Value of Formalization for Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Contexts: A Review and Research Agenda

Mirela Xheneti*, Adrian Madden, Shova Thapa Karki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Formalization is constantly being proposed as being of great benefit to business expansion and success. This claim, however, has not been previously tested through a review of the empirical evidence, especially in relation to the large number of women in the developing world that operate in the informal economy. Therefore, the aim of this review is to systematize the current empirical evidence on gender, the informal economy and formalization, using a narrative synthesis of 76 papers. The papers were analysed along three main analytical themes – identity, institutions, and constraints and preferences – highlighting their conceptualization in studies of different academic disciplines – economics, sociology, entrepreneurship and development. The review calls for more accurate accounts of formalization decisions by widening the lens through which formalization decisions are conceptualized. These should take account of the rich contextual and temporal dimensions central to these decisions, and recognize that gender alone is not a sufficient factor in explaining women's choices in the informal economy. The review also highlights limitations in relation to the limited conceptual and empirical evidence on which development priorities such as formalization are set. The authors propose a research agenda centred on the need for conceptual frameworks that are more sensitive towards the multidimensional contexts of women's choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-23
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Management Reviews
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The review was funded by the Private Sector Development in Low Income Countries Scheme of the Centre for Economic Policy and the Department for International Development, UK.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Cite this