Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Shackled feet: A review of women entrepreneurs’ challenges in developing countries



Objective: The fundamental objective of this systematic literature review (SLR) is to explore the current challenges for women entrepreneurs in developing countries and discuss future research opportunities.

Research Design & Methods: We applied a SLR approach to fulfil the objective. We selected 29 articles from SCOPUS and Google Scholar databases to synthesize reviews. To ensure the quality of the articles collected from Google Scholar, we used Scimago Journal & Country Rank (SJR).

Findings: We categorised the key findings into themes (T), contexts (C), and methodologies (M). The major challenges for women entrepreneurs in developing countries cover five themes, i.e. (1) financial, (2) socio-cultural, (3) educational and skills, (4) networking and marketing, (5) political and legal. Developing countries were the main context (C) of this review. Regarding methodologies (M), 51.72% of the collected articles were qualitative.

Implications & Recommendations: Policymakers can help make more specialized women entrepreneurship policies by assembling research identifying national barriers empirically and drawing comparisons between the realities of both countries and regions. We proposed a conceptual framework or model based on the challenges of women entrepreneurship and other future research agendas.

Contribution & Value Added: This review article is one of the leading studies which helps academics, researchers, and readers gain a deeper understanding of challenges for women entrepreneurs in developing countries by providing a foundation for future studies and encouraging researchers to investigate this topic.



challenges, entrepreneurship, developing countries, economic development, systematic literature review, women

(PDF) Save

Author Biography

Aidin Salamzadeh

Assistant professor at the Faculty of Management, University of Tehran. His interests are startups, new venture creation, and entrepreneurship. Aidin serves as an associate editor in “Revista de Gestão”, “Innovation & Management Review” (Emerald), “Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review”, “Journal of Women's Entrepreneurship and Education” as well as an editorial advisory in “The Bottom Line” (Emerald). Besides, he is a reviewer in numerous distinguished international journals. Aidin is a member of the European SPES Forum, the Asian Academy of Management, and Ondokuz Mayis University. He is the co-founder of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Research Lab (London).


