PhD defence S. (Saskia) Vossenberg


Prof.dr. P. Knorringa


Dr. G.M. Gómez

Thursday 4 Jun 2020, 13:00 - 15:00
PhD defence
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On Thursday 4 June 2020, S. Vossenberg will defend her PhD dissertation, entitled: ‘Gendered Institutions Matter. A middle ground between feminist and gender-blind perspectives on enterprise development’.

A central idea behind the global push for women’s enterprise development is that it contributes to economic growth and women’s empowerment. It is perhaps a naïve idea, but certainly disruptive as donors, governments, NGO’s and impact investors are devoting a great deal of attention and money to it. The goal of this thesis is to examine the interactions between informal gendered institutions, women’s entrepreneurial logics and the emancipatory effects of market innovations on women’s enterprise development. It is motivated by the concern that enterprise development policy and practice is mainly informed by research which, by design, excludes the role of informal gendered rules and expectations, considers female entrepreneurs a homogenous group, and assumes emancipatory effects of market innovations on the lives and businesses of women, rather than actually theorizing or empirically measuring such effects.

This thesis draws from secondary data and primary qualitative data collected through expert informants, focus group discussions and life-story interviews with thirty-six female entrepreneurs operating micro and small businesses in rural and urban Malawi. The female entrepreneurs were selected because they use a market innovation to grow their business and have different household positions (e.g. single, married, divorced or widowed). The methodology focuses on uncovering the gendered nature of institutional processes by examining the scripts, routines and practices that structure agents’ actions and interactions in their everyday entrepreneurship. For interpretation and analysis, it combines theoretical lenses from different strands of literature, which thus far have been underused or not sufficiently integrated. It combines concepts and analytical tools from pragmatic feminism, feminist institutionalism and small business economics.

The PhD defences will not take place publicly in the Auditorium due to the coronavirus. The candidates will defend their thesis online. For guest interested to watch online, please contact the ISS PhD office for more information (

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