty first century had the embedded message of ‘think entrepreneur, think male’. This in turn promoted a range of policy interventions which were aimed at helping women imitate the behaviours of men and to adopt “honorary man personas”. In other words – how to ‘fix’ the problem of the female entrepreneur and provide them with the tools and skills to become more like men in order for them to compete in a man’s world!

We Don’t Need another Hero –Tina Turner

However, it is fair to say that the analytical tone of the literature is now shifting and there is recognition that it is no longer appropriate to use the ‘male’ as the benchmark against which female-owned businesses must aspire to. This has been coupled with the emergence of strong female entrepreneurs; we need only think of well-known brands such as He-Shi, Space Nk, Vita Liberata, Jo Malone to name a few. There is no doubt that the female entrepreneur has arrived.  Thus, it is no longer appropriate to promote the role and status of the entrepreneur as a modern day hero and not refer to modern day heroines!

In order to support the emergence of such heroines, two things are necessary, accessibility to role models and self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy which comes from social learning theory is the confidence, not the competence that we have what it takes to be successful.  One way in which I build entrepreneurial self-efficacy amongst my students is through the business plan project, whereby students have to construct a business plan for an innovative high growth product or service. Regardless of whether students have entrepreneurial ambitions or not, this project is an excellent way to enhance an individual’s creativity, negotiating, influencing and selling skills, all deemed important in today’s business domain.

Sisters are doing it for themselves – Eurythmics

Ciara FlanaganI am now going to conclude this blog with referring to one of my students from last year’s class, Ciara Flanagan whose business plan won 3rd place in the Santander UK Student Business Plan Competition and who has since gone on to set up her own business – mybeautyfind.com

Dr Maura McAdam
Senior Lecturer in Management
Queen’s Management School


You can listen to some of the music mentioned above in the spotify playlist below:


Let us know what music gets your creativity flowing by leaving the song title and artist in the comment box below and we’ll add it to the playlist if available.

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‘Only by understanding what happens in crises in the absence of banking regulations and government intervention can we say what legislation we should use.’


Dr Chris Colvin’s decision to pursue a career as an economic historian was a loss to another early interest – the world of journalism.

‘I’d wanted to be a financial writer,’ he says. ‘I became very involved with student journalism at university and even did some work experience in local papers. That taught me how to write and even though I didn’t go into journalism in the end, it is something that has stood me in good stead in my research work.’

Chris grew up in the Netherlands but moved to England when he was 18. An economics degree from Bristol was followed by a Master’s and a PhD from the London School of Economics, then a postdoctoral fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence. Now he is a Lecturer in Economics at Queen’s Management School and a Research Associate at the Queen’s University Centre for Economic History.

‘Queen’s has a first class team of economic historians which has recently become the biggest such group in the UK and Ireland outside the LSE and Oxford, so I’m at the centre of a growing new field.’

Since coming to Queen’s he has been involved in a project investigating the causes of the banking crisis in the Netherlands in the 1920s, until 2008 the most significant financial shock to hit that country both in terms of scale and its impact on the structure of the financial services sector.

The project is a collaboration with Abe de Jong and Philip Fliers, financial economists based at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. The team has now published an article in the influential journal Explorations in Economic History.

Chris explains, ‘Economic history is a very applied field. We start with the historical problem and then we move to the economics to try to solve it. It’s just the same as the way journalists start with something that needs to be explained, then build a picture based on the evidence available. We’re pragmatic and we’re agnostic with respect to theory.’

His research has been discussed in the Dutch media where it has been framed as a case study from history through which policymakers can learn about banking crises in which there were no government guarantees. He is now extending the work to look at the Netherlands’ fledgling central bank in this period.

‘Who will study our research and learn from it? Our big targets are bankers themselves and the policymakers who are currently redesigning the regulation of the financial services sector.

‘It’s about understanding what happens in crises in the absence of banking regulations and expectations of government intervention. Only by studying that can we really say what legislation we should use. It’s very difficult to do that with the current crisis because government was involved so much that you can’t see what caused what.’

In his research, Chris is grateful for the support of John Turner, Professor of Finance and Financial History and Head of the Management School. ‘He’s the reason I wanted to come and work here. He’s definitely my research mentor and I’m exploring ways in which I can co-author with him in the future.

‘This Management School gives you time away from teaching to focus on research and it encourages collaboration. Working on my Dutch project, I spent long periods at Erasmus Rotterdam. Becoming involved with another institution gives you a new perspective. It improves your research which, of course, leads to better publications and is ultimately good for the standing of Queen’s.’