  1. Abdul, M., Rahman, A.A., Yahya, M., & Rahman, M.M. (2019). Entrepreneurial characteristics and intentions among undergraduates in Malaysia. World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, 15(5), 560-574.
  2. Abd El Basset, F., Bell, R., & Al Kharusi, B. (2022). Reducing barriers to female entrepreneurship in Oman: does family matter?. Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.
  3. Abrar ul Haq, M., Victor, S., & Akram, F. (2021). Exploring the motives and success factors behind female entrepreneurs in India. Quality & Quantity, 55, 1105-1132.
  4. Adikaram, A.S., & Razik, R. (2022). Femininity penalty: challenges and barriers faced by STEM woman entre-preneurs in an emerging economy. Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies. ahead-of-print.
  5. Adom, K., & Anambane, G. (2020). Understanding the role of culture and gender stereotypes in women entrepreneurship through the lens of the stereotype threat theory. Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, 12(1), 100-124.
  6. Agarwal, S., Agrawal, V., & Agrawal, A.M. (2018). Motivational and success factors: through the lens of wom-en entrepreneurship. International Journal of Management and Enterprise Development, 17(4), 307-328.
  7. Aguilar, E.C. (2021). Rural entrepreneurial ecosystems: A systematic literature review for advancing concep-tual-isation. Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, 9(4), 101-114.
  8. Ahmetaj, B., Kruja, A.D., & Hysa, E. (2023). Women Entrepreneurship: Challenges and Perspectives of an Emerging Economy. Administrative Sciences, 13(4), 111.
  9. Akanji, B. (2016). Exporing business management obscurities encountered by female entrepreenuers in Nigeria: Prospecting an agenda for social change. Management Research and Practice, 8(4), 39-52.
  10. Akinbami, C.A.O., & Aransiola, J.O. (2016). Qualitative exploration of cultural practices inhibiting rural wom-en entrepreneurship development in selected communities in Nigeria. Journal of Small Business & En-trepreneurship, 28(2), 151-167.
  11. Alkhaled, S., & Berglund, K. (2018). Women’s Empowerment and Emancipation Through Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia and Sweden. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2018.
  12. Aljarodi, A., Thatchenkery, T., & Urbano, D. (2022). Female entrepreneurial activity and institutions: Empiri-cal evidence from Saudi Arabia. Research in Globalization, 5(2022) 100102.
  13. Al-Qahtani, M., Fekih Zguir, M., Al-Fagih, L., & Koç, M. (2022). Women entrepreneurship for sustainability: Investigations on status, challenges, drivers, and potentials in Qatar. Sustainability, 14(7), 4091.
  14. Amrita, K., Garg, C.P., & Singh, S. (2018). Modelling the critical success factors of women entrepreneurship using fuzzy AHP framework. Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, 10(1), 81-116.
  15. Andriamahery, A., & Qamruzzaman, M. (2022). Do access to finance, technical know-how, and financial liter-acy offer women empowerment through women’s entrepreneurial development?. Frontiers in Psychol-ogy, 12, 776844.
  16. Anggadwita, G., Luturlean, B.S., Ramadani, V., & Ratten, V., 2017. Socio-cultural environments and emerging economy entrepreneurship: Women entrepreneurs in Indonesia. Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerg-ing Economies, 9(1), 85-96.
  17. Aparicio, S., Audretsch, D., Noguera, M., & Urbano, D. (2022). Can female entrepreneurs boost social mobili-ty in developing countries? An institutional analysis. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 175, 121401.
  18. Ariyarathne, N.S., & Lakmali, K.H. (2021). The Impact of Covid-19 on Small-Scale Women Entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka: A Qualitative Study of the Matara Area. Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies, 28(2), 19-44
  19. Ayinaddis, S.G. (2023). Socio-economic factors affecting women’s entrepreneurial performance in MSEs in Bahir Dar City, Ethiopia. Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 12(1), 1-21.
  20. Barrachina Fernández, M., García-Centeno, M.D.C., & Calderón Patier, C. (2021). Women sustainable entre-preneurship: Review and research agenda. Sustainability, 13(21), 12047.
  21. Bell, E., Meriläinen, S., Taylor, S., & Tienari, J. (2019). Time’s up! Feminist theory and activism meets organization studies. Human Relations, 72(1), 4-22.
  22. Branco, L., Ferreira, J., & Jayantilal, S. (2021). Conceptual foundations of entrepreneurial strate-gy: A systematic literature review. Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, 9(3), 103-118.
  23. Brush, C.G., Greene, P.G., & Welter, F. (2020). The Diana project: a legacy for research on gender in entre-preneurship. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 12(1), 7-25.
  24. Bullough, A., Guelich, U., Manolova, T.S., & Schjoedt, L. (2022). Women’s entrepreneurship and culture: gender role expectations and identities, societal culture, and the entrepreneurial environment. Small Business Economics, 58(2), 985-996.
  25. Garg, S., & Agarwal, P. (2017). Problems and prospects of woman entrepreneurship-a review of literature. IOSR Journal of Business and Management, 19(1), 55-60.
