Invisible Women: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Family Firms in France during Early Industrialization
NBER Working Paper No. 20854
Family firms are typically associated with negative characteristics, including lower tendencies towards innovation, a higher risk of failure, and inefficiencies deriving from nepotism among family members, criticisms which are even greater when the company is handed over to a female relative. Women in business have generally been presented as petty traders and passive investors, whose entrepreneurial activities were scarce because of such restrictions as limited human capital, culture, market imperfections, and institutional biases. The French economy has similarly been faulted for the prevalence of family firms during the nineteenth century, and for disincentives for the integration of women in the business sector. These issues are explored using an extensive sample of women who obtained patents and prizes at industrial exhibitions during early industrialization. The empirical evidence indicates that middle-class women in France were extensively engaged in entrepreneurship and innovation, and that their commercial efforts were enhanced by association with family firms. Their formerly invisible achievements suggest a more productive role for family-based enterprises, as a means of incorporating relatively disadvantaged groups into the market economy as managers and entrepreneurs.
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20854
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