New directions in women’s entrepreneurship research


International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship

ISSN: 1756-6266

Article publication date: 28 June 2011



Jones, S. and Treanor, L. (2011), "New directions in women’s entrepreneurship research", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 3 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

New directions in women’s entrepreneurship research

Article Type: Conference report From: International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Volume 3, Issue 2

Diana International 2010 Research Conference

On 3-4 August 2010, over 80 leading women’s entrepreneurship scholars, practitioners and policy makers from 21 countries gathered in Banff, Canada for the fifth Biennial Diana International Conference. Entitled “Extending Women’s Entrepreneurship Scholarship in New Directions”, the conference was hosted by the University of Alberta School of Business with sponsorship support from Babson College, Alberta School of Business, Department of Strategic Management and Organization at the University of Alberta and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Diana International is a global network of researchers who are committed to advancing knowledge about women’s entrepreneurship and high-growth ventures. This team of global scholars presents significant research that can be used as an impetus and foundation for the implementation of policy, training and resources that help to analyse, highlight and advance the economic and social impact of women entrepreneurs globally. To date, Diana has hosted five international research events in cities such as Stockholm, Madrid and Belfast and has generated six books and special issues of journals such as Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Venture Capital, the Journal of Enterprising Culture and the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship. As the title suggests, this conference offered the Diana International Research Network an opportunity to reflect on developments in the field of women’s entrepreneurship research since the Diana project was established in 1999, and to plot new research directions of relevance to the international research, policy and practitioner communities in the coming years. A core belief of the Diana project is that rigorous research provides a powerful base for influencing systems and that knowledge based on solid data can have irrefutable and on-going effects on changing attitudes, opinions and practices (Treanor, 2009).

Professor Jennifer Jennings, who co-chaired the conference with her colleague Professor Karen Hughes from Alberta University Business School, welcomed delegates highlighting that, although a great deal has been learned about the dynamics and characteristics of women’s business ownership, there is still much to discover about how best to nurture the potential of women-led ventures and how to develop strategies and policies which enhance the economic, political and social impact of women’s entrepreneurship globally. This welcome was followed by an opening keynote “Social networking to social change: Diana rising” which took the format of an informal joint discussion and debate between the five original Diana project founders: Professor Candida Brush, Babson College, USA; Professor Nancy Carter, VP Research at Catalyst, New York; Professor Elizabeth Gatewood, Wake Forest University, USA; Professor Patricia Greene, Babson College, USA and Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, Myra Hart. The speakers reflected on the changing nature of research into women’s enterprise over the past decade and suggested that the next generation of researchers should explore and exploit opportunities to collaborate and undertake research in new ways, similar to the manner in which the Diana consortia “broke” the traditional academic authoring pattern. This group publishing collaboration not only served to promote and highlight the research and visibility of women entrepreneurs but also female academics.

The “founding five” were each presented with the inaugural Diana Trailblazer Award, established in recognition of individuals or groups who have contributed pioneering scholarship, mentoring and leadership in the field of women’s entrepreneurship research. The five women were praised for their outstanding contributions to women’s entrepreneurship scholarship and their generous mentoring and collaboration within the international women’s enterprise research community. An inaugural Trailblazer Award was also presented to Magnus Aronsson in recognition of his role as Diana’s founding patron. Aronsson is Co-founder of the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Research Institute, a think-and-do-tank founded in 1996 in Sweden that focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation and which provided much administrative support and early funding to the Diana project and research network.

In response to recent calls for new directions and increasing theoretical robustness in the field of women’s entrepreneurship research (Ahl, 2006; De Bruin et al., 2007; Carter and Marlow, 2007; Brush et al., 2009), the 2010 conference provided delegates with opportunities to discuss how the field should be developed, and also to discover more about current innovative and inspiring international research on women’s entrepreneurship and the impact of gender on entrepreneurial venturing. In this way, the conference sought to re-frame long-standing questions, offering new insights into on-going and theoretical debates and asking new questions to unravel the diverse, heterogeneous and nuanced approaches to, and realities of, women’s entrepreneurship globally, in recognition of the foregoing predominance in the literature of similarities between women’s experiences typically in North America and/or Europe. Diana 2010 therefore aimed to explore women’s entrepreneurship in new contexts and environments and to support and highlight the development of innovative methodological approaches employed to undertake research in this field.

This year’s conference was organised around 13 discretely themed tracks over 17 parallel paper sessions, reflecting the breadth and variety of current research on women’s entrepreneurship internationally and included tracks focused on entrepreneurship in diverse contexts; financing; entrepreneurial intentions; networks; theorising success, biases and stereotypes and high-tech enterprises. The depth and breadth of research and activity reflects the vibrancy and growing focus on women, gender and entrepreneurship, with a mix of conceptual and empirical papers and a diverse range of methodological approaches.

Delegates presented papers outlining the latest research from Japan, the Middle East and North Africa, Iran, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Amman-Jordan, the Caribbean, the USA and Europe; providing more nuanced accounts of women’s entrepreneurship with an emphasis on heterogeneity that highlighted the significance of the socio-cultural and socio-political context on entrepreneurial venturing. This echoes the on-going debate in the literature around how conceptualisations and explanations of entrepreneurship not only privilege certain forms of masculinity, but also, how women’s entrepreneurship research to date has privileged the experiences of White, middle-class, heterosexual, Western women, serving to exclude and “other” women who do not “fit” this referent profile (Ahl, 2004).

Drawing on arguments raised at the 2003 Global Entrepreneurship Symposium, Baygay et al. (2010) suggested to delegates that entrepreneurial attitudes are influenced by country-specific variables which