Unpacking Privilege: Exploring Privileged Migrant Women''s Entrepreneurship in the Swedish Labour Market

Karen Haandrikman, Stockholm University, Department of Human Geography
Natasha Webster, Stockholm University, Department of Human Geography

This paper focuses on women migrant entrepreneurship as a pathway for immigration integration and inclusion showing that pathways to entrepreneurialism are not always equal. Studies on race in entrepreneurship have emphasized how the ‘other’, particularly for migrant women entrepreneurs, are excluded from mainstream entrepreneurial activities and resources through structural racism. In Sweden, whiteness and other privilege forms, is a hegemonic taken-for-granted norm. Yet privilege as a pathway to labour market integration remains under explored. Our research question is: How is privilege revealed in contemporary migrant women entrepreneurship? The study uses a multi-method approach, with a combination of economic life course histories and descriptive statistics based on register data. We use Wernet’s (2016) classification of countries into pro-woman states to classify countries of birth according to privilege. Preliminary results show that privilege is a relevant characteristic when examining entrepreneurship. Migrants coming from the most privileged countries, about half of all migrant women in Sweden, have the highest self-employment rates, while non-privileged migrants (29% of all migrant women) have the lowest rates. The most privileged women have incomes near that of native women, while migrant women from less privileged contexts have lower annual incomes. Preliminary results from the interviews and ethnographic fieldwork indicate that privilege is actively accessed and mobilized in entrepreneurial activities by migrants. Privilege is reflected in the ways migrant entrepreneurs build embodied, objectified and institutional forms of social capital. Results contribute to an improved understanding of successful pathways for immigrants into entrepreneurships. The study offers insights for understanding how privilege provides insights into how migrants are included or excluded from economic social spheres.

Background

The economic integration ofimmigrants in Sweden is suboptimal, with an employment gap between natives andimmigrants that is higher than in other OECD countries (OECD 2015). This paperfocuses on women migrant entrepreneurship as a pathway for immigrant integrationand inclusion into society showing that pathways to entrepreneurialism are notalways equal.

Studies on race inentrepreneurship have emphasized how the ‘other’, particularly for migrantwomen entrepreneurs, are excluded from mainstream entrepreneurial activitiesand resources through structural racism (Ensign and Woods 2016; Knight 2013). InSweden, whiteness and other privilege forms, such as coming from an Englishspeaking country, is a hegemonic taken-for-granted norm (Hübinette 2012) inthis context, privilege emerges in social and economic practices, for exampleaccessing the labour market effectively. Yet privilege as a pathway to labourmarket integration remains under explored.

Migrant entrepreneurship hasbeen viewed as a result from being locked out (Ensign and Robinson 2010) and asa way to enter local labour markets (Baycan-Levent and Nijkamp 2009; Lo 2016;Stam 2009). Gender, race and class affect start-up patterns (Berglund et al.2013; Bourne and Calás 2013; Kushnirovich 2009; Pijpers and Maas 2014; Rioux2015).

Using the concept of socialcapital, we bridge the perspectives of migration, entrepreneurship andintersectional feminism. Social capital, or embedded resources with expectedreturns (Lin 2000), is accessed and mobilized as migrants enter local labourmarkets, for example through networks. Thus, privilege serves as a way toexplore mechanisms of structural inequalities within the local labour market. Weask: How is privilege revealed in contemporary migrant women entrepreneurship?

Data and methods

The study uses amulti-method approach, with a combination of economic life course histories anddescriptive statistics based on register data on women migrant entrepreneurs.

Biographical narrativeswith privileged migrant women are combined with ethnographic fieldwork, basedon an understanding of entrepreneurship as a social process rather than solelyeconomic activity (Gherardi and Perrotta 2014). Economic life course interviewsare based on the concept and method of the life course interview (Atkinson1998; Halkias et al. 2011), where the focus is on the educational andoccupational life course. Women were recruited through migrant networks, i.e.on Facebook, and through snowballing. Other fieldwork includes attendingnetwork events and meetings with entrepreneurial organizations.

Register data offersgreat possibilities for examining how privilege is revealed in self-employmentpatterns. The paper uses data from the GEOSTAR database, a collection of registerdatasets from Statistics Sweden, linking individuals with family members, andinformation on education and labour market positions. We analysed data for theyear 2012 and included all women who were classified as self-employed based oninformation from the tax agency.

We use Wernet’s (2016)classification of countries into pro-woman states that is based on a ranking ofa number of demographic indicators, ratios between men and women regardingeducational attainment, labour force participation and income, share of womenin parliament, and a maternity leave index. Countries were grouped from high tolow, with the highest ranked group having the most privileges.

Preliminary results

Register data resultsshow that about half of all migrant women in Sweden can be classified as mostprivileged, 22% as having “some privilege” and 29% as non-privileged. Figure 1shows that privilege is a relevant characteristic when examiningentrepreneurship. Native women have a higher self-employment rate than migrantwomen, but second generation women stand out with the highest self-employmentrates. Migrants (with parents) coming from the most privileged countries havethe highest self-employment rates, while non-privileged migrants have thelowest rates.

Figure 1. Share ofself-employed women by privilege group

Figure 2. Average annualincome, women entrepreneurs

Privileged women moreoften work with professional, scientific and technical activities, and lessprivileged women work more often with other service activities such ashairdressing and beauty treatment. Figure 2 shows that migrants have loweraverage incomes than natives, and that the most privileged women have an incomenearest that of native women. Migrant women from less privileged contexts havelower annual incomes.

Preliminary results fromthe interviews and ethnographic fieldwork indicate that privilege is actively accessedand mobilized in entrepreneurial activities by migrants. Privilege is reflectedin the ways migrant entrepreneurs build embodied, objectified and institutionalforms of social capital. As one participant describes, her photography businesslifted off the ground due to her placement in an expat forum: “I was lucky,…[to have] English Speaking Moms in Sweden (an online forum), a fewmoms… booked me for a photo session. [It] started with one mom, a lovely Dutchmom and then her two best friends contacted me within a few months”.

Results contribute to animproved understanding of successful pathways for immigrants into entrepreneurship.This study offers insights for understanding how privilege provides insightsinto how migrants are included or excluded from economic social spheres.

 

Presented in Session 1234: Posters