Female entrepreneurial activity in Latin-America: A literature review within perspective of Institutional Theory

Dyala de la O Cordero; David Urbano Pulido

Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, Escuela de Administración de Empresas, Calle 15, Avenida 141 km Sur de la Basílica de los Ángeles, Cartago, COSTA RICA., Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica, Costa Rica , Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Departamento de Empresa, Plaça Cívica, 08193 Bellaterra, Barcelona, ESPAÑA., Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, España


The aim of this study is to analyze the content of research studies on female entrepreneurial activity, using the institutional economics as a theoretical framework. This paper shows how Latin America is study as a single region and, the topics are studied independently or in topics group. Private organizations –mostly- and scholars demonstrate an interest to study the female Latin-American entrepreneurial initiatives; however, the phenomenon is still poorly understood. There is a lack of official government information and statistics. Recognizing contributing factors of female entrepreneurial activity could help to improved public policies in Latin America. The research contributes theoretically to knowledge regarding to the content of research focusing on female entrepreneurial activity and provides an overview of the subject in Latin America.

Received: 2019 August 20; Accepted: 2019 December 9

5608. 2020 ; 5(2)


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Keywords: Keywords female entrepreneurship, institutional theory, Latin America.
Keywords: Palabras clave emprendimiento femenino, Teoría Institucional, América Latina.


Previous research has suggested that gender, gender characteristics, and institutional environment influence female entrepreneurship, but more work is needed to better understand gender and entrepreneurship (Díaz, Urbano and Hernández, 2005; Estrin and Mickiewicz, 2011; Minniti and Nardone, 2007; Noguera, Alvarez, and Urbano, 2013). Research often focuses on the number of undertakings carried out rather than the formal and informal factors that encourage specific types of firms or entrepreneurs. At the same time, it is still necessary to understand what woman entrepreneurs fight for, what problems they encounter, and what managerial stereotypes they confront (Brush, de Bruin, and Welter, 2009; Jennings and Brush, 2013; Minniti and Nardone, 2007).

Researchers need to stop asking the traditional questions about the differences between male and female entrepreneurial styles and on the difficulty’s women face. Fostering female entrepreneurship requires a twofold approach that examines both the current situation and prospects. Such understanding is an important emerging topic in Latin America because entrepreneurial activity is predominantly a male phenomenon: men own most businesses, and the role of women in entrepreneurial activity and social mobility remains poorly understood (Castellani and Lora, 2014).

The literature reveals that in the Latin American region, entrepreneurial activity is directly linked to economic growth, infrastructure improvement, and international competitiveness, all of which are associated with improvements in quality of life (Acs and Amorós, 2008; Wennekers, Uhlaner and Thurik, 2002). Despite varying levels of participation in entrepreneurship across Latin America and the Caribbean and within individual economies, structural changes are needed to improve the level of entrepreneurial dynamics (Amorós and Cristi, 2008). Thus, female Latin-American entrepreneurs are critical for business growth and societal improvement, although they play a different role in each economy and their contributions depend on the kind of agent they are (Wennekers et al., 2002).

Entrepreneurship is gendered, and families influence women’s undertakings. Nascent business undertakings by women can be the result of necessity or opportunity, and they could represent more than an economic issue (Jennings and Brush, 2013). Common frameworks usually consider only markets, money, and management, but for further development of the study of women’s entrepreneurship, other factors such as motherhood and environmental factors need to be added (Brush et al., 2009).

Therefore, it is still necessary to do more work to understand gender differences. Evidence suggests the following: 1) some variables have an influence on entrepreneurial behavior, and attitudes toward entrepreneurship reflect subjective perceptions rather than objective conditions (Minniti and Nardone, 2007); 2) entrepreneurial women would achieve greater personal success and add to economic growth if they could reach an adequate relationship between work conditions and family life (Peris-Ortiz, Rueda-Armengot and Benito-Osorio, 2015); 3) women are less likely than men to enter self-employment unless they have advanced degrees; 4) for women, primary child care, household activities, and being married have direct effects on self-employment (Gurley-Calvez; Harper and Biehl, 2009); 5) promoting entrepreneurial opportunities could help companies to easily reach their objectives; 6) women’s potential is an underestimated element in most companies (Mattis, 2004); and 7) risk aversion seems to be stronger in women than in men (Wagner, 2007).