  26. Carranza, E., Dhakal, C., & Love, I. (2018). Female entrepreneurs: How and why are they differ-ent?. World Bank, Washington, DC, License: Creative Commons Attribution. Retrieved from on January 29, 2023.
  27. Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. (2021). Retrieved from,on%20aspirations%2C%20confidence%20and%20behaviour on January 29, 2023.
  28. Cho, Y., Park, J., Han, S.J., Sung, M., & Park, C. (2021). Women entrepreneurs in South Korea: motivations, challenges and career success. European Journal of Training and Development, 45(2/3), 97-119.
  29. Corrêa, V.S., Brito, F.R.D.S., Lima, R.M.D., & Queiroz, M.M. (2022). Female entrepreneurship in emerging and developing countries: a systematic literature review. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneur-ship, 14(3), 300-322.
  30. Cubric, M. (2020). Drivers, barriers and social considerations for AI adoption in business and management: A tertiary study. Technology in Society, 62, 101257.
  31. Dabić, M., Vlačić, B., Paul, J., Dana, L.P., Sahasranamam, S., & Glinka, B. (2020). Immigrant entrepreneurship: A review and research agenda. Journal of Business Research, 113, 25-38.
  32. Dana, L.P., Chhabra, M., & Agarwal, M. (2023). A two-decade history of women’s entrepreneurship research trajectories in developing economies context: perspectives from India. Journal of Management History. ahead-of-print.
  33. Dean, H., Larsen, G., Ford, J., & Akram, M. (2019). Female entrepreneurship and the metanarrative of eco-nomic growth: A critical review of underlying assumptions. International Journal of Management Re-views, 21(1), 24-49.
  34. Dutta, S., & Shivani, S. (2020). Modified UTAUT2 to Determine Intention and Use of E-Commerce Technology Among Micro & Small Women Entrepreneurs in Jharkhand, India. In Re-imagining Diffusion and Adop-tion of Information Technology and Systems: A Continuing Conversation: IFIP WG 8.6 International Conference on Transfer and Diffusion of IT, TDIT 2020, Tiruchirappalli, India, December 18-19, 2020, Proceedings, Part II (pp. 688-701). Springer International Publishing.
  35. Franzke, S., Wu, J., Froese, F.J., & Chan, Z.X. (2022). Female entrepreneurship in Asia: a critical review and future directions. Asian Business & Management, 21(3), 343-372.
  36. GEM (2021). GEM Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Retrieved from on January 29, 2023.
  37. GEM. (2022). We-Fi Research Paper Outlines Key Recommendations to Support Women Entrepreneurs in Emerging Econ-omies. Retrieved from on January 29, 2023.
  38. Ghouse, S.M., Durrah, O., & McElwee, G. (2021). Rural women entrepreneurs in Oman: problems and oppor-tunities. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, 27(7), 1674-1695.
  39. Ghouse, S., McElwee, G., Meaton, J., & Durrah, O. (2017). Barriers to rural women entrepreneurs in Oman. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, 23(6), 998-1016.
  40. Gimenez-Jimenez, D., Edelman, L.F., Dawson, A., & Calabrò, A. (2022). Women entrepreneurs’ progress in the venturing process: The impact of risk aversion and culture. Small Business Economics, 58(2), 1091-1111.
  41. Guma, P.K. (2015). Business in the urban informal economy: Barriers to women’s entrepreneurship in Ugan-da. Journal of African Business, 16(3), 305-321.
  42. Gupta, N., & Mirchandani, A. (2018). Investigating entrepreneurial success factors of women-owned SMEs in UAE. Management Decision, 56(1), 219-232.
  43. Hassan, H., Mahdee, J., Rahman, M.S., & Sade, A.B. (2017). Key success factors and challenges in harnessing the power of women entrepreneurs. World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, 13(4), 450-467.
  44. Hossain, M.S., Islam, M.A., Hosen, M., & Mohd. Thas Thaker, H. (2023). Missing catalysts of female entre-preneurship success: Evidence from an emerging economy. Global Business and Organizational Excel-lence, 42(5), 50-64.
  45. Hovorka, A.J., & Dietrich, D. (2011). Entrepreneurship as a gendered process. The International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, 12(1), 55-65.
  46. Huang, Y., Li, P., Wang, J., & Li, K. (2022). Innovativeness and entrepreneurial performance of female entre-preneurs. Journal of Innovation & Knowledge, 7(4), 100257.
  47. Igwe, P., Newbery, R., & Icha-Ituma, A. (2018). Entrepreneurship challenges and gender issues in the African informal rural economy Knowledge. In Learning and Innovation (pp. 91-111). Springer
  48. Jaim, J. (2021). Women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries from a family perspective: Past and fu-ture. Global Business and Organizational Excellence, 41(1), 31-45.
  49. Jaim, J. (2022). Problems of political unrest: women in small businesses in Bangladesh. New England Journal of Entrepreneurship, 25(1), 48-69.
  50. Jaouadi, S., Arfaoui, L., & Ziedi, A. (2014). Political instability and growth: case of the developing countries, International Journal of Social Science Research, 2(1), 19-28.
  51. Jennings, V., Larson, L., & Yun, J. (2016). Advancing sustainability through urban green space: Cultural eco-system services, equity, and social determinants of health. International Journal of Environmental Re-search and Public Health, 13(2), 196.
