The female entrepreneur: Fragments of a genealogy

Littler, Jo. 2024. The female entrepreneur: Fragments of a genealogy. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 27(3), pp. 498-508. ISSN 1367-5494 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This short article, based on a lecture, offers fragments for a genealogy of female entrepreneurship in the Global North. It argues that in business and management books and social texts, the entrepreneur has historically been overwhelmingly figured as male – as ‘entrepreneurial man’. Yet, over the past few decades, encouraged by both gender mainstreaming and neoliberal feminism, the symbolic locus of entrepreneurialism in popular culture has increasingly gravitated towards women. It shows how we might trace a mediatised evolution of female entrepreneurialism and its ideologies: from tragic 1950s entrepreneurial stars, through to the plucky shoulder-padded heroines of women’s magazines and films of the 1980s, through to the girlbosses, Instagram entrepreneurs and hustle culture of the present. What, it asks, is happening to the female entrepreneur in an era of neoliberal crisis? And what ‘left feminist’ alternatives to, or intersections with, this figure might be in our midst, or on the horizon?

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© The Author(s) 2024

Author Note: Versions of this article were given as a keynote paper at the Società Scientific Italiana Sociologia Cultura Comunicazione, Bari, Italy and as a public lecture at the South London Gallery (2023).

Funding: The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/
or publication of this article: The author is grateful for the support of the Leverhulme Trust, in the form of a 2023-24 Research Fellowship for the project ‘Ideologies of Inequality’.

Data Access Statement:

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.


Entrepreneurialism, female entrepreneur, feminism, girlboss, neoliberalism

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


19 December 2023Accepted
29 January 2024Published Online
June 2024Published

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Date Deposited:

13 Feb 2024 09:35

Last Modified:

30 May 2024 09:31

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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