Office of Public Affairs
March 29, 2001
CONTACT: Kimberly Reed, 312-3409
PROFESSOR'S NEW BOOK EXAMINES
RISE OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS
OSWEGO -- Women don't start their own businesses because they feel squeezed out of other economic roles. They start them because they seriously want to and because -- now more than ever -- they can, says Dr. Kimberly Reed, assistant professor of sociology at SUNY Oswego.
Reed's "Managing Our Margins: Women Entrepreneurs in the Suburbs" became the third book in the Routledge Studies in Entrepreneurship when it was published earlier this month.
The book started as her doctoral dissertation at the City University of New York. She lived in the New Jersey suburbs and found in women small business owners there "a group at the center of contemporary social change."
Full-time work has become a normal expectation for middle class women, and it has provided them with the necessary business experience -- as well as the desire -- to become their own bosses, Reed maintains.
Much of her study is based on her participation in meetings of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners and her interviews with women who established their own businesses.
"There are very few field research studies of small business owners, men or women. My study fills a need and niche in the literature," she says.
Reed says she believes many young women dream of organizing her own business. "Today people accept that aspiration," she says. "It's culturally possible for women to appear in business circles that once would have excluded them."
In her opening chapter, she notes that as late as the 1990s, women could not hold full membership in some of the country's most influential associations of small business owners and other executives, like the Rotary Club. Women's own business associations blossomed in the 1970s and '80s.
Even as the accepted social role of women has expanded to encompass entrepreneur, Reed says, obstacles remain.
"My book talks about the cultural dilemmas and resistance that women business owners encounter," she says, citing assumptions that women are playing at business, that they will drop their business role when the opportunity for the more traditional role of wife or mother arrives, that they don't need the money and can't negotiate effectively.
Women's associations like the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners provide two kinds of support to women entrepreneurs, Reed says. First, the local chapter can introduce them to community norms, folkways and networks. "Most culture is hidden from public view," she explains. "It has to be communicated by people."
Second, members can advise each other on questions of billing, taxes, employee relations and family stress. Business owners can't confide in their employees or their clients. "The entrepreneur is a lonely person," she says, and the association provides a source of social support.
Still, she adds, "You don't have to join a women's association to succeed. It's not a necessary condition for success." Her study found that women and men network in the same ways. "The real challenge is to find points of access, to find more clients, to find a way to introduce yourself to sustain your business," she says.
Reed's 192-page hardcover book published by Routledge is priced at $60.
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