To summarize, in Latin America, entrepreneurship is gendered, and so is policy. Women are expected to contribute to economic growth and job creation while continuing with their traditional role model. Female entrepreneurs’ background and personal attitudes could affect their entrepreneurial activity (Ahl and Nelson, 2015; Lofstrom and Bates, 2009).

This study objective is to examine literature on female entrepreneurial activity within the framework of the institutional theory, and state how this activity contributes to economic development in Latin-America

First, we analyze the relevant literature on female entrepreneurial activity. Second, the methodology used is described. Next, the results are presented and discussed, and finally the conclusions are offered.

Conceptual framework

Studies do not usually explicitly connect the relationship between entrepreneurship and institutional theory. However, some studies have addressed the enhancement of knowledge about this relationship because entrepreneurs are essential to create and institutionalize new practices, forms, and managerial structures (Tolbert, David and Sine, 2011).

Some significant entrepreneurship studies are based on the institutional theory framework. In this context, three main streams can be identified: the institutional setting and entrepreneurship, legitimacy and entrepreneurship, and institutional entrepreneurs. Research also follows different perspectives of the institutional theory: one based on sociology and organizational theory (DiMaggio and Powell, 1991) and another based on political science and economics (North, 1990); the focus has primarily been on culture; and studies have been single-country studies (Bruton, Ahlstrom and Han-Li, 2010).

Institutional theory also provides a framework to analyze business creation in relation to rules and norms that influence economic development positively or negatively (Díaz, Urbano and Hernández, 2005). The intersection between entrepreneurship research and institutional theory provides opportunities to enhance understanding of the phenomenon of female entrepreneurship and opens fruitful avenues for further research (Tolbert et al., 2011).

Douglas North's institutional theory (1990) has proved to be especially helpful to entrepreneurial research and has the potential to generate great insight into entrepreneurship (Bruton et al., 2010). In North’s perspective, environmental factors can affect the creation of new businesses. These undertakings can contribute to new jobs, innovation, and economic growth (Díaz et al., 2005). Therefore, North’s analytical framework explains the way in which institutions and institutional changes affect the performance of economies and outcomes at a given time.

In the study of entrepreneurship, consideration must always be given to institutions because they determine and explain the evolutionary aspect of entrepreneurial activity. Any business decision is an answer to the environmental institutional setup. On the other hand, as an essential function in a dynamic economy, entrepreneurship is constantly trying to change institutions (Henkerson, 2007).

Thus, we select institutional theory as our conceptual framework because there is evidence from previous studies showing how the institutional approach explains entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial activity. In addition, institutional theory is useful in explaining the formal and informal factors that influence economic development, and it can accommodate a large range of research methods.


The search for relevant articles used mostly Web of Science and citations within Journal Citation Report (JCR), a sampling approach that has gained consensus recently among several authors. It also made possible an analysis of the impact factor using JCR.

Besides academic papers, we also considered relevant reports from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM Report 2016 and GEM Special Women’s Report 2014 and 2012), four reports from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) related to entrepreneurial activity (Aboal and Veneri, 2014; Kantis, Koening and Angelelli, 2004;Kantis, Mashaiko and Mashaiko, 2002; and Weeks and Seiler, 2001); a report from the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA; the Spanish acronym is CEPAL) [4] related to women entrepreneurs (Heller, 2010); and on from the World Bank about entrepreneurial activity in Latin America (Lederman et al., 2014). We want to highlight that there is also a significant body of material in books, but they were not considered for this study.

Based on the literature review, seminal academic studies were identified using the following keywords in the title, abstract, and keywords: entrepreneurship, female/woman/women entrepreneurship, institutions, and economic growth/development. Attention was focused on keywords, journals, objectives, and methodology. The terms of exploration are shown in Table 1.

Table 1.

Search selection criteria

Alternate Text: Table 1 Search selection criteria.
Selection criterias
Period: January1996–May 2017
Main database: Web of Science
Other database: Science Direct, Emerald, Springer, others
Type of publication: Articles in journals with impact factor SSCI
Subject area: Business, management, economics, women studies
Languages: English, Spanish
  —Own elaboration..

Our research focuses on identifying the literature that has considered North´s Theory as a conceptual framework to explain female entrepreneurship in Latin America and how entrepreneurship contributes to economic development. Once the exploration process was finished, we proceeded with a deep exploratory study to construct an analytical framework to organize about female entrepreneurial activity, entrepreneurship and institutions, and entrepreneurship and economic development (Appendix). The terms “gender” and “Latin America” were also considered; however, by their own nature these were included in the three groups mentioned. Table 2 summarizes the main findings of our first-round structure review.

