Empowering women entrepreneurs in a male-dominated society: the case of Pakistan

Muzammal Khan*, Jayakumar Chinnasamy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Women's entrepreneurship in Pakistan is an important field of study because the country's patriarchal framework often limits women's economic empowerment (Azam Roomi & Harrison, 2010). Women in Pakistan have few options to participate in the formal economy, resulting in low labour force participation and high female unemployment rates (Hussain et al., 2022a; Roomi et al., 2018). Women's entrepreneurship, particularly in microenterprises, can help to address these issues (Afza & Amir Rashid, 2009). The purpose of this research proposal is to investigate three major areas of women entrepreneurship in Pakistan: a) women running microenterprises in rural regions; b) divorced, separated, and widowed women's motivation to start microenterprises; c) women selling food on online platforms like Foodpanda.

In Pakistan, a key concern is the absence of female economic participation (Azeem et al., 2022; Rosca et al., 2020). Women entrepreneurs confront a number of obstacles, including sociocultural restrictions, a lack of funding, inadequate skills and education, and gender discrimination (Corrêa et al., 2022; Hussain et al., 2022b; Salahuddin et al., 2022). These obstacles impede women's capacity to start and run enterprises, restricting their economic contribution. Microenterprises have emerged as a popular type of entrepreneurship for women in Pakistan, defined as microenterprises with less than ten employees (Suter et al., 2022). Microenterprises provide women flexibility, minimal start-up expenses, and the opportunity to work from home, allowing them to handle domestic obligations while earning an income.
Entrepreneurship study in Pakistan is still in its early phases and urgently requires academic attention (Hussain et al., 2022a; Seaman et al., 2016). Notably, there is a scarcity of study on microenterprises and those operating in rural areas in the present literature (Aggarwal & Johal, 2021; Khan et al., 2020). Furthermore, divorced, separated, and widowed women have been disregarded and not studied as a specific case study. With the recent emergence of food ordering apps in Pakistan, chances for women-led microenterprises have increased, making it an attractive field of research to investigate the issues and views of these women as they sell food through these apps (Ahmed et al., 2019). Therefore, it is imperative for academics to address these research gaps and contribute to the understanding and advancement of entrepreneurship in Pakistan.
Research Question
This research will aim to investigate the following research questions:
• What are the challenges faced by women running microenterprises in rural areas in Pakistan, and how do they overcome these challenges?
• What motivates divorced, separated, and widowed women in Pakistan to start microenterprises, and how do they navigate the challenges they face?
• What are the opportunities and challenges faced by women selling food on online platforms such as Foodpanda in Pakistan, and how can these challenges be addressed?

To gather and analyse data for the study, a qualitative technique will be used. The study will collect information from rural women entrepreneurs and divorced, separated, and widowed women who have established microenterprises. These groups were chosen because they encounter distinct hurdles in launching and operating their enterprises. In-depth semi-structured interviews will be used to collect data, which will include some predetermined questions based on relevant literature and open-ended questions that will allow participants to discuss their experiences and ideas in their own words. The study will also collect information from female entrepreneurs who sell food on internet marketplaces like Foodpanda. This group may have different experiences and issues than people who manage physical firms, therefore include them in the study is critical.
The study will aim to interview a diverse sample of rural women entrepreneurs and divorced, separated, and widowed women who have formed microenterprises, as well as female entrepreneurs who sell food on internet marketplaces. The sample size will be determined by data saturation, which means that data collection will continue until no new information or themes emerge from the interviews. We expect to interview approximately 20-30 participants, but the final sample size may vary depending on the richness and complexity of the data collected (Hennink and Kaiser, 2022). The interviews will be done in Urdu, Pakistan's national language and most likely the language of the participants. With the participants' permission, the interviews will be audio-recorded to ensure that the researcher accurately records their comments. Finally, the interviews will be transcribed verbatim, which means they will be written precisely as they were said. This enables the researcher to thoroughly examine the data and uncover themes and patterns in the responses of the participants. The researcher could ask the female entrepreneur questions such, "What obstacles did you confront when founding and running your business? How did you overcome those obstacles?" The researcher could then ask follow-up questions to delve deeper into the woman's comments. The audio recording and transcription of the interview would capture all the woman's comments, allowing the researcher to analyse the data and uncover themes and patterns that emerged from her experiences (Braun and Clarke, 2006).

We realise that the study design and data gathering processes may have limitations and biases. Participants, for example, may be afraid to volunteer sensitive information or may struggle to articulate themselves in Urdu, which may impair the quality and depth of the data collected. To address these issues, we will provide a secure and supportive setting in which participants can share their experiences, as well as translation and interpretation services as needed. Furthermore, we acknowledge that our own biases and assumptions may influence the data obtained, therefore we will use a structured interview guide and engage in reflexive practise to preserve neutrality throughout the data gathering and analysis process (Jamieson, et al., 2022).

The study will provide insights into the obstacles faced by women running microenterprises in Pakistan, such as a lack of capital, limited market access, and social stigma. The study will also show how women entrepreneurs overcome these obstacles through new company ideas, partnerships, and community support. The findings of this study can assist policymakers and development practitioners in developing focused solutions to address these issues. The study will also emphasise the significance of microenterprises in empowering divorced, separated and widowed women and granting them economic independence. The study will also emphasise the problems that women entrepreneurs confront in this industry, such as a lack of funding, technological impediments, and competitiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2023
Event1st Conference of Research in Entrepreneurship, Education and Technology - University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
Duration: 25 May 202326 May 2023


Conference1st Conference of Research in Entrepreneurship, Education and Technology
Abbreviated titleCREET
Internet address


  • women entrepreneurship
  • women empowerment
  • Pakistan
  • intersectionality
  • women led small business
  • role of technology in women enterprenurship


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