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A relational capital perspective on social sustainability; the case of female entrepreneurship in Italy

Francesca Dal Mas (Lincoln International Business School, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Paola Paoloni (Department of Law and Economics of Production Activities, Sapiena University of Rome, Rome, Italy)

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Article publication date: 6 December 2019

Issue publication date: 18 February 2020




Female entrepreneurship has been part of the political agenda internationally. Public entities should promote entrepreneurship in general, and female entrepreneurship in particular, with dedicated resources and programs. Female entrepreneurs are considered a key asset for developing economic growth. However, women experience much more difficulties than men in opening their own ventures. Relational capital is particularly relevant when it comes to female entrepreneurship. The purpose of this study is to analyze the factors that affect the opening of new ventures and the role of relational capital in female entrepreneurship, taking into consideration the Italian context during the financial crisis.


This study uses a mixed-method approach analyzing data from a regional program to enhance the creation of new companies, trying to understand the issues of potential entrepreneurs in general and women in particular. A single case is then investigated using the characteristics – ambience – organization – sustainability model of micro-entrepreneurship and the network relationship model by Paoloni (2011).


The analysis highlights how women face much more difficulties in starting new ventures concerning their previous experience if their employment condition finds an extended period of inactivity. Additionally, potential female entrepreneurs are more sensitive to the complexity of the initiative, concerning the required investment and the number of employees, compared to male entrepreneurs. Relational capital is a crucial asset in fostering the success of the venture, especially in the start-up phase.


The purpose of the study is to contribute to the debate regarding the issues affecting the opening of new companies, as well as the link between relational capital and female enterprises. The paper offers some insights about a program covering a well-sized population during the financial crisis.



Dal Mas, F. and Paoloni, P. (2020), "A relational capital perspective on social sustainability; the case of female entrepreneurship in Italy", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 114-130.



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