| 04.12.2023

Can female entrepreneurship contribute to sustainability and social change?

Man Yang och Eva-Lena Lundgren-Henriksson på Vetenskapskarnevalen 2023
On a global scale, women are more alerted to social problems and sustainable activities than men. Hanken researchers Man Yang and Eva-Lena Lundgren-Henriksson have interviewed 20 female entrepreneurs in the Ostrobothnia region and the Åland islands to find out how and why they chose to be sustainable entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneurs were involved in businesses like sustainable farming, jewellery design, and fabrics, all using ecological products and recycled materials in their productions.

“Big life changes, like becoming a mother, often change your views on sustainability. You might become more aware of the chemicals in our everyday life and want to protect your child from bad products. That may then have a spillover effect to your worklife”, says Man Yang.

Some of the respondents always knew they wanted to be an entrepreneur and that the business should have a connection to sustainability. Others may have had an interest in e.g. recycling but the idea of becoming a sustainable entrepreneur had grown slowly over time.

“These people describe themselves as underdogs, that challenges in the beginning of their entrepreneurial path have inspired them to continue and not give up”, states Eva-Lena Lundgren-Henriksson.

So what are the challenges facing female sustainable entrepreneurs? Yang and Lundgren-Henriksson claim that the challenges are not connected to the sustainability aspect but to being a female entrepreneur.

Female entrepreneurship is still subject to prejudice and inequities. According to Man Yang female entrepreneurs don’t get as much venture capital as men even though if they succeed their profitability rate is higher than for male entrepreneurs.

”The stereotype is that an entrepreneur is a man. Even if the women asserted that they had not been treated differently because of their gender, they could still refer to someone asking for the manager while talking to them. The prejudice is there even if we are unaware of it”, Lundgren-Henriksson underlines.

To rectify this, society could help support female entrepreneurship by creating platforms and environments for networking and mutual support. Women should also be more encouraged to become entrepreneurs already in school, and also within the family.

Man Yang and Eva-Lena Lundgren-Henriksson shared their insights during the Vaasa Arts and Science Carnival on 18 November 2023, based on their ongoing research ‘becoming sustainable entrepreneurs’.

At Hanken you can study Sustainable entrepreneurship, which includes the open online course Entrepreneurship for sustainability and wellbeing in an era of digitalisation.

Man Yang’s research adopts an entrepreneurship approach to examining research topics, such as sustainability, internationalisation, and ecosystem strategy.

Eva-Lena Lundgren-Henriksson's research focuses on identities and the existential questioning that can arise when our views of ourselves are challenged due to changes in life and in society.

Other participants from Hanken during the carnival:

Maria Ehrnström-Fuentes: "Kan människa och natur samarbeta för att återställa den ekologiska balansen"
Carlos Diaz Ruiz: " How do conspiracy theories convince? A case study of the Flat Earth conspiracy" Opens in new window
Frida Nyqvist: "Är vi skurkar eller överlevare? Berättelser från restaurangbranschen under Covid-19"

Text and photo: Marlene Günsberg