Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Women's rural businesses: for economic viability or gender equality? - a database study from the Swedish context

Tillmar, Malin; Skold, Birgitta; Ahl, Helene; Berglund, Karin; Pettersson, Katarina


Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore and discuss to what extent and why women's entrepreneurship contributes to rural economic viability and gender equality in an advanced welfare state. Design/methodology/approach The authors use detailed register data to explore men's and women's rural businesses in the most common industries for rural women entrepreneurs in the Swedish welfare state. Based on a literature review, the authors develop hypotheses and analyse how family, business and industry factors influence earnings. Findings Women's rural entrepreneurship is important for rural viability, as women's businesses provide a wide range of services necessary for life in rural areas. Although women's rural businesses are not significantly smaller than those of men, women's income is lower and more sensitive to business and industry variables. Marriage has positive effects for the earnings of men but negative effects for the earnings of women. The authors argue that the results are contingent on the gendering of entrepreneurship and industries, as well as on the local rural gender contracts. For these reasons, the importance of women entrepreneurs for rural viability is not reflected in their own incomes. Hence, women's rural entrepreneurship does not result in (economic) gender equality. Originality/value Entrepreneurship scholars rarely explore women's rural entrepreneurship, and particularly not in the Global North or Western welfare states. Therefore, this empirical study from Sweden provides novel information on how the gender order on the business, industry and family levels influences the income of men and women entrepreneurs differently.


Entrepreneurship; Women; Gender; Rural; Local development; Database study; Sweden; Welfare state; Gender equality

Published in

International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship
2022, Volume: 14, number: 3, pages: 323-351

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
    SDG8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
    SDG10 Reduce inequality within and among countries

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Gender Studies
    Business Administration

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)