Table 2.

Literature review structure Main findings

Alternate Text: Table 2 Literature review structure Main findings.
Keywords Journals in which articles are most published General objectives oriented to Most used methodology
177 different keywords Small Business Economics International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development Women’s role in business and gender differences. The relationship between entrepreneurship and institutions. Link between entrepreneurship and economic growth and institutions. Driven analyses from a wide range of literature. GEM database and other national databases analyses are used as a data source. More common statistical techniques are survey methods, functions, equations, regressions, correlations, and panel data, among others.
  —Own elaboration..

Table 3 contains the references for those works we considered seminal. Finally, three other tables condense the data for the analytical framework analysis; each contains outlined information covering the name of the study, keywords, authors, objectives, methodology, and the researcher’s contribution (Appendix).

Table 3.

Seminal academic papers

Alternate Text: Table 3 Seminal academic papers.
Female entrepreneurial activity Entrepreneurship and institutions Entrepreneurship and economic growth
Brush, C., de Bruin, A., and Welter, F. (2009). “A gender-aware framework for women’s entrepreneurship.” International Journal Gender Entrepreneurship , Vol. 1 (1), pp. 8–24. Acs, Z. J. and Amorós, J. E. (2008). “Entrepreneurship and competitiveness dynamics in Latin America.” Small Business Economics, Vol. 31 (3), pp. 305-322. Acs, Z. J. and Szerb, L. (2007). “Entrepreneurship, Economic Growth and Public Policy.” Small Business Economics. Vol 28. pp. 109-122.
Jennings, J. E. and Brush, C. (2013). “Research on woman entrepreneurship: Challenges to (and from) the Broader Entrepreneurship Literature?” The Academy of Management Annals , Vol. 7 (1), pp. 661-713. Bruton, G., Ahlstrom, D., and Han-Li, L. (2010). “Institutional Theory and Entrepreneurship: Where Are We Now and Where Do We Need to Move in the Future?” Baylor University. May 2010 421. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2010.00390.x Acs, Z.J., Desai, S., and Hessels, J. (2008). “Entrepreneurship, economic development and institutions.” Small Business Economics, Vol. 31 (3), pp. 219-234.
Mattis, M.C. (2004). “Women entrepreneurs: out from under the glass ceiling.” Women in Management Review , Vol. 19 (3), pp. 154-163. North, D. (1990). “Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance.” Cambridge Univ. Press. Kantis, H., V.M. Koening, and Angelelli, P. (2004). Developing entrepreneurship: Experience in Latin America and worldwide. Washington DC: Inter-American Development Bank.
Minniti, M. and Nardone, C. (2007). “Being in someone else’s shoes: The role of gender in nascent entrepreneurship.” Small Business Economics , Vol. 28 (2–3), pp. 223–239. Tolbert, P., David, R., and Sine, W. (2011). “Studying Choice and Change: The Intersection of Institutional Theory and Entrepreneurship Research.” Organization Science, Vol. 22 (5), pp. 1332-1344. van Stel, A., Carree, M., and Thurik, R. (2005). “The Effect of Entrepreneurial Activity on National Economic Growth.” Small Business Economics, Vol. 24 (3), pp. 311-321.
Wagner, J. (2007). “What a difference a Y makes – female and male nascent entrepreneurs in Germany.” Small Business Economics , Vol. 28 (1), pp. 1-21. Veciana, J.M. and Urbano, D. (2008). “The institutional approach to entrepreneurship research. Introduction.” International Entrepreneurship Management Journal, Vol. 4, pp. 365-379.
  —Own elaboration..


Qualitative analysis

As discussed above, this paper analyzes the content of research studies focusing on female entrepreneurial activity, taking as a conceptual framework the institutional approach (North, 1990), in order to offer a Latin-America overview.

Table 4 shows that 43.48% of the empirical works are related to female entrepreneurial activity, followed by institutional approach studies (28.26%) and economics studies (28.26%). Associated with female entrepreneurial activity, 47% of the works are directly related to Latin America. However, there are only two academic papers, and the rest are special reports from private initiatives. Lofstrom and Bates (2009) analyze the relative success of self-employed female Hispanics, and Kuschel and Lepeley (2016) study “copreneurial” women in start-ups.

