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From feminism to FemInc.ism: On the uneasy relationship between feminism, entrepreneurship and the Nordic welfare state

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Helene Ahl
  • Karin Berglund
  • Katarina Pettersson
  • Malin Tillmar
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>06/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal
Issue number2
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)369-392
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date18/10/14
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Feminism in the Nordic countries was primarily formulated in terms of ‘state feminism’. The women’s movement cooperated with feminist government officials and politicians, resulting in societies that can be considered to be the most gender-equal societies in the world. Historically, the state provided for a large publicly-financed welfare sector which made it possible for many women to combine work and family through the state’s implementation of family-friendly policies, while simultaneously providing employment opportunities for many women. However, since the financial crisis of the 1990s, there has been a political change influenced by neo-liberal thought, in which politicians have handed over the welfare state’s responsibilities to the market, and, instead, the politicians have encouraged entrepreneurship, not least among women. Further to this development, there has been a change in emphasis from entrepreneurship (understood as starting and running a business) to entrepreneurialism which, in addition to a belief in the efficacy of market forces, also contains a social dimension where individuals are supposed to be flexible and exercise choice. In this article, we ask whether this entails a change in the feminist project in the Nordic countries, and if so, what the likely consequences are for this project, both in practice and in research. In order to answer this question, we reviewed existing Nordic research on women’s entrepreneurship and examined how this body of work conceptualizes entrepreneurship, gender, the state, and equality. We also considered whether any trends could be identified. We relate our findings to recent changes in government policy and conclude that the current discourse on entrepreneurship challenges, and possibly weakens, state feminism, but we also conclude that this discourse may also provide space for new forms of feminist action, in market terms. We coin the term FemInc.ism to denote feminist action through enterprise and we discuss a number of important challenges that research on this phenomenon is faced with.