Gendered institutions of entrepreneurship governance in regional Australia

Tywoniak, Stephane, Pini, Barbara M., & Hatcher, Caroline A. (2008) Gendered institutions of entrepreneurship governance in regional Australia. In Gillin, L (Ed.) 5th AGSE International Entrepreneurship Research Exchange, 5 – 8 February 2008, Melbourne, Australia.

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Since the mid-1990s, the topic of rural governance has generated considerable interest as regional Australia seeks to renew the sustainability of its economies, and rural communities seek to mobilise their energies to adapt to the challenges of ageing populations and increased global competition (Pini, 2002).

The 'business case' for diversity and innovation in relation to sustainability and entrepreneurship in rural and regional Australia has been advocated during the past decade (e.g., Elix & Lambert, 1998; Alston, 2000). This recognises the fact that minority groups such as women are making a significant contribution to business development in non-metropolitan Australia (e.g., Haslam McKenzie, 1998; Jennings & Stehlik, 2000). In the face of these developments, the fact that minorities remain rarely represented in positions of rural leadership (Pini, 2005a) is of concern: national and international studies have repeatedly emphasised the critical articulation between successful regional economic development and active community engagement (e.g., Morgan, 1997; Henderson, 2000; Braun, 2005; Beer & Maude, 2002). Indeed, Beer, Maude and Pritchard (2003, p. 262) argue that to support what they call an ''entrepreneurial model of regional economic development'' in Australia, ''community involvement and support is essential''.

This manifest persistance of traditional forms of governance in a context where innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives are called for should be of concern to all stakeholders involved in rural development, including entrepreneurs -in particular those from minorities- communities and policy-makers. The renewal of economic structures is usually mirrored by the evolution of governance structures (North, 1990; Scott, 2001): arguably, this institutional disconnect between intentions and actions identifies an invisible barrier to the enactment of renewed and entrepreneurial development in rural Australia.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the processes of structuration (Bourdieu, 2000; Giddens, 1984; Sewell, 1992) that shape participation in rural governance institutions in order to contribute to the understanding of the inertial obstacles that stand in the way of renewed regional and rural entrepreneurship in Australia. This will be achieved by analysing the discourses of entrepreneurhip in the context of regional development through the study of the case of the new institutional arrangements in a local authority in rural Australia. In doing so, we will uncover the rational myths (Meyer & Rowan, 1977) that underpin institutions of governance related to rural entrepreneurship (e.g., Little, 2001; Welch, 2001; Edwards et al., 2002; Herbert-Cheshire & Lawrence, 2002; Edwards & Woods, 2004; Higgins & Lawrence, 2005) and identify some of the ways in which institutional entrepreneurs (Fligstein, 1997) could usher institutional change.

Methodology/Key Propositions :

Villa, the shire selected for the case study, has a population of approximately 15,000. There is an Indigenous community as well as a significant group of residents from a non-English speaking background. Nearly a third of the population is not in the labour force, indicating that this site held rich potential to investigate challenges related to economic renewal and rural entrepreneurship. In total, forty interviews were conducted with men and women involved in the leadership in the town under investigation. They included leaders from agri-politics, health, education, local government, small business, community development, Indigenous affairs and neighbourhood groups. Participant observation of one of the monthly meetings of the newly formed Town Enterprise Committee (TEC) and a range of documents related to the formation of the TEC, such as local newspaper clippings and council reports, added to this rich source of data.

The analysis of the institutional structures underpinning the governance of rural entrepreneurship involved an interpretive approach, where interview scripts were viewed as narratives in which participants constructed meaning and knowledge (Czarniawska, 2004). The rhetorical analysis of the interviews reveals scripts that actors use to guide their actions (Barley & Tolbert, 1997), theories invoked to rationalise and justify decisions (Suddaby & Greenwood, 2005) and identities (Clegg, Kornberger & Rhodes, 2005).

Results and Implications :

The analysis reveals that the renewal of governance following the establishment of the TEC provided an opportunity to modernise rational myths of rural entrepreneurship hitherto linked to farm work and a gendered division of labor dominated by ''men's work''. This re-construction incorporates new cultural knowledge about entrepreneurial spirit, but remains tightly coupled with masculine values and thus perpetuates traditional structures which tend to restrict women and minorities to marginal roles. The paper thus highlights that enduring patterns of 'hegemonic masculinity' represent an obstacle to embracing greater diversity in governance. The new entrepreneurial knowledge has the capacity to empower women and minorities for greater participation to rural governance, leadership and entrepreneurship. This paper seeks to engage in this conversation to support a more diverse and productive form of rural governance.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 19401
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Gendered Institutions, Entrepreneurship, Governance, Regional Australia
ISBN: 9780980332834
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Entrepreneurship (150304)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Corporate Governance and Stakeholder Engagement (150303)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Business Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Deposited On: 03 Apr 2009 01:18
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2017 22:27

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