Table 4.

Approach of the analyzed articles

Alternate Text: Table 4 Approach of the analyzed articles.
Approach Articles Author and year of publication
No. %
Female Entrepreneurial Activity 20 43.48 Aboal and Veneri (2014); Ahl and Nelson (2015); Brush et al. (2009); GEM Special Women’s Report (2014, 2012); Gurley-Calvez et al. (2009); Heller (2010); Jennings and Brush (2013); Kantis et al. (2004, 2002); Kuschel and Lepeley (2016); Kuschel et al. (2017); Lederman et al. (2014); Lofstrom and Bates (2009); Mattis (2004); Minniti and Nardone (2007); Noguera et al. (2015); Peris-Ortiz et al. (2015); Wagner (2007); Weeks and Seiler (2001).
Institutional theory 13 28.26 Alvarez and Urbano (2011); Amine and Staub (2009); Autio and Fu (2015); Bruton et al. (2010); Bygrave (1989); Capelleras, and Rabetino (2008); Díaz Casero et al. (2005); Estrin and Mickiewicz (2011); Henkerson (2007); Noguera et al. (2013); Tolbert et al. (2011); Urbano and Alvarez (2014); Veciana and Urbano (2008).
Economics 13 28.26 Acs et al. ( 2008, 2012); Acs and Szerb (2007); Acs and Amorós (2008); Amorós and Cristi (2008); Amorós et al. (2012); Castellani and Lora (2014); GEM Report (2016); Langowitz et al. (2006); Nissan et al. (2011); Thurik and Wennekers (2004); van Stel et al. (2005); Wennekers et al. (2002).
TOTAL 46 100
  —Own elaboration..

Aboal and Veneri (2014) find that the different types of female Latin-American entrepreneurs derived from differences in their personality traits and socio-demographic backgrounds They offer a group of measured characteristics for Latin American entrepreneurs and find heterogeneity when countries are analyzed separately.

Weeks and Seiler (2001) summarize known information on women’s entrepreneurship in Latin America and the Caribbean. They find an absence of official government information and statistics on women-owned firms, and a frequent absence of comparability of data and definitions. Meanwhile, Heller (2010) examines continuities and transformations in Latin American women’s participation in productive activities. She proposes to characterize the particularities of the entrepreneurial activity carried out by women in selected countries, and to identify the factors that have propelled or hampered this activity in the region, from the perspective that examines the promotion of gender equity in the world of work. The workplaces special emphasis on the entrepreneurial environment.

Kantis et al. (2004) and Kantis et al. (2002) analyze the profile of entrepreneurs and the way they create high growth undertakings in some countries of Latin America, East Asia, and southern Europe. They also provide a set of case studies related to entrepreneurship development policies and programs. The results identify a set of areas and recommendations for decision makers can act in order to promote business creation and boost private-sector development. On other hand, Lederman et al. (2014) offer a synopsis of the Latin American entrepreneurial environment for innovation, addressing entrepreneurship as a source of development.

The studies that take an institutional approach, 23% are associated with female entrepreneurial activity, and 15% are associated with Latin America. Noguera et al. (2013) analyze the factors that influence female entrepreneurship in Spain. They determine that some social values could have more significant influence on female entrepreneurial activity than formal factors. The study of Alvarez and Urbano (2011) analyzes the influence of formal and informal institutions on business activity, focusing on Latin America. Alvarez and Urbano establish that informal environmental factors have more influence on entrepreneurial activity in Latin American countries than formal factors. On the same path, Capelleras and Rabetino (2008) examine the factors that influence new firm growth and conclude that entrepreneurs’ characteristics and national institutions are important drivers of economic growth in Latin America.

Regarding the economics studies, 29% are linked to Latin America, 14% concern female entrepreneurial activity, and 14% cover economic development. Acs and Amorós (2008) analyze the relationship between entrepreneurial dynamics and the level of competitiveness and conclude that entrepreneurial activity in Latin America is related to different levels of countries’ competitiveness. Likewise, Amorós and Cristi (2008) also analyze this relationship. They determine that Latin American countries must improve structural changes in entrepreneurial public policies to achieve a high level of economic growth. On the other hand, Amorós et al. (2012) measure the relationship between entrepreneurship and competitiveness. Their find that: 1) Public policies have to address factors with a greater potential according to the resources available; and 2) to reach greater development, governments need to improve macroeconomic as well as microeconomic policies of entrepreneurial activity. Castellani and Lora (2014) study the potential and limits of policies to promote entrepreneurship as a vehicle for social mobility. They suggest that in every Latin American country , different formal and informal factors (e.g., education, age, gender, income, family background, role model ) influence entrepreneurial activity and the decision to become an entrepreneur; despite those differences, entrepreneurial activity is a channel for social mobility in the region. One common factor is that entrepreneurship is gendered.

