Mapping the barriers to socio-economic freedom in internationalisation of women-owned SMEs: Evidence from a developing country

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Journal of International Management


Internationalisation of women-owned firms is considered a new strategy for unlocking the full economic potential of a country. However, there has been a desultory work on gender and trade, particularly the epistemological and methodological approaches to explore this phenomenon, which has received inadequate attention. Drawing on the institution-based- theory and incorporating the feminist perspective, this study identifies barriers to socio-economic freedom as a multidimensional concept that influences the internationalisation of women entrepreneurship. Using mixed methods and based on findings from focus group discussion (study-1), in-depth interviews (study-2) and a survey (study-3) of SME women entrepreneurs, the study develops and validates a gender-specific model of barriers to socio-economic freedom that women entrepreneurs face in the internationalisation of their firms. The findings confirm that the additional barriers that women entrepreneurs face emerge from three dimensions (i.e. socio-interactional patterns, socio-psychological attachment and socio-cultural embeddedness) that influence the internationalisation of women-owned SMEs through the lack of foreign market knowledge and information and lack of international business experience. This study extends internationalisation and women entrepreneurship research by identifying novel dimensions of the barriers to socio-economic freedom landscape. Implications of our findings for theory, methods and practice with limitations and future research directions are discussed critically.

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