Gender in Genre: Female Entrepreneurs’ Public Speaking in International Corporate Communication
Annalisa Zanola

This contribution looks at female entrepreneurs’ public speaking in international and cross-cultural business contexts. Our interest in exploring this issue is related to the outcomes of an empirical study we conducted in 2010 in seventeen northern Italian international businesses. Female entrepreneurs’ public speaking is worthwhile researching for two reasons. First, from a theoretical perspective, although there is a substantial literature on public speaking (Osborn and Osborn 2006; Grice and Skinner 2007; Zanola 2009, 2010), to our knowledge it mainly refers to rhetoric (Coopman and Lull 2008; Strike 1994; Lucas 1998) and law (Hammond 1993; Nielsen 2004). With regard to the specific field of entrepreneurship, instead, there are only few studies (Cienki, Cornelissen and Clarke 2008; Cornelissen and Clarke 2010) that look at how entrepreneurs speak in public; within those studies the extent to which entrepreneurs’ gender has implications on their public speaking has received little attention. Studies that looked at the impact of gender on public speaking relate predominantly to the anthropological field (Johnstone 1995; Natale Riem, Conti Camaiora, Dolce and Mercanti 2010). Second, from an empirical perspective existing studies on public speaking mainly aimed to provide explanations on the nature of public speaking (Esenwein 2009) and on the nature of management gurus (Greatbatch and Clark 2005) in order for practitioners to be more effective orators. Our study seeks to overcome some of those limitations by investigating actors’ accounts and the way they construct their discourse. Our study takes a subjectivist, interpretivist perspective. The idea of a public speech that characterizes female entrepreneurs emerged as a stricking finding in our data. In this paper we illustrate what our interviewees meant by female entrepreneurs’ public speaking, what exactly characterizes this type of speech, in what ways, in what settings and with what purpose.

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