  52. Jha, P., & Alam, M.M. (2022). Antecedents of women entrepreneurs’ performance: an empirical perspective. Management Decision, 60(1), 86-122.
  53. Iakovleva, T., Solesvik, M., & Trifilova, A. (2013). Financial availability and government support for women entrepreneurs in transitional economies: Cases of Russia and Ukraine. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 20(2), 314-340.
  54. Kiss, A.N., Danis, W.M., & Cavusgil, S.T. (2012). International entrepreneurship research in emerging econo-mies: A critical review and research agenda. Journal of Business Venturing, 27(2), 266-290.
  55. Kogut, C.S., & Mejri, K. (2022). Female entrepreneurship in emerging markets: challenges of running a busi-ness in turbulent contexts and times. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 14(1), 95-116.
  56. Langevang, T., Hansen, M.W., & Rutashobya, L.K. (2018). Navigating institutional complexities: The response strategies of Tanzanian female entrepreneurs. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 10(3), 224-242.
  57. Latifi, V., Ramadani, V., & Rexhepi, G. (2022). Women minority entrepreneurs: Motivational factors and challenges. Strategic Change, 31(2), 219-225.
  58. Lingappa, A.K., & Rodrigues, L.L. (2023). Synthesis of Necessity and Opportunity Motivation Factors in Wom-en Entrepreneurship: A Systematic Literature Review. SAGE Open, 13(1), 21582440231159294.
  59. Lingappa, A.K., Rodrigues LR, L., & Shetty, D.K. (2023). Women entrepreneurial motivation and business performance: The role of learning motivation and female entrepreneurial competencies. Industrial and Commercial Training, 55(2), 269-283.
  60. Maden, C. (2015). A gendered lens on entrepreneurship: Women entrepreneurship in Turkey. Gender in Management, 30(4), 312-331.
  61. Malik, I.S.B.A., Chan, V., & Chan, C. (2021). The Determinants Factors of Women entrepreneurship Perfor-mances in Low Economic Class: An Evidence from Melaka. International Journal of Entrepreneurship, Business and Creative Economy, 1(1), 25-38.
  62. Mary George, N., Parida, V., Lahti, T., & Wincent, J. (2016). A systematic literature review of entrepreneurial opportunity recognition: insights on influencing factors. International Entrepreneurship and Manage-ment Journal, 12, 309-350.
  63. Mashapure, R., Nyagadza, B., Chikazhe, L., Msipa, N., Ngorora, G.K.P., & Gwiza, A. (2022). Challenges hinder-ing women entrepreneurship sustainability in rural livelihoods: Case of Manicaland province. Cogent Social Sciences, 8(1), 2132675.
  64. Mensah, M.S.B., & Derera, E. (2023). Feminist Critique of Ghana’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Policies. JWEE, (1-2), 1-31.
  65. Mishra, R., Singh, R.K., & Koles, B. (2021). Consumer decision-making in Omnichannel retailing: Literature review and future research agenda. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 45(2), 147-174.
  66. Mulaudzi, M., & Schachtebeck, C. (2022). Challenges faced by female entrepreneurs: The case of the South African learner transport industry. International Journal of Research in Business and Social Science, 11(5), 523-531.
  67. Ogundana, O.M., Simba, A., Dana, L.P., & Liguori, E. (2021). Women entrepreneurship in developing econo-mies: A gender-based growth model. Journal of Small Business Management, 59(sup1), S42-S72.
  68. Ojong, N., Simba, A., & Dana, L.P. (2021). Female entrepreneurship in Africa: A review, trends, and future research directions. Journal of Business Research, 132, 233-248.
  69. Panda, S. (2018). Constraints faced by women entrepreneurs in developing countries: review and ranking. Gender in Management, 33(4), 315-331.
  70. Paramba, J.N., Salamzadeh, A., Karuthedath, S., & Rahman, M.M. (2023). Intellectual capital and sustainable startup performance: A bibliometric analysis. Heritage and Sustainable Development, 5(1), 19-32.
  71. Paul, J., Parthasarathy, S., & Gupta, P. (2017). Exporting challenges of SMEs: A review and future research agenda. Journal of World Business, 52(3), 327-342. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.jwb.2017.01.003
  72. Paul, J., & Rosado-Serrano, A. (2019). Gradual internationalization vs born-global / international new ven-ture models: A review and research agenda. International Marketing Review, 36(6), 830-858.
  73. Paul, J., Alhassan, I., Binsaif, N., & Singh, P. (2023). Digital entrepreneurship research: A systematic review. Journal of Business Research, 156, 113507.
  74. Paul, J., & Barari, M. (2022). Meta‐analysis and traditional systematic literature reviews—What, why, when, where, and how?. Psychology & Marketing, 39(6), 1099-1115.
  75. Paul, J., & Criado, A.R. (2020). The art of writing literature review: What do we know and what do we need to know?. International Business Review, 29(4), 101717.
  76. Phillips, W., Lee, H., Ghobadian, A., O’regan, N., & James, P. (2015). Social innovation and social entrepreneurship: A sys-tematic review. Group & Organization Management, 40(3), 428-461.