Finally, the GEM Women’s Reports (2012, 2014) offer an understanding of the environment for female entrepreneurship in Latin America and provide valuable insights. These reports focused on two elements: 1) the entrepreneurial behavior and attitudes of Latin American female entrepreneurs, and 2) the Latin American economic context and how that influences female entrepreneurship.

Quantitative analysis

The literature review concentrated on keywords, journals, objectives, and methodology. As a result, the main findings are shown below.

Several keywords were mentioned in the articles. [5] In Table 5, they were regrouped according to their focus on: entrepreneurship/entrepreneurialism/entrepreneurial activity (24%), institutions/institutional theory (23%), economic growth/economic development (12%), female/women entrepreneurship (8%), Latin America (4%), GEM (3%), and others (27%).

Table 5.


Alternate Text: Table 5 Keywords.
Keywords %
Entrepreneurship/entrepreneurialism/entrepreneurial activity 24
Institutions/institutional theory 23
Economic growth/economic development 12
Female/women entrepreneurship 8
Latin America 4
Others 27
  —Own elaboration.

Regarding journals, we found that 24% of the articles were published in Small Business Economics (impact factor: 1.795), 24% in reports from the private sector (mostly IADB and GEM), 15% in the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development (impact factor: 0.575), and 37% published in other journals. Table 6 shows details.

Small Business Economics is the journal in which we found the largest number of published articles on the topics of female entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship and institutions, and entrepreneurship and economic growth. The reports from the private sector focused on female entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship and economic growth, with a perspective on Latin America. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal published articles about entrepreneurship and institutions and entrepreneurship and economic development.

Table 6.

Journals and Reports Published articles per year

Alternate Text: Table 6 Journals and Reports Published articles per year.
Journal Before 2000 2000-2002 2003-2005 2006-2008 2009-2011 2012-2014 2015-2017 TOTAL
No. %
Small Business Economics - - 1 5 3 2 - 11 24
Reports (private initiatives) - 2 1 - 3 3 2 11 24
International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal - - - 3 2 2 - 7 15
Other journals 1 1 3 2 3 2 5 17 37
TOTAL 1 3 5 10 11 9 6 46 100
  —Own elaboration.

We want to highlight that we found only two articles published in Latin American journals: ARLA-Academia Revista Latinoamericana de Administración (impact factor: 0.237) (Kuschel and Lepeley, 2016); and Latin American Journal of Economics (impact factor: 0.7) (Castellani and Lora, 2014).

Furthermore, we found 75 authors who have written at least one academic paper on the topics of our interest. The authors who have published the most are Urbano (six articles), Acs (four), Alvarez (four), Amorós (three), and Thurik (three). Urbano and Alvarez commonly publish together, as well as Thurik and Wennekers. Table 7 shows published articles and academic affiliation for these authors. Most articles are the product of international teams; we identified only five articles that are written by a single author: Bygrave (1989), Heller (2010), Henkerson (2007), Mattis (2004), and Wagner (2007).

Table 7.

Main authors by number of published articles and their academic affiliation

Alternate Text: Table 7 Main authors by number of published articles and their academic affiliation.
Urbano, David 1 3 1 1 6[6] Universitat de Barcelona Spain
Acs, Zoltan 4 - - - 4 George Mason University USA
Alvarez, Claudia 1 3 - - 4 Universitat de Barcelona Spain University of Medellín Colombia
Amorós, Ernesto 2 1 - - 3[7] Universidad del Desarrollo Chile
Thurik, Roy 1 - 2 - 3 Erasmus University Rotterdam The Netherlands
  —Own elaboration..

