University of Vienna, Austria
Business start-ups and entrepreneurship are of great importance for economic prosperity. Despite the increasing number of women entrepreneurs, they have received little attention in scientific work so far. Women's entrepreneurship research is still only at the brink of adolescence – existing studies focus on gender differences in entrepreneurial behaviour (e.g. motives for starting a business, leadership styles, the readiness to assume risks, etc.) as well as on the multiple responsibilities of women managing business, family and household chores alike. However, this perspective, which is focused on aspects of deprivation, contributes to a maintenance of the dichotomy between male- and female-run companies and a dualistic thinking about gender. It obstructs both the view of successful female business owners and of the subjective accounts of women about how they establish and experience themselves as entrepreneurs. In women's entrepreneurship research there have been calls to address more profoundly the remarkable heterogeneity and diversity of female entrepreneurship and to pay greater attention to the various contexts in which women entrepreneurs are embedded. Against this background, this paper presents and discusses the study design of qualitative biographical research project at the University of Vienna, which aims at taking account of the specific ways in which women entrepreneurs construct their biographies in a gender-sensitive manner and shedding light on the biographical contexts in which narrations about business start-ups are embedded. It is argued that the ‘individual stories’ generated by the biographical approach transcend the binary ‘male-female’ classification and contribute to elaborate on a more differentiated picture of business start-ups by women.