Women entrepreneurs in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMES): analysis of practice in Saudi Arabia

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Sabri, Maram Saeed (2021) Women entrepreneurs in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMES): analysis of practice in Saudi Arabia. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Entrepreneurship is a dynamic process that reflects the interplay of local context (environment and opportunity), as well as individual motivation and capabilities. It is important to economic growth, as well as social inclusion and job creation. The benefits of entrepreneurship are also clear as an engine of growth, well-being and prosperity. This study is a multi-level exploration of entrepreneurial participation by Saudi women in Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs). The aim is to understand the influence of the macro and meso environments and identify gender- and sector-specific determinants of entrepreneurial participation and success for female entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. The dual focus on gender- and sector-based participation is important as participation rates by women in Saudi Arabia, consistent with the wider Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, are among the lowest globally. A critical examination of factors that influence participation is timely also, as Vision 2030, the Saudi government’s blueprint for economic reform, requires economic diversification and greater female participation in business activity. Key study findings include a general profile for both male and female entrepreneurs in the Saudi economy. Notably, women appear more prominent in the ideation stage of business but appear also to operate mostly as single owner/operators in micro-enterprises in low value-added sectors of education and services. Other insights from this study include attitude, which was seen to be an equally predominant feature for both genders through all business stages, and five groups of critical success factors for entrepreneurs were identified and highlighted. These five groups help explain 73 per cent of the accumulated variance, with managerial knowledge accounting for almost half the total variance, and this group of multiple sub-skills is seen as being most important in the latter stages of the entrepreneurial process. A qualitative exploration of female entrepreneurs’ experiences in a particular sector, Finance, identified enabling and constraining factors that are described in terms of structural, relational and attitudinal attributes. With the exception of ‘work texture’, an attribute specific to the Finance sector, the qualitative data suggests enabling and constraining forces are common across all aspects of the economy. These forces are influential in terms of opportunity recognition and tend to vary in impact across the business stages. Evidently, women face considerable structural obstacles in terms of prevailing social/cultural norms and municipal policy. The results reinforce the fact that the types of opportunities taken up and the challenges women face in Saudi Arabia are clearly restricting their entrepreneurial participation. The summative research objective (RO5), identifies a gender-aware, entrepreneurial practice framework for entrepreneurs that is arguably suitable also for other emerging economies. The framework identifies two bundles of activity that describe external enabling and constraining factors, and entrepreneurial uptake-specific factors, respectively. Importantly, precursor conditions in the macro-meso levels are highlighted for influencing opportunity recognition and arguably the subsequent success of entrepreneurial uptake. In terms of the GEM framework conditions (FC), the findings suggest that opportunity recognition and the ‘thrive’ stage of business (10+ years) are both strongly associated with components that map well to GEM FC 3, innovation and entrepreneurship. The role of soft skills development and mindset are thus highlighted. These findings identify multi-level considerations for entrepreneurs, institutions and policy-makers wanting to support increased participation by women in entrepreneurial activity and foster economic growth.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/42176
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1503 Business and Management
Historical > FOR Classification > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Current > Division/Research > VU School of Business
Keywords entrepreneurship; MSMEs; women; critical success factors; participation; attitudes
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