A Micro-Sociological Approach to Understanding the Impact of Unpaid Wages on Women’s Empowerment in the Context of Family Businesses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Purpose: The scholarly interest and activity in the women's economic empowerment domain have dramatically expanded in the last decade, allowing scholars to synthesise findings from empirical and conceptual work. While this helped to consolidate knowledge about women’s engagement in economic activities, it also highlighted the need for new directions to capture the ‘heterogeneity’ of the composition of women’s entrepreneurship. This paper explores the overlapping domains of women’s entrepreneurship and family businesses. The literature on family businesses increasingly highlights the invisibility of women and a paradox where women’s engagement in entrepreneurial activity (as joint owners/partners in family businesses) is increasing at an exponential rate, yet women remain economically disenfranchised.
Design/methodology/approach: This research paper adopts a micro-sociological approach, focusing on symbolic interactionism to consider micro concepts such as gender, social class, and economic empowerment/independence in Nigeria's context of family businesses.
Findings: The findings reveal that women’s engagement in a family business (especially in patriarchal societies) is largely sacrificial. Their motivation for taking up positions in the family business is the ‘family good’ and not self-actualisation.
Originality: Given the need for progressive and complementary additive studies that connect and build upon previous works on family-run enterprises, this paper explores the overlapping domains of Women's Economic Empowerment (WEE) and family businesses.
Research limitations: Due to the nature of patriarchal societies and the promotion of gender inequality in such societies, research focusing on other cultural contexts is advisable.
Research implication: This paper suggests that understanding the culture of unpaid wages in family-owned businesses where women’s participation is not voluntary but expected could help reimagine and redefine the Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) agenda.
Research Type: Research paper
Keywords: Family business, unpaid wages, economic empowerment, enterprise and entrepreneurship
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Research
Publication statusSubmitted - 1 Apr 2022


  • Family business
  • unpaid wages
  • economic empowerment
  • enterprise
  • entrepreneurship


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