Dr Chris Colvin
Queen’s Management School


This interview first appeared in the Queen’s University “DNA of Innovation: Volume V New Voices, New Impact” publication.  Interview by Keith Baker.  The publication will soon be available at the following link: online DNA of Innovation Series

Meredith’s Musings

A long tradition of thought leadership

Professor John Turner, Head of Queen's Management School standing alongside a portrait of Hugh O'Meredith, a professor of economics at Queen's from 1911-1945.
Professor John Turner, Head of Queen’s Management School, standing alongside a portrait of Hugh O. Meredith, professor of economics at Queen’s from 1911-1945.

Welcome to the first post of the Queen’s Management School blog. The aim of this blog is to share with students and the outside world our insights into how the research of our academics is transforming economies, organisations and people. Our academics are providing thought leadership and are influencing current and future generations of management thinkers.

Queen’s Management School has had a long tradition in thinking which transforms economies, organisations and people. The title of our blog reflects this tradition because it is named after one of our most famous professors – Hugh O. Meredith, who was professor of economics at Queen’s from 1911 to 1945. Meredith was a graduate of King’s College, Cambridge and was a disciple of the economist Alfred Marshall, one of the founding fathers of modern economics. He was Girdler’s Lecturer in Economics at Cambridge University from 1908 until he came to Queen’s in 1911. Famously, Meredith succeeded Arthur Pigou to this Cambridge lectureship and Meredith’s friend and fellow economist, John Maynard Keynes, then succeeded him as the Girdler Lecturer. Meredith was described by Alfred Marshall as one of the best economists he ever mentored and he placed him in the same league as Keynes.

Meredith's bookMeredith was a Renaissance Man in that he had interests in many issues beyond economics – art, literature, music, poetry, philosophy and classics. Indeed, he is credited with greatly enhancing Belfast’s cultural life during his professorship at Queen’s.  Meredith also influenced many leading thinkers and writers in his day. For example, he had a great influence over E. M. Forster, the famous novelist – Forster dedicated his A Room with a View to Meredith.

Meredith in his research was a trailblazer and in the early 1900s was one of the leading lights in the new field of economic history – he is credited with publishing the first textbook on the subject in 1909. However, Meredith wasn’t just an ivory tower academic. He was also involved in the major policy debates of his time, particularly with regards to international trade and tariff reform.

The academics in the twenty-first century Queen’s Management School seek to emulate Meredith in three ways. First, in their research they seek to influence thinkers beyond the discipline of management – our research influences biologists, educationalists, engineers, historians, legal scholars, political scientists, physicians, sociologists, and psychologists. Because management permeates so much of everyday life, the need for the management thinking emanating from the likes of Queen’s Management School is vital for modern society.

Second, the academics in Queen’s Management School are trailblazers just like Meredith. We have research centres in the School which are at the cutting edge of their discipline. For example, the recently established Centre for Not-for-Profit and Public Sector Research examines the important contribution that the public and not-for-profit sectors make to modern economies.  This Centre also focuses on the important role that not-for-profit financial institutions can play in dealing with financial exclusion.

One of the major lessons to emerge from the global financial crisis was that central bankers, investors, governments and economists had ignored Meredith’s discipline of economic history. However, this was not the case at Queen’s Management School thanks to the Queen’s University Centre for Economic History which exists to explain the past so that we can better understand the present. For example, my recent book Banking in Crisis, which examines financial stability over the past two centuries, has influenced the thinking of central bankers as to how they can prevent future financial crises.

Leading Irish telecoms entrepreneur and philanthropist, Denis O'Brien was just one of the Centre's key speakers this year.
Denis O’Brien, leading Irish telecoms entrepreneur and philanthropist, was just one of the Centre’s key speakers this year.

Third, the academics in Queen’s Management School follow Meredith’s lead in speaking to major policy issues. The School’s Centre for Irish Business and Economic Performance engages with businesses and policy makers to improve modern Ireland. The Centre’s work on digital marketing, human resource management, and whistleblowing has helped shape business practices and guide government policy in Ireland and further afield. The Centre has organised public debates on the Northern Irish economy and has sought to share the latest management thinking with business and public sector leaders.

I hope that in the months ahead you enjoy reading the blog posts of my colleagues and that you will see the impact their thought leadership is having on our global society from Belfast to Birmingham to Berlin to Bangalore to Beijing to Boston……