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New research | Women entrepreneurs in family businesses in the Gulf break barriers

A new study explores how women in Bahrain's family businesses overcome barriers and use their agency to drive success. Published in the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, this research highlights the unique challenges and enablers that support women entrepreneurs in the Gulf States.

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Women entrepreneurs in the Gulf States: Overcoming barriers in family businesses

Family businesses are a cornerstone of the Gulf States' economy, representing a significant portion of the private sector and employing a large workforce. In this context, the study focuses on the role of women entrepreneurs in family businesses in Bahrain. Historically, these family businesses were male-dominated, but recent shifts have seen more women taking on leadership roles.

Empowering women through family businesses

The research aimed to understand how women entrepreneurs in Bahrain's family businesses navigate their roles and overcome barriers. Drawing on Ibn Khaldun’s indigenous theory, the study explores the unique institutional settings of the Gulf States and how women entrepreneurs use their agency to influence both family and business spheres.

“One key challenge the women entrepreneurs faced was navigating the traditional family business dynamics where women were not initially seen as potential leaders. The support from family played a crucial role in overcoming these barriers,” Mattias Nordqvist noted.

Key research findings

  • Women in family businesses often start their entrepreneurial journeys independently before joining the family business.

  • Explicit support from family and relatives is crucial for women to assume leadership roles within the family business.

  • Women entrepreneurs become mediators between the family business and broader societal institutions, leveraging their positions to influence policies and business practices.

The future of women entrepreneurs in Gulf family businesses

This study sheds light on the evolving roles of women in family businesses in the Gulf States, highlighting the importance of support from family, relatives and broader societal institutions. Future research is needed to explore how these dynamics continue to evolve and the long-term impact of women's entrepreneurship on family business success.

“By assuming leadership roles in their businesses, women not only contribute to the business but also influence broader societal norms and policies, paving the way for future generations of women entrepreneurs.” – Mattias Nordqvist

Meet the researchers

  • Sumaya Hashim: Centre for Family Entrepreneurship and Ownership (CeFEO), Jönköping International Business School, Jönköping University

  • Maura McAdam: DCU Business School, Dublin City University

  • Mattias Nordqvist: House of Innovation, Stockholm School of Economics

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