New Perspectives on Women’s Entrepreneurship in China



This special issue highlights new forms, experiences, and meanings of women's entrepreneurship in China from a critical gender perspective. Chinese women have been actively participating in entrepreneurship, but the current studies on Chinese women’s entrepreneurship have not caught up with this vibrant development. The collection will feature studies of women entrepreneurs challenging gender stereotypes, making gendered compromises, and adopting new mindsets to enrich entrepreneurship studies in the Chinese context. Moving beyond past studies on women's entrepreneurship in China that tend to focus on gender characteristics or certain institutional contexts as the determining factor for why women start a business, how they succeed, and why they adopt a certain kind of managerial practice, this special issue will show a much more complicated decision-making process for women to join entrepreneurship and a more mixed nature of women’s businesses in China (Hussain et al., 2010; Chen, 2012; Li et al., 2013; Osburg, 2013; Aaltio & Huang, 2018). 

Situating women’s entrepreneurship in the changing government policies to promote entrepreneurship and the rising feminist consciousness, the special issue pays particular attention to women’s agency in navigating the unique gendered structural constraints and opportunities to partake an entrepreneurial path in China (Cooke & Xiao, 2021). While entrepreneurship has been loosely defined as starting a business or representing risk-taking spirits, scholars continue find that women's entrepreneurship is often regarded as an alternative version or an inferior mode compared with men’s business, constrained by formal systems of laws and social policies or informal social and cultural norms (Acker, 1990; Gartner, 1990; Bruni et al., 2004; Giménez and Calabrò, 2018). This special issue will move beyond the androcentric model of business and define entrepreneurship as activities and efforts to embrace market opportunities and take economic risks to pursue profits; in this sphere, women are not essentially disadvantaged but may be motivated to use entrepreneurship to fulfill their aspirations, seek agency, and pursue meaning (Jiang & Wang, 2014; Meilou, 2020; Liu & Wu, 2022). This special issue focuses on women’s entrepreneurship in China (mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao), a unique setting to understand women’s evolving agency in the market, given its unprecedented economic liberalization as well as persistent patriarchal traditions. Studies found that Chinese women tend to view establishing their own businesses or taking on the family business as a way to gain public recognition and to increase their own satisfaction and personal growth, but they continue to experience cross-generational conflicts and structural challenges in China’s male-dominated business culture (Zhu et al. 2019; Li et al., 2020; Song and Li 2021). 

All of the above calls for more grounded studies to understand Chinese women’s experiences in different kinds of entrepreneurship, from traditional, social, to technology-mediated entrepreneurship (Luo & Chan, 2021). Under the backdrop of China's success in the market economy, this special issue brings attention to women’s evolving roles in the market, their corresponding work-family strategies, and the gendered socio-cultural implications of entrepreneurial dynamics in public and private spheres (Bullough, 2022).

The special issue is interested in the diverse empirical studies of women's self-narrated motivations, experiences, and critical reflections in entrepreneurship as meaning-making practices in China. Moving beyond the androcentric business models and the masculinized business culture in China, this special collection calls for much-needed studies that situate Chinese women entrepreneurs at the intersection of new and old economy, persistent gender beliefs, occupational gender segregation, and the gendered meanings of work to bring in new perspectives on the old question of doing business and doing gender at the same time (Henry et al. 2016; Cooke & Xiao, 2021). The special issue will address the following three aims in the context of China: 

  1. Women's unique motivations in partaking in the traditional or digital, formal or informal, and full-time or part-time forms of entrepreneurship, and the corresponding new forms of work-family balance that may comply with or deviate from certain gender beliefs; 
  2. Women’s experiences, managerial styles, and strategies to deal with unique opportunities and obstacles in female-dominated, male-dominated, or less gender-segregated professions as entrepreneurs;
  3. Women’s meaning-crafting processes to align social and business purposes in entrepreneurial pursuits beyond economic motivations.

List of Topic Areas:

  • To expand on the diversity of experiences in women’s entrepreneurship in China, the special issue will include but not limit to the following topics:
  • Changing aspirations and challenges of female entrepreneurship under China's rise
  • Emerging trends in women's entrepreneurship in the traditional or digital, formal or informal, full-time or part-time economies 
  • Gendered pathways to different kinds of entrepreneurial careers and employment transition into entrepreneurship
  • Work-life balance of female entrepreneurs in Chinese contexts 
  • Breaking boundaries between feminized and masculinized businesses and challenging gender stereotypes involved in entrepreneurship
  • The gendered meanings of work in entrepreneurial pursuits

Guest Editors: 

Ling Han, Gender Studies Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, [email protected]

Jing Song, Gender Studies Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, [email protected]

Iiris Aaltio, School of Business and Economics, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, [email protected]  

Submissions Information:

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at: 

Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see:

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key Deadlines:

Closing date: 28th of February, 2023   


Aaltio, I., & Huang, J. (2018). The guanxi ties of managers in mainland China – a critical analysis based on gender. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 33(7), 577–599. 
Acker, J. (1990). Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organizations. Gender & Society, 4(2), 139–158.
Bruni, A., Gherardi, S., & Poggio, B. (2004). Doing Gender, Doing Entrepreneurship: An Ethnographic Account of Intertwined Practices. Gender, Work & Organization, 11(4), 406–429.
Bullough, A., Guelich, U., Manolova, T. S., & Schjoedt, L. (2022). Women’s entrepreneurship and culture: Gender role expectations and identities, societal culture, and the entrepreneurial environment. Small Business Economics, 58(2), 985–996. 
Chen, ML. (2012). Tiger Girls: Women and Enterprise in the People’s Republic of China. London Routledge.
Cooke, F. L., & Xiao, M. (2021). Women entrepreneurship in China: Where are we now and where are we heading. Human Resource Development International, 24(1), 104–121. 
Gartner, W. B. (1990). What are we talking about when we talk about entrepreneurship? Journal of Business Venturing, 5(1), 15–28.
Giménez, D., & Calabrò, A. (2018). The salient role of institutions in women’s entrepreneurship: A critical review and agenda for future research. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, 14(4), 857–882.
Henry, C., Foss, L., & Ahl, H. (2016). Gender and entrepreneurship research: A review of methodological approaches. International Small Business Journal, 34(3), 217–241. 
Hussain, J. G., Scott, J. M., Harrison, R. T., & Millman, C. (2010). “Enter the dragoness”: Firm growth, finance, guanxi, and gender in China. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 25(2), 137–156. 
Jiang, Z., & Wang, Z. (2014). Entrepreneurial Intention and Outcome Expectancy: Evidence from South Korea and China. Contemporary Management Research, 10(3), 251-270. 
Li, C., Bao, L., & Jiang, Q. (2013). Leadership Styles of Entrepreneurial Women in Eastern China: Characteristics and Differences. Social Behavior and Personality, 41(3), 421–431. 
Li, J., Sun, J. Y., Wang, L., & Ke, J. (2020). Second-Generation Women Entrepreneurs in Chinese Family-Owned Businesses: Motivations, Challenges, and Opportunities. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 22(2), 124–136.
Liu, Z., & Wu, G. (2022). Gendered motives towards hybrid entrepreneurial intentions: Empirical evidence from China. International Studies of Economics, 17(1), 36–64.
Luo, Y., & Chan, R. C. K. (2021). Gendered digital entrepreneurship in gendered coworking spaces: Evidence from Shenzhen, China. Cities, 119, 103411. 
Song, J., & Li, L. (2021). Empowered in Business or Penalised in Marriage: Experiences of Single Female Entrepreneurs in China. Work, Employment and Society.
Meliou, E. (2020). Family as a eudaimonic bubble: Women entrepreneurs mobilizing resources of care during persistent financial crisis and austerity. Gender, Work & Organization, 27(2), 218–235.
Osburg, J. (2013). Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality among China’s New Rich. Stanford, Ca: Stanford University Press.
Zhu, L., Kara, O., & Zhu, X. (2019). A comparative study of women entrepreneurship in transitional economies: The case of China and Vietnam. Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, 11(1), 66–80.