Understanding the process by which female entrepreneurs create INVs

Gitte Ohrt Rosenbaum, Martin Hannibal

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A burgeoning empirical phenomenon is that of international new ventures (INVs), which identify and exploit opportunities on foreign markets relatively soon after inception (Oviatt & McDougall, 1994). Given that entering international markets constitutes a different set of opportunities and risks than remaining in one´s domestic market (e.g. in terms of risk propensity, ability to acquire foreign market knowledge, growth ambitions, network connections and such like), answers to the questions of “Who am I?, What do I know? Whom do I know?” in the founding stage for INVs are likely to be very different than for purely domestic new ventures. However, despite this apparent logic, INV scholars have only recently begun to explore how the founding characteristics and processes of INVs may vary from those of purely domestic ventures (e.g. Bell et al., 2003; Coviello, 2006; Coviello & Cox, 2006; Di Gregorio et al., 2008). Unfortunately, while the above studies have contributed to our understanding, they are all gender-neutral i.e. they fail to consider the process of INV creation from a female entrepreneurial perspective. This is problematic given the rapidly rising numbers of women-owned ventures around the world and their increasing contribution to economic growth and employment (Baughn et al., 2006). As it is generally acknowledged that female entrepreneurs exhibit many differences from their male counterparts (Anna et al., 2000; Buttner & Moore, 1997), this omission in the INV literature prevents us from developing a better understanding of how female INV founders identify opportunities on foreign markets given the well-documented need to maintain a work-life balance etc. As a consequence, it is imperative that we generate insights into how female business owners in their own right think and behave in such crucial entrepreneurial processes as new venture creation. In this regard, and only recently, female entrepreneurship scholars have begun to recognize that there may be differences between male and female nascent entrepreneurs in terms of, for example, psychological attributes, education and experience, available support and resources, positions in social networks, and so forth (which Dew et al. (2008) categorize in terms of “Who am I?, What do I know? Whom do I know?”), which mean that the process of INV creation may follow very different gender-specific paths (Kariv et al., 2013). This paper intends to contribute to filling the gap in the INV literature and thus to an improved understanding of the processes behind the rapidly growing numbers of female-owned INVs. Following Kariv (2013), one crucial aspect of the (international) new venture process is that of creating and exploiting opportunities on (foreign) markets. As such, the specific focus of this paper will be on how answers to the series of “Who am I?, What do I know? Whom do I know?” questions in the founding stage helped the focal female entrepreneurs to recognize and create opportunities in foreign markets. In doing and in relation to key entrepreneurship literature (Alvarez & Barney, 2007) we will explore to which extent female international entrepreneurs tend to discover or create opportunities. In focusing on this we will analyze the locus of changes that generate such market opportunities (e.g. the discovery of a new geographical market), what are the sources of such opportunities (e.g. changes in technology). We will delve into who the initiators of change are (family members, universities etc.) (Eckhardt & Shane, 2003)?, and is the process of female-owned INV creation characterized more by effectuation than causation, or vice-versa (Sarasvathy, 2005)? The present paper provides a comparative case study of the founding processes of nine Danish female-owned ventures (in the fashion design industry in Denmark). All have entered foreign markets within the first year of establishment. The retrospective case study draws on data from in-depth interviews and survey questionnaires with the female INV founders in two waves of data collection in the period 2014-2015. Despite that all nine firms had rapidly internationalized, our findings clearly show a number of both similarities and differences in the process of female-owned INV creation. Regarding the former, our findings suggest that international opportunities were typically created effectually rather than as an outcome of any planned process of causation. The source of opportunities was primarily developments in technology, and that the initiators of change were often close family members. As regards the latter, the effectual process of opportunity creation was very different across the case firms with some being more the result of collaboration with social network partners, whereas others appeared to be totally random or coincidental. The paper discusses the above findings in the context of the female entrepreneurship literature and concludes with both suggestions for future research and recommendations for practitioners seeking to promote the establishment of female-owned INVs.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event21st McGill International Entreprenuership Conference: PhD Colloquium: PhD Workshop - National University of Ireland, Galway., Galway, Ireland
Duration: 30. Aug 201730. Aug 2017
Conference number: 21


Workshop21st McGill International Entreprenuership Conference: PhD Colloquium
LocationNational University of Ireland, Galway.
Internet address


  • female Entrepreneurship, INV Creation


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