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Women in business in Africa: (Re)claiming our agency


In this editorial, we outline a number of ways in which research can be strengthened to improve both the theory and explanation of business outcomes for business women in Africa. Whilst diversity is often measured through an increase or decrease in numbers of particular groupings in organisations, such as race, gender or leadership level, and levels of representation in different job types and industries (Booysen & Nkomo, 2014), we contend that diversity and inclusion should also invite researchers to explore lesser utilised approaches to expand our collective understanding of gender as it relates to the workplace, entrepreneurial behaviour and business outcomes.

Along with Bell and Nkomo (2021), Fatou (2021), and Kinnear and Ortlepp (2016), we support a focus on the complexity of gendered social relations that sustain hegemonic power imbalances, enacted across a range of formal and informal social and institutional policies and practices. Embracing gender complexity shifts the emphasis away from characteristics or seeming insufficiencies of individual women to an emphasis on social practices of organisations, larger systems and cultural and institutional mechanisms designed by those in power, both unintentionally and deliberately, to maintain and build their control.

Furthermore, we support the importance of using intersectionality (Gouws, 2017) and a critical identity lens in future research and theorising about women in business in Africa. Intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991) is a concept and analytical tool that unlocks ways in which different forms of social inequality, oppression and discrimination interact and overlap in multidimensional ways. Booysen (2018) elucidated the relationship between intersectionality and identity in this way:

[B]oth intersectionality and identity work are focused on how individuals navigate themselves in their worlds, and how they make sense of who they are, in relation to others. Intersectionality, similar to post-modern and critical views of social identity, also focuses on the multiplicity and simultaneity of identities and multidimensional conceptualisations of identity. (p. 15)

After an introduction to the background of women in business in Africa, we position alternative gender theories and researcher approaches, and provide an overview of the articles included in the special collection. This editorial ends with suggestions for future research on women in business in Africa.


Leadership, Management & Business


South African Journal of Business Management





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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.