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Female Entrepreneurship in the 21 st Century: The Way Forward Conference Tuesday 26 th September 2006 Dublin, Ireland Dinah Bennett Durham Business School UK. Why focus on women?. Economic imperative -“Expanding the involvement of women in

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Female Entrepreneurship in the 21 st Century: The Way Forward Conference

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Female Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century:

The Way Forward Conference

Tuesday 26th September 2006

Dublin, Ireland

Dinah Bennett

Durham Business School


Why focus on women?

  • Economic imperative

    -“Expanding the involvement of women in

    entrepreneurship is critical for long-term economic


  • Under-representation

  • Different Experience

    -different motivations/ less resources/ longer


  • Introduction

  • Women’s enterprise development – UK context

  • Barriers

  • Women Into the Network (WIN)

  • Lessons

Some Facts

  • Participation of Women in Enterprise is

    significant and rising.

  • Women’s Businesses contribute to

    economic development and job creation

  • No country in the world where women are

    more entrepreneurially active than men.

  • Globally the participation of men starting

    businesses usually 50% higher than women

  • More women than before are in the labour force throughout their reproductive years, though obstacles with employment persist.

  • Women experience more unemployment than men and for a longer period of time than men.

  • Women remain at the lower end of a segregated labour market and continue to be concentrated in a few occupations, to hold positions of little or no authority and to receive less pay than men.

  • Available statistics are still far from providing a strong basis for assessing both quantitative and qualitative changes in women's employment.

UK Context

  • Women’s enterprise increasingly seen as important

  • Growth of women’s business ownership

  • The gender dimension to barriers recognised

  • A wide range of initiatives aimed at addressing these

  • 2003 Strategic Framework launched


  • Access to finance

  • Care/domestic responsibilities

  • Lack of knowledge/training in business


  • Perceptual barriers of credibility

Women and their assets for business


skills and


Motivation &









Idea with a



Plan and Manage


H – Human AssetsN – Natural AssetsS – Social Assets

P – Physical AssetsF – Financial Assets

Confidence and Social Capital

  • Confidence is:

  • A complex issue

  • Very personal

  • Not exclusively gender specific

  • A relative concept – e.g. business stage

  • Relating confidence and social capital

Social Capital Critical to Business

  • Successful entrepreneurship is about managing relationships with a range of stakeholders (Gibb)

    • Knowing who are the critical stakeholders in your network and why

    • What are these relationships & how are they maintained

  • Business Networking a critical vehicle for building social capital

Women Into the Network

  • When - Started in 1999 in the North East of England

  • Why - Low numbers of women in business and research showed 700 networks under utilised

  • Who - Potential and existing women in business & those who support

  • What - Relationship building through networking for women’s enterprise

  • 2000 women members regionally - 24000 nationally

WIN –multi layered activities

  • Events –from training workshops to lunches

  • Awards –annual event

  • Communications and Publications –website,

    newsletters, ezines

  • Role models – development & promotion

  • Sectoral initiatives

  • Research

  • Signposting

  • Dissemination

Theme - Make Networking Explicit

  • Developing understanding about Networks & networking –

    ‘I hate networking’

  • Easy entry points

  • Rehearsal space

  • Women only or mixed ?

  • Conduit for support sector

  • Brokerage – ‘getting to know spaces’

  • Lobbying for change to existing business networks

Mixed Perceptions & Expectations

The banking research as a case study

  • Expectations

    • Women wanted bank to be more proactive and interested in their business. An important stakeholder.

    • Men merely saw the bank as a service provider

  • Bankers - access to their networks ……. but mechanisms & venues used by banks are often not appropriate

  • Training for women to better manage their bank managers & vice versa

Assumptions & Impressions

Challenges for effective and trust based

relationship building

  • Assumptions can close off areas of support.

  • Stereotyping - websites women = ‘socially excluded’

  • Home based /portfolio business – diminutive

  • First impressions critical when transaction costs of

    getting to the meeting are high

Business support for women:issues for advisers

  • Knowing the customer base – catering for diverse needs

  • Recognition of needs of part-time businesses

  • Assistance from pre-pre start-up through to business growth

  • Accessible services – timing/ transport/ care/ ethnicity

  • Role models

Women Into the NetworkA Dynamic Model for Supporting Women’s Enterprise

  • Active support – partnership working, public, private & voluntary

  • First three years over 900 jobs created

  • European wide impact through EQUAL funded Accelerating Women’s Enterprise (AWE) Programme

  • Founding board member of PROWESS

  • Selected as UK Best Practice Model for Supporting Women’s Entrepreneurship

  • Awarded Flagship Status by PROWESS National Business Support Organisation for three consecutive years

  • Spinning out 3 UK Regions, Ireland, Croatia, Slovenia and South Africa

  • 2000 members regionally

  • 24,000 members nationally

  • Winner of CBI First Woman Corporate Award 2006

Dinah Bennett

  • www.womenintothenetwork.co.uk

  • Dinah.bennett@durham.ac.uk

  • +44 (0)191 334 5497

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