Entrepreneurs do not literally “create something from nothing” (Baker & Nelson, 2005). Apart from human agency (Shane, 2003) and social interaction (Alvarez & Barney, 2007; Wood & McKinley, 2010), they need some raw material to work with. Environmental changes – be they technological, regulatory, demographic, economic, socio-cultural, or natural-environmental – are important sources of such raw material. Whether ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ for the economy overall, all such changes are likely to be beneficial for some types of new economic activity.
Compared to the abundance of concepts and statements pertaining to entrepreneurial agents, the strategic role of environmental change remains under-emphasized and under-theorized in contemporary entrepreneurship and strategy research (Agarwal et al., 2017; Chandra, 2018; Davidsson, 2019). The obvious role of new technology in many recent entrepreneurial successes highlights the need for increased attention to the role of agent-independent, external change for strategy (Porter & Heppelman, 2014) and entrepreneurship (Autio et al., 2018; Nambisan, 2017). Socio-cultural, demographic, regulatory, and economic changes – even natural and man-made disasters – likewise provide new entrepreneurial potential either independent of or in conjunction with new technology.
A good library of theories, concepts, and evidence exists for the entrepreneurial inclinations and capacities of entrepreneurial agents such as individuals and organizations. There are good reasons to argue that an equally rich set of theories, concepts, and evidence should be developed for capturing the entrepreneurial potential in environmental change. Moreover, agent-focused theories may not reach their full potential without better theory and evidence regarding variance in characteristics and potentials among the environmental changes to which agents respond.
Innovation is regarded as an important engine of economic development and a driver of social progress. Yet, because most research focuses on innovation takes place as opposed to who participates in it, the innovation literature pays little attention to gender issues (Alsos, Hytti, & Ljunggren, 2016). Furthermore, studies on innovation often center on industries such as high-tech that are male-dominated and embody a masculine perspective (Marlow & McAdam, 2013; McAdam, 2013; Foss & Henry, 2016). Consequently, we have limited understanding of how a feminine perspective may contribute to innovation research.
A well-developed literature examines women’s entrepreneurship (Jennings & Brush, 2013), but this work does not put innovation by women entrepreneurs at the core of its inquiry. For instance, there is a paucity of research examining how innovation inspires women to start businesses, how women entrepreneurs respond to new innovations by competitors, and how they spawn and scale innovations in the marketplace (Brush, Edelman, Manolova, & Welter, 2019; Ladge, Eddleston & Sugiyama, 2019). In sum, gender analyses of innovation, explored through multiple theoretical lenses and using a variety of empirical methods, are missing in the entrepreneurship field. These omissions in the extant literature are surprising given an emerging stream of research that documents the divergent paths men and women take toward the commercialization of technology (Ding & Choi, 2011). For example, existing literature emphasizes the unique perspectives that women on R&D teams, top management teams, and boards of directors contribute to their firms' innovation performance (Diaz-Garcia, Gonzalez-Moreno, & Saez-Martinez, 2013; Kim & Starks, 2016; Ruiz-Jiménez, del Mar Fuentes-Fuentes, & Ruiz-Arroyo, 2016; Torchia, Calabro, & Huse, 2011).
This special issue therefore intends to focus attention on the intersection of innovation, entrepreneurship, and gender. We aim to stimulate scholarly conversations on how women entrepreneurs enact innovation through new products, processes, business models, and organizational practices.