I am doing a project focusing on the challenges women face in the business world and strategies to break down these barriers. What are some articles, books, documentaries, and other sources of...

I am doing a project focusing on the challenges women face in the business world and strategies to break down these barriers. What are some articles, books, documentaries, and other sources of information that might be helpful to me?

Expert Answers
pnrjulius eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Women face a large number of barriers in business worldwide, though it is generally worst in the poorest countries.

The US Senate recently released a report detailing just how severe some of these barriers are even in the US (which is extremely pro-business and relatively good considering gender equality by global standards). Less than 5% of business loans and federal contracts are to businesses with women CEOs. Unsurprisingly, barriers to entrepreneurship are worst in poor communities.

Matters are even worse in countries like Pakistan, where despite extensive penetration of microfinance, still the majority of women can't get business loans without the approval of a male relative.

A study of men and women entrepreneurs in Iran found that the barriers for women are greater by 3 standard deviations.

It is estimated that empowering women in Asia would raise GDP by almost $100 billion per year. Many economists believe that empowering women entrepreneurs is one of the best ways to achieve economic development, but reliable methods of doing so are hard to come by. The OECD released a whole book on the topic if you're interested.

The International Labor Organization has argued that microfinance targeted at women can reduce poverty and empower women, but empirical research has largely failed to support this belief. The effect of microfinance on raising incomes appears to be quite small, and there is only weak evidence that women-targeted microfinance actually empowers women.

In fact, it has been argued that microfinance is damaging because it props up very small businesses at the expense of the industrialization needed for long-run development.

Still, there are some success stories, and with good policy there could be more.

If I were you I'd stay away from documentaries, which usually present a very biased picture---either overly positive or overly negative. Try to focus on the peer-reviewed empirical literature if you can. Here's a book full of research studies specifically on the topic of women entrepreneurs.