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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 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




  • Women’s enterprise development – UK context
  • Barriers
  • Women Into the Network (WIN)
  • Lessons
some facts
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 Assets N – Natural Assets S – Social Assets

P – Physical Assets F – Financial Assets

confidence and social capital
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
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 network a dynamic model for supporting women s enterprise
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
Dinah Bennett