Gender and entrepreneurship research: a lot done, more to do?
12th February 2021
By Professor Lene Fossolette- Jönköping University, Professor Colette Henry- Dundalk Insitute of Technology & Professor Kate Lewis- Manchester Metropolitan University
When we started the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship (IJGE) in 2008, we intended it as a dedicated academic platform for research scholarship on international women’s entrepreneurship. We also wanted to support young scholars who were potentially new to this field of study. A further objective was to have some impact on the broader community of interest, beyond that of IJGE, and encourage practitioners and policy makers into the debate on how best to support women’s entrepreneurial endeavours so that they could share their experiences as well as learn from the papers we published. Over time, the diversity of studies submitted to the journal has broadened, with gender articulated as something that is done, negotiated and continuously challenged, rather than something that just is. The field has come a long way, for sure, but are we far enough into new territory? Perhaps we are guilty of merely asking the same questions in different ways? Has the time come for us to be more radical? If so, where do we go from here?
Methodologically, there is still a long way to go; while we have moved away from ‘gender as variable’ and ‘male-female comparative’ samples, the call of ‘quants’ over ‘quals’ can still be felt, suggesting that we need to keep pushing for the life histories, case studies and ethnographical approaches that help deepen our understanding. Of course, more depth typically means smaller volume; so, fewer cases and smaller sample sizes. All this is fine if our overarching goal is to understand rather than simply to count; to influence other disciplines and set the tone for a new era of gendered entrepreneurship scholarship.
Although it is often difficult to capture, we know that research in our field does make an impact. Article downloads and citations are not the only way of tracking how and where research findings have been acknowledged. When citations make their way into government reports and policy documents, and are operationalised in practice, we can see this impact more strongly. Studies highlighting women entrepreneurs’ limited access to financial capital or gender imbalances in venture capital investment decisions, for example, have directly influenced recent moves to created dedicated funding initiatives for women or change the make-up of VC teams. Similarly, research highlighting the absence of women on corporate boards has forced many public companies to implement urgent measures to address such imbalances. Studies focusing on context have helped highlight the often unique conditions facing women entrepreneurs, helping many policy makers to finally realise that ‘one size does not fit all.’ We have learned a lot from our field of study, and now it’s time to share.
What next for the Diana Project?
Starting with a conversation at an Academic Research Conference in 1998, Nancy Carter, Elizabeth Gatewood, Patti Greene, Myra Hart and myself launched the Diana Project in 1999, with a vision for a multi-level research program designed to investigate the supply of and demand for equity capital for women entrepreneurs, and to compare growth models for male and female led ventures. This legacy article provides a brief history of the evolution of the Diana Project and the Diana International Research Conference, examines the impact of the extensive number of publications, through the thousands of citations, conference participation, and research contributions. To date, more than 600 scholars have participated in the Diana International Conferences or publications. Diana is the only community dedicated to rigorous and relevant research about gender and women’s entrepreneurship. Going forward, efforts to expand work on education for women’s entrepreneurship, women entrepreneurship faculty and careers, and women entrepreneurs, gender and policy will take place to extend this legacy. The Diana Project demonstrates how a feminist approach to entrepreneurial principles can yield insights about this unique research initiative and collaborative organization. The article outlines how a collaborative research organization that is created in a “feminine” manner can be a model for research affiliations going forward. From a policy perspective, the Global Women Entrepreneurs and Policy group has already launched and there are emerging groups around ways to teach women entrepreneurs.