About the articles’ objectives, those placed in the classification of female entrepreneurial activity (44%) mostly focus on explaining the dynamics of females’ undertakings in Latin America. Works classified as entrepreneurship and institutions (28%) commonly focus on explaining the relationship between entrepreneurship and the institutional approach. Articles classified as entrepreneurship and economic development (28%) focus on explaining the link between 1-economics and entrepreneurship; 2-economics, entrepreneurship, and institutions); and 3-economics, entrepreneurship, and Latin America. Table 8 brief these results.

Table 8.

Orientation of the objectives

Alternate Text: Table 8 Orientation of the objectives.
Female Entrepreneurial Activity No. % Entrepreneurship and institutions No. % Entrepreneurship and economic development No. %
Document women entrepreneurship research 2 10 Explain entrepreneurship 1 8 Economics and entrepreneurship 4 31
Understand female entrepreneurship 4 20 Explain entrepreneurship and institutional approach 6 46 Economics and entrepreneurship and institutions 4 31
Self-employment 2 10 Document current entrepreneurship research and institutions 2 15.3 Economics and entrepreneurship and gender 1 7
Start-ups 3 15 Describe entrepreneurship and institutional approach and gender 2 15.3 Economics and entrepreneurship and Latin America 4 31
Differences between males and females 2 10 Entrepreneurship and institutional approach and Latin America 2 15.3
Female entrepreneurship and Latin America 7 35
TOTALS 20 100 13 100 13 100
  —Own elaboration..

On the analyzed articles, 68% are driven from databases, 26% from a wide range of literature, and 6% representing a combination of both. Primary data were used by 31% of studies, followed by use of the GEM database in combination with national or other databases (15%). Secondary data sources include national or other databases (13%) and the GEM database (9%). In all cases, the researchers use more than one statistical technique; the most common are functions and equations (29%) and regression (16%).

Table 9.

Data used on the analyzed articles

Alternate Text: Table 9 Data used on the analyzed articles.
Data No. % Author (s)
Primary Database 14 31 Aboal and Veneri (2014); Capelleras and Rabetino (2008); GEM (2012, 2014, 2016); Heller (2010); Kantis et al. (2002, 2004); Kuschel and Lepeley (2016); Kuschel et al. (2017); Langowitz et al. (2006); Lederman et al. (2014); Mattis (2004); Weeks and Seiler (2001).
Literature Review 12 26 Acs and Szerb (2007); Acs et al. (2008); Amine and Staub (2009); Brush et al. (2009); Bruton et al. (2010); Bygrave (1989); Henkerson (2007); Jennings and Brush (2013); Peris-Ortiz et al. (2015); Thurik and Wennekers (2004); Tolbert et al. (2011); Veciana and Urbano (2008).
GEM Database and National or Other Database 7 15 Amorós and Cristi (2008); Amorós et al. (2012); Autio and Fu (2015); Díaz Casero et al. (2005); Estrin and Mickiewicz (2011); Noguera et al. (2015); van Stel et al. (2005).
National or Other Database 6 13 Acs et al. (2012); Ahl and Nelson (2015); Gurley-Calvez et al. (2009); Lofstrom and Bates (2009); Nissan et al. (2011); Wagner (2007).
GEM Database 4 9 Alvarez and Urbano (2011); Minniti and Nardone (2007); Noguera et al. (2013); Urbano and Alvarez (2014).
Literature Review, GEM Database, and National (Other) Database 3 6 Acs and Amorós (2008); Castellani and Lora (2014); Wennekers et al. (2002).
TOTAL 46 100
  —Own elaboration..

On the other hand, 59% of the articles focus on Latin America as a single region, while 35% focus on one particular sector (Latin American female entrepreneurs), and 6% concentrate on a group of countries (Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, and Peru; see Table 10).

Table 10.

Analyzed articles focus on Latin America

Alternate Text: Table 10 Analyzed articles focus on Latin America.
Latin America as: No. % Author (s)
Single Region 10 59 Aboal and Veneri (2014); Acs and Amorós (2008); Alvarez and Urbano (2011); Amorós and Cristi (2008); Amorós et al. (2012); Castellani and Lora (2014); Kantis et al. (2002, 2004); Kuschel and Lepeley (2016); Lederman et al. (2014).
Particular sector (women) 6 35 GEM (2012, 2014). Heller (2010). Lofstrom and Bates (2009); Weeks and Seiler (2001); Kuschel et al. (2017).
Group of countries 1 6 Capelleras and Rabetino (2008).
TOTAL 17 100
  —Own elaboration..

