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High-growth Women’s Entrepreneurship

Programs, Policies and Practices

Edited by Amanda Bullough, Diana Hechavarría, Candida G. Brush and Linda F. Edelman

Women’s entrepreneurship is vital for economic and social development, yet female entrepreneurs worldwide are consistently found to have weaker sales and employment growth, fewer jobs, and lower profitability. This book was written to address this reality, and focuses on the high-growth potential of women entrepreneurs.
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Amanda Bullough, Diana M. Hechavarr'a, Candida G. Brush and Linda F. Edelman

While women’s entrepreneurship is widely recognized as a source of economic and social development, there is a persistent storyline that women entrepreneurs do not perform as well as their male counterparts, and research examining performance and growth shows inconclusive results regarding gender differences in performance and the causes of them. This introduction chapter defines programs, policies, and practices, and explains why they matter for understanding and stimulating higher levels of growth among women’s businesses. This chapter provides an outline for the book that is organized about three key themes that emerged from the research produced by the collaborators in this book: the practice of building networks, programs and the support environment, and policies and regulations. These three themes comprise the elements of our new framework for policies, programs and practices for high-growth women’s entrepreneurship.

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Amanda Bullough, Diana M. Hechavarr'a, Candida G. Brush and Linda F. Edelman

This chapter supports the notion that an integrated and sustained approach is needed on a global scale. Stakeholder involvement and cultural change that positively influences entrepreneurial ecosystems will support the programs, policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion. In doing so, a summary of the book is followed by practical recommendations that are based on the findings from the research conducted herein. These recommendations follow the structure of our framework used in this book for policies, programs and practices that support high-growth women’s entrepreneurship.

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Edited by Shumaila Yousafzai, Alain Fayolle, Adam Lindgreen, Colette Henry, Saadat Saeed and Shandana Sheikh

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Anne Kamau, Paul Kamau, Daniel Muia, Harun Baiya and Jane Ndung’u

Anne Kamau, Paul Kamau, Daniel Muia, Harun Baiya and Jane Ndung’u contribute to the discussion on the growth and business support of small-scale, informal women entrepreneurs by going beyond economic measures such as financial support. Drawing upon survey data from 398 small-scale women traders in Nairobi, Kenya, the authors outline the importance of investment in social protection for the business support and growth of women entrepreneurs, which may help to increase their business performance. In so doing, they challenge the notion of underperformance that is associated with women entrepreneurs, particularly those in the informal economy, and highlight the role of informal social networks that can provide social protection to women entrepreneurs in the informal sector, easing their financial, psychological and social burden.

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Grace Khoury, Wojdan Farraj and Suhail Sultan

Grace Khoury, Wojdan Farraj and Suhail Sultan explore the fact that female-owned home-based businesses (HBBs) are often characterized by underperformance, as many prefer to remain in the informal sector. In their study it is argued that few women attempt to formalize their HBBs due to the challenges associated with the legitimization process, leaving the majority preferring to endure constrained performance rather than to pursue the otherwise cumbersome alternative. The chapter’s aim is to investigate the challenges faced by female-owned HBBs in Palestine when seeking formalization and to highlight the initiatives provided by the various institutions to encourage these women to persist in their endeavours, and, possibly, to formalize. The findings demonstrate that the most challenging factors are of an institutional nature, both formal (weak institutions, tax policies and support services) and informal (socio-cultural constraints). Moreover, few successful initiatives were introduced by various institutions to encourage these women to formalize their HBBs.

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Monique Boddington and Shima Barakat

Monique Boddington and Shima Barakat study the gendered entrepreneurship discourse by challenging the stereotypical characterizations relating to the underperformance of women entrepreneurs within an education setting. Highlighting the impact of women-only business education programmes on women’s entrepreneurship in the UK, the authors explore the effect of business education programmes that are tailored to women on women’s self-efficacy and start-up initiatives. They evaluate the impact of a learning intervention (business education tailored to the needs of women in science and engineering) through a women’s entrepreneurial programme (EnterpriseWISE) aimed at postdoctoral researchers and PhD researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK. Adopting a qualitative stance, they explore the change facilitated by EnterpriseWISE in increasing women’s entrepreneurial self-efficacy and encouraging them to consider entrepreneurship as a viable career choice. Presenting an alternative gendered order of entrepreneurial practice in education, their findings suggest that programmes for women, such as EnterpriseWISE, create a safe working environment that offers them a reflexive space, provides alternative role models, and encourages women to take action towards pursuing an entrepreneurial career.

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Natalie Sappleton

Natalie Sappleton highlights the facilitators of women’s entrepreneurship that can overcome constraints on their performance. Natalie explains the importance of accounting for the role of the industrial sector in analysing the link between gender and performance in entrepreneurship. Drawing on previous research on entrepreneurial segregation, particularly vertical and horizontal segregation, Sappleton delineates the importance of analysing entrepreneurial performance and success beyond narrow industry categories and business sectors. She also calls for consideration of the industry’s location and specific types of businesses when comparing male entrepreneurs with female entrepreneurs. Finding that previous research only broadly demarcates industrial sectors into ‘retail’ and ‘services’, she highlights the complexity between the business context and gendered business outcomes and calls for the inclusion of diverse types of businesses when evaluating male- and female-owned enterprises. Natalie also contends that the empirical existence of entrepreneurial segregation means that women owner-operators are channelled into business sectors that are riskiest, that attract limited external financing, and that focus on local markets. Thus, the so-called underperformance of women-owned enterprises should be understood and treated as a manifestation and outcome of entrepreneurial segregation.

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Ruta Aidis

Ruta Aidis’s chapter explains the influences of gendered stereotypes in entrepreneurship and examines the impact on growth-oriented women entrepreneurs and their ability to access leadership positions. Ruta suggests that, even when women leave the corporate sector to take on entrepreneurial careers and are successful in their ventures, they are limited by the entrepreneurial ‘glass ceiling’. Drawing on institutional theory and role congruity theory, Ruta explains that gendered impediments for women constrain their ability to access leadership positions. Ruta further shows that gendered stereotypes which view leadership as a male characteristic make it less socially desirable for women to grow their businesses and affect their ability to acquire the resources they need.

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Aija Voitkane, Jeaneth Johansson, Malin Malmström and Joakim Wincent

Aija Voitkane, Jeaneth Johansson, Malin Malmström and Joakim Wincent explore the myth of women’s underperformance as reflected in Swedish governmental financiers’ social interactions when they analyse ventures for investment. Given Sweden’s reputation of being far ahead of other countries in terms of gender-equality issues, one may wonder why women in Sweden are still severely under-represented in entrepreneurship. The authors employ Butler’s theory of identity in conceptualizing financiers’ process of performing gender and entrepreneurial identity in discussions to offer a model that elaborates on the myth of women entrepreneurs’ underperformance. Observing governmental financiers’ meetings, they consider culture and the discourse that takes place in financiers’ performance of entrepreneurial identities and, thus, the construction of the underperformance myth. The authors adopt a symbolic-interpretative lens to explain how men and women financiers interpret and attribute meanings to gender relationships in their assessment work. They also show that such interpretations can influence their interactions both within their organization and with the ventures that apply for financing.