Women, disability, and entrepreneurship

Authored by: Kate Caldwell , Sarah Parker Harris , Maija Renko

The Routledge Companion to Global Female Entrepreneurship

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138015180
eBook ISBN: 9781315794570
Adobe ISBN: 9781317744924


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Within a global context, entrepreneurship for people with disabilities differs significantly among regions, depending upon international and national policy efforts. In the UK the advancement of the ‘Learning Society’ has led to the promotion of developing entrepreneurial skills in education, but not necessarily materially supporting small business development (Pavey, 2006). The history of disability and institutionalization is distinct in many European countries, where an entire generation was lost to the Eugenic influences of the second World War (Mitchell & Snyder, 2003). This has been reflected in their employment programs, which vary substantially: from truly innovative approaches to inclusion to regressive approaches that further segregate people with disabilities. While rates of people with disabilities in self-employment vary widely among Member States within the European Union, community integration has been a strong mandate in current policy that indirectly supports entrepreneurship as a strategy under the broader umbrella of participation in employment (Halabisky, 2014). In developing countries, entrepreneurship has been used as an anti-poverty strategy to help individuals with disabilities and communities in remote regions (van Niekerk, Lorenzo, & Mdlokolo, 2006). Given that Article 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) explicitly identifies self-employment and entrepreneurship as a right, it is expected that there will be continued growth in this area across the world. However, it is unclear how change might be implemented or evaluated on an international scale. For example, in India there has been some controversy surrounding the implementation of micro-enterprise programs that are intended to support entrepreneurship but instead promote a neoliberal agenda that further disadvantages people with disabilities (Chaudhry, 2012). However, such claims demand further research, especially as pertaining to gender.

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