Finally, related to the statistical techniques used in the articles focused on Latin America, 35% used a driven analysis, 24% used a survey method, 18% used functions and equations, and 24% used some combination of methods (Table 11). These studies were discussed above.

Table 11.

Analyzed articles focus on Latin America statistical techniques

Alternate Text: Table 11 Analyzed articles focus on Latin America statistical techniques.
Latin America as: No. % Author (s)
Driven analysis 6 35 Aboal and Veneri (2014); Castellani and Lora (2014); Lederman et al. (2014); Kantis et al. (2002, 2004); Weeks and Seiler (2001)
Survey 4 28 Kuschel et al. (2017); Kuschel and Lepeley (2016); GEM (2014, 2012)
Functions and equations 3 18 Alvarez and Urbano (2011); Amorós and Cristi (2008); Capelleras and Rabetino (2008)
Other methods 4 28 Amorós et al. (2012); Heller (2010); Lofstrom and Bates (2009); Acs and Amorós (2008)
TOTAL 17 100
  —Own elaboration..

We also explored the relationship between the level of analysis (i.e., single region, sector [women], and a group of countries) and the approaches (i.e., economic growth, female entrepreneurial activity, and institutional theory). The results showed that χ2 is 29.7 with 6 degrees of freedom and is significant at 0.00. Hence, we determined that there is a statistical association between the level of analysis and the approach. Figure 2 presents the scatter diagram between the level of analysis and the approaches. It shows that studies focused on female entrepreneurial activity are associated with a sector (women) level of analysis, while economic growth studies are associated with a single regional level of analysis, and institutional approaches are associated with a country group level of analysis.

[Figure ID: gf1] Figure 1.

Approach versus level of analysis

Alternate Text: Figure 1 Approach versus level of analysis.
  —Own elaboration..

We also found a statistically significant association of 0.000 (χ2 is 17.6 with 9 degrees of freedom) between the statistical techniques and the approaches used. There is also an evident relationship between female entrepreneurial activity and driven analysis techniques; as well as between the economic growth approach and the use the analyses of others (Figure 3).

[Figure ID: gf2] Figure 2.

Approach versus statistical technique

Alternate Text: Figure 2 Approach versus statistical technique.
  —Own elaboration..

Finally, Figure 4 characterizes a tridimensional representation of the studies related to Latin America. There is a clear relationship between the type of approaches, level of analysis, and database. Possible future lines of research could analyze the institutional approach and use GEM data and national databases to close the gap by providing a more detailed view of the economic approach.

[Figure ID: gf3] Figure 3.

Tridimensional representation

Alternate Text: Figure 3 Tridimensional representation.
  —Own elaboration..


Institutional approach is useful in explaining the entrepreneurial environment as well as the formal and informal factors that influence economic development in Latin America. There is increasing evidence for its use. Our study demonstrates both the prevalence of studying Latin America as a single region, and little attention to sectors (separate countries or females’ contribution to entrepreneurship).

We conclude that there is a gap in the investigation of female entrepreneurial activity and its relationship with economics in Latin America using the institutional approach. Most studies explain these topics separately or in an arrangement, such as female entrepreneurship and Latin America; entrepreneurship, institutional approach, and Latin America; or economics, entrepreneurship, and Latin America. We also found that private organizations always use their own primary data, while academics use other databases like GEM combined with other databases, and both apply a large range of research and statistical methods for data analyses.

Finally, based on the above, we settle that the forces that stimulate or hinder entrepreneurial activity and the role of gender differences among entrepreneurs remain poorly understood in Latin America, where there is an absence of official government information and statistics about female entrepreneurial activity.

However, the literature review showed that most of the available studies resulted from the initiatives of private organizations, such as IADB, GEM, WB, and ECLA, rather than from scholarly research. There is no evidence suggesting that a body of academic papers related to female entrepreneurial activity in Latin America has been published in SSCI journals.

Greater recognition of the role of female entrepreneurs could stimulate research interest in this group, with the goal of increasing overall entrepreneurial and economic activity in Latin America. To date, a considerable body of research has sought to understand the relationship between entrepreneurial activity and economic growth, including antecedents and consequences. Although this research has generated a number of important insights, it has paid scant attention to females’ contributions to economic activities. Identifying the determinants of female entrepreneurial activity will have important implications for those who formulate, deliver, and evaluate entrepreneurial policies in Latin America.



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