To read this content please select one of the options below:

Building gender-aware ecosystems for learning, leadership, and growth

Karen D. Hughes (Department of Strategic Management and Organization and Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)
Te Yang (School of Management, Xi'an Jiaotong University School of Management, Xi'an, China)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 31 January 2020

Issue publication date: 30 April 2020




The purpose of the paper is to examine processes of entrepreneurial learning and leadership development (ELLD) for women involved in growth-oriented businesses. It considers how ELLD can be supported by building gender-aware ecosystems for growth.


Data are from a small-scale study of a growth accelerator program in Canada run by Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. The study uses a mixed-methods approach, drawing on interview, document, and observational data.


The study finds that three key activities – formal learning, informal learning and peer / community support – are central to women entrepreneurs’ learning and leadership development. In line with emerging scholarship, entrepreneurial learning is found to be strongly relational, with social capital playing a central role in the formation of human capital.


This study contributes to the understanding of the micro-foundations of growth, the processes involved in ELLD and the importance of developing gender-aware ecosystems.



This research was supported through an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC). We acknowledge this support with thanks.

We wish to thank our study participants for sharing their time and insights, and Alberta Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) for the opportunity to conduct an independent study of the Peer SparkTM Program. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the DIANA International Research Conference on Women’s Entrepreneurship, Babson College, Wellesley, June 2015; RIMSIP 2016 Conference (Economic Development Stream) in Puebla, Mexico, January 2016; and the Women’s Entrepreneurship: Bridging Theory and Practice workshop, University of Regina, Canada, June 2019. We thank all attendees for their comments and interest in our work.


Hughes, K.D. and Yang, T. (2020), "Building gender-aware ecosystems for learning, leadership, and growth", Gender in Management, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 275-290.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles