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Institutional Approaches to Women's Economic Empowerment

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM (PST)

Manchester Grand Hyatt, Cortez Hill A
Hosted By: Association for Evolutionary Economics
  • Chair: Eugenia Correa, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)-Mexico City

Capabilities and (Missed) Opportunity for Women's Entrepreneurship in Kuwait

Melissa Langworthy
Tulane University
Tonia Warnecke
Rollins College


Kuwait offers a powerful context for investigating the entrepreneurial cultures developing in Gulf countries in response to the concurrent trends of pursuing economic diversification and efficiency on the one hand, and the constraints posed by cultural narratives that maintain inequality between the sexes. Further, such trends have “created barriers to and opportunities for the economic empowerment and inclusion of women” (Young 2016). Kuwait exemplifies many of the paradoxical experiences of women in the region; despite high educational achievements for women and boasting the first C-level Inclusion and Diversity Officer, Kuwait ranks 125th out of 144 countries on gender equality in economic participation and opportunity (GGGR 2017). This makes Kuwait an apt location within the Gulf to explore entrepreneurship as a tool for building women’s economic and social empowerment.
In Kuwait, a country that has established a right to work for its citizens, cultural narratives prioritize public sector jobs which are seen as secure, well-paying, and better for balancing family obligations. All citizens are guaranteed work in the public sector, leaving the government bloated and swimming in unrealized productivity. Kuwait is also facing a demographic explosion of youth who will be seeking opportunities in the coming years. In response to these issues, Kuwait has focused on the development of entrepreneurship opportunities, including establishing a National Fund that acts as trainer, incubator, and financier for nascent entrepreneurs. The National Fund, however, has no specific focus on recruiting women.
As social norms, institutional discrimination, and gender identity define the activities and persons that are entrepreneurial, they have an incredible impact on female enterprise motivations, characteristics, and success. As compared to the growing attention to “mumpreneurs” in other regions where women must balance work and family balance, women in Kuwait often balance their public sector employment with a side, or hobby, enterprise in order to appease family members or because of structural barriers in the formal economy. The Kuwaiti context where women have the right to work but are socially pressured into the public sector is an apt context to uncover the relationship between entrepreneurship and capabilities. By utilizing the capabilities approach to analyze entrepreneurship as a course of empowerment for Kuwaiti women, this research seeks to show the ways in which women in the Gulf Peninsula are negotiating for enhanced capabilities and finding diverse, creative, and transformative ways to interject their own narratives of empowerment as part of a globalized society.

Feminist Institutional Economics: A Cross-Fertilization of Congruent Approaches

Ellen Mutari
Stockton University


This paper explores points of congruence between the theoretical approaches of feminist economics and original institutional economics. These suggested points of congruence include: (1) a broad focus on social provisioning processes as the disciplinary subject matter of economics; (2) the significance of enculturation processes, institutional norms, and social practices in shaping economic behavior; (3) multiple motivations of economics actors (in contrast with a narrow focus on rational, self-interested economic man); (4) a skepticism about social hierarchies and invidious distinctions; (5) methodological pluralism that emphasizes empirical understanding over logical deduction from untestable assumptions; and (6) a normative commitment to progressive evolutionary change. Examples from the work of feminist institutional economists is used to illustrate how these principles have been incorporated into theoretical and empirical work.

Net Nutrition and the Female-Male Transition to Social Feminism: Assessing Body Mass Index Change with Differences in Decompositions

Scott Alan Carson
University of Texas-Permian Basin


The rise of social-feminism in the early 1900’s changed the roles of women and men and was among the more important transitions in American economic development. The rise of feminism and women’s suffrage are, therefore, among the foremost progressive ideas. However, measuring the effect of this transition is difficult to isolate. The body mass index (BMI) is one measure that is frequently used to evaluate historical net nutritional and health conditions during economic development. This study develops a new statistical decomposition to isolate changes in BMI, current, and cumulative net nutrition and the causal factors associated with the institutional rise of Social Feminism. Early 20th century women’s net nutrition improved relative to men and relative to women before the transition, and the primary sources of across group variation were height and nativity. Nativity and socioeconomic status were the principle sources of female-male within group variation. Results, therefore, indicate women’s net nutrition improved with the rise of social feminism.

Thorstein Veblen as Evolutionary Feminist for the Progressive Movement

John Hall
Portland State University
Manuel Ramon de Souza Luz
Federal University of ABC-São Paulo


Contributions of Thorstein Veblen coincided with and also contributed to the Progressive Movement in the United States. While many aspects of Veblen’s contributions have been considered, his efforts to advance an Evolutionary Feminist Economics as integral to the Progressive Movement has tended to remain neglected. Its evolutionary orientation is what differentiates Thorstein Veblen’s contribution from the other genre’s, and his contribution can be categorized as “Evolutionary Feminist Economics”. Founding and advancing this tradition, Veblen employs his understanding of dividing human history into eras and with a focus on the consistent character of instincts. Long before John Locke and his notions of private property, Veblen considers the Era of Savagery, and how women taken as prizes in war established the initial form and foundation for understanding private property. This is found in “The Beginnings of Ownership” (1898). In the Era of the Machine, Veblen focuses especially on the instinct of “emulation” and its relation to woman’s dress and his perspective is found in “The Economic Theory of Woman’s Dress” (1894) Rather than offering reformist notions, Veblen sticks with critique, pointing out the relations between an evolving political economy through the eras, and how the status and position of woman and their relationship to the economy can be related. (words 302)
Eugenia Correa
National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)-Mexico City
Kalpana Khanal
Nichols College
JEL Classifications
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches
  • A1 - General Economics