  77. Rahman, M.M., Dana, L.P., Moral, I.H., Anjum, N., & Rahaman, M.S. (2022a). Challenges of rural women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh to survive their family entrepreneurship: a narrative inquiry through sto-rytelling. Journal of Family Business Management, 13(3), 645-664.
  78. Rahman, M.M., Salamzadeh, A., & Tabash, M.I. (2022b). Antecedents of entrepreneurial intentions of fe-male undergraduate students in Bangladesh: a covariance-based structural equation modeling ap-proach. JWEE, (1-2), 137-153.
  79. Rahman, M.M., Rahaman, M.S., Moral, I.H., & Chowdhury, M.S. (2022c). Entrepreneurship Education and Entrepreneurial Intention of Business Graduates: Does Artificial Intelligence Matter?. In Proceedings of International Conference on Fourth Industrial Revolution and Beyond 2021 (pp. 109-123). Singapore: Springer Nature Singapore.
  80. Rahman, M.M., Abdul, M., Rahman, A.A., & Yahya, M. (2022d). Exploring the relationship between entre-preneurial characteristics, entrepreneurship education and intention to be entrepreneur amongst Ma-laysian undergraduates. International Journal of Entrepreneurship and Small Business, 46(2), 210-225.
  81. Ramadani, V., Rahman, M.M., Salamzadeh, A., Rahaman, M.S., & Abazi-Alili, H. (2022). Entrepreneurship education and graduates' entrepreneurial intentions: Does gender matter? A multi-group analysis us-ing AMOS. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 180, 121693.
  82. Raman, R., Subramaniam, N., Nair, V.K., Shivdas, A., Achuthan, K., & Nedungadi, P. (2022). Women entrepre-neurship and sustainable development: Bibliometric analysis and emerging research trends. Sustaina-bility, 14(15), 9160.
  83. Rashid, S., & Ratten, V. (2020). A systematic literature review on women entrepreneurship in emerging economies while reflecting specifically on SAARC countries. Entrepreneurship and organizational change: Managing innovation and creative capabilities, 37-88.
  84. Roomi, M.A., Rehman, S., & Henry, C. (2018). Exploring the normative context for women’s entrepreneur-ship in Pakistan: a critical analysis. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 10(2), 158-180.
  85. Rowley, J., & Slack, F. (2004). Conducting a literature review. Management Research News, 27(6), 31-39.
  86. Shastri, S., Shastri, S., & Pareek, A. (2019). Motivations and challenges of women entrepreneurs: Experiences of small businesses in Jaipur city of Rajasthan. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 39(5/6), 338-355.
  87. Salamzadeh, A., & Dana, L.P. (2022). A systematic literature review of crisis management in and by small and medium-sized enterprises. Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and the COVID-19 Response, 1, 38-61.
  88. Simba, A., Ogundana, O.M., Braune, E., & Dana, L.P. (2023). Community financing in entrepreneurship: A focus on women entrepreneurs in the developing world. Journal of Business Research, 163, 113962.
  89. Ślusarczyk, B., Moghavvemi, S., & Tehseen, S. (2023). Women and business: Empirical study on economic constraints, legal conditions, and social support influencing women entrepreneurs in Malaysia and Po-land. Entrepreneurial Business & Economics Review, 11(2), 87-102.
  90. Sobhan, N., & Hassan, A. (2023). The effect of institutional environment on entrepreneurship in emerging economies: female entrepreneurs in Bangladesh. Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies. ahead-of-print.
  91. Solesvik, M., Iakovleva, T., & Trifilova, A. (2019). Motivation of female entrepreneurs: a cross-national study. Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, 26(5), 684-705. Retrieved from on January 3, 2023.
  92. Surangi, H.A.K.N.S. (2022). A critical analysis of the networking experiences of female entrepreneurs: a study based on the small business tourism sector in Sri Lanka. Journal of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 11(1), 1-19.
  93. Tabassum, N. (2022). Women’s Entrepreneurship in Libya: A Stakeholder Perspective. Stakeholder Entrepre-neurship: Public and Private Partnerships, 83-91
  94. Terjesen, S., Hessels, J., & Li, D. (2016). Comparative international entrepreneurship: A review and research agenda. Journal of Management, 42(1), 299-344.
  95. Tranfield, D., Denyer, D., & Smart, P. (2003). Towards a methodology for developing evidence‐informed management knowledge by means of systematic review. British Journal of Management, 14(3), 207-222.
  96. Ughetto, E., Rossi, M., Audretsch, D., & Lehmann, E.E. (2020). Female entrepreneurship in the digital era. Small Business Economics, 55, 305-312.
  97. Wellalage, N., & Locke, S. (2017). Access to credit by SMEs in South Asia: do women entrepreneurs face dis-crimination. Research in International Business and Finance, 41, 336-346.
  98. Williams Jr, R.I., Clark, L.A., Clark, W.R., & Raffo, D.M. (2021). Re-examining systematic literature review in management research: Additional benefits and execution protocols. European Management Journal, 39(4), 521-533.
  99. Yap, C.S., Keling, W., & Ho, P.L. (2023). Determinants of entrepreneurial performance of rural indigenous women entrepre-neurs in Sarawak, Malaysia. Gender in Management, 38(3), 337-356.


Download data is not yet available.

Most read articles by the same author(s)