Original Research

The influence of culture on female entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe

Nomusa B. Mazonde, Teresa Carmichael
The Southern African Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management | Vol 8, No 1 | a101 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajesbm.v8i1.101 | © 2016 Teresa Carmichael | This work is licensed under Other
Submitted: 31 August 2016 | Published: 01 December 2016

About the author(s)

Nomusa B. Mazonde, Graduate School of Business Administration WBS (Wits), University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Teresa Carmichael, Graduate School of Business Administration WBS (Wits), University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


Background: There is an increasing interest in female entrepreneurship, not only to realise the potential for economic growth, but also in light of the opportunities for female expression, emancipation, agency and empowerment. Literature has found that many female entrepreneurs are profoundly affected by the traditional sociocultural context in which they operate, and that they have needed to work around patriarchal barriers in order to succeed. This study explores the ways in which they do this.

Aim: The aim of this paper was to contribute to an understanding of how female entrepreneurs in a patriarchal African society can work within cultural constraints to achieve success within their own terms of reference.

Setting: The study took place in Zimbabwe among female entrepreneurs who had recently formalised their businesses

Methods: Using a qualitative interpretive research design, in-depth, face-to-face interviews were conducted with 43 African female entrepreneurs running their own businesses in the Zimbabwean cities of Harare and Bulawayo.

Results: The complex interplay of macro- (national cultural characteristics), meso- (institutional and social factors), and micro- (individual identity) level factors shaped the ways in which the women dealt with the shackles of patriarchy, inequality and high power distance that had historically impeded their economic participation. Through their own agency, they mobilised their public and private identities separately, balancing the seemingly incompatible roles of home-maker vs entrepreneur.

Conclusion: Zimbabwean women successfully managed the interaction between their different social roles and identities to balance domestic obligations with income generation to better the lives of their families.


female entrepreneurship; culture; developing country; Zimbabwe; gender; social structure; patriarchy


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