Entrepreneurship policies targeted at women are contributing little or nothing to their equality
Entrepreneurship policies targeted at women are contributing little or nothing to their equality

Business groups exclusive to women counterproductive for members: Study

ANI | Updated: Jan 24, 2020 15:31 IST


Dublin [Ireland], Jan 24 (ANI): Women-only businesses turn out to be counterproductive for promoting female entrepreneurs as it often secludes them into a separate niche.
This phenomenon may sound counterintuitive but businesses exclusive to females marginalise the very people they seek to help.
New research from the University of Edinburgh Business School, Lancaster University Management School and Dublin City University Business School, published in the Journal of Economic Geography, found women-only networks are unable to overcome bigger societal issues that prevent more women from pursuing their own businesses.
Policymakers see the drive to increase female entrepreneurship as key to helping foster national and regional economic growth. However, women lag behind men in terms of business ownership, growth and access to resources.
The research, carried out in Northern Ireland, a region where female entrepreneurship is low in comparison to the rest of the UK, looked at efforts by regional development agency Invest NI to address the issues.
Regional economic policy has focused on stimulating and supporting women's entrepreneurship through the establishment of formal women-only networks.
The researchers spoke with members and managers of women-only business networks, as well as members of mixed networks, and of both.
Policy-makers justify the promotion of women-only networks, but a study supported by British Academy, showed a disconnect between intent and actual impact, as the networks perpetuate women's marginalisation and place them in a niche rather them empowering and encouraging them.
"Entrepreneurship policies targeted at women are contributing little or nothing to their equality, well-being or independence," said co-author Professor Richard Harrison, of the University of Edinburgh.
"Entrepreneurship is shaped for men, and successful entrepreneurs are male. Women are only deemed successful if they launch businesses in the 'right' (male-dominated) industries and match male-owned businesses for growth. Thus, women-only networks perpetuate the masculinity of entrepreneurship, by reinforcing women as being in the margins."
The research shows policy design ignores inherent structural issues within society and entrepreneurship, where there is still a clear and continuing division of labour between 'men's work' and 'women's work'.
The researchers found that there is a lack of knowledge and information around the sectors women entrepreneurs tend to predominate in. This leads to a shortfall in well-connected and credible contacts and role models.
The research revealed that networks tend to be more geographically restricted and focus more on social support over business development and there exists a perception among the network members of having to battle against a male-dominated society, where they had to overcome stereotypes of women as mothers or homemakers, which can affect entrepreneurship being seen as a viable option.
Co-author and Professor Maura McAdam, of Dublin City University, explained that policies only address the issues specific to women rather than the problems that exist on a systemic basis.
"By treating women differently to men, treating them as a problem that needs to be fixed, and by creating women-only targeted initiatives, women continue to be marginalised."
The researchers say more needs to be done to combat wider issues around male dominance if female entrepreneurship is to grow.
"Women-only networks have not empowered women entrepreneurs," said co-author Professor Claire Leitch, of Lancaster University.
"They do not have the power to overcome issues of male dominance in the area, and it is not a given that other policies would have that ability to achieve the goals of increasing women's entrepreneurial activity, well-being and financial independence either."
"Supporting women-only networks merely pays lip service to women's unequal position and power without addressing the structural issues and inequalities at the heart of the issue."
"All parties need to identify, address and eliminate the various means by which cultural bias is perpetuated, restructuring the ways social institutions are conceived. If women's entrepreneurship continues to be seen as a gendered niche, aspirations for its impact will never be met." (ANI)

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