In this article we analyze how women’s entrepreneurship is affected when a mainly femaledominated industry in the Public Sector is subject to competition. We study the childcare industry in Sweden, where women constitute 90 per cent of the workforce and where a process of competition was initiated in the early 1990s.
From a gender perspective, we investigate whether a male norm of entrepreneurship is also valid within a mainly female-dominated context, or whether the childcare business in Sweden can be conceptualized as “women’s own rooms”, where the preconditions are more promising for women than for men.
Using longitudinal data on all employees and self-employed individuals in the childcare industry in Sweden, we analyze men’s and women’s entrepreneurship in Sweden over the period 1993-2010. Data shows that men run larger and more profitable businesses compared to women, although women business owners have much greater work experience from the industry.
Survival analysis shows that men’s propensity for entry into business ownership in the childcare business is higher than women’s, and that the presence of children in the household increases the propensity for entry of women, but not of men. Regarding exit from business ownership, survival analysis shows that there is no significant difference between men and women, when taking account of firm-specific factors. High exit rates among men are explained by the larger scope of their businesses.
Our conclusion is that a male norm of entrepreneurship features even within the childcare industry. A pattern of “childcare businessmen” on the one hand, and “self-employed childcare worker women” on the other, emerges from our analysis. Hence, the gender system is also reproduced in the context of competition of a mainly female-dominated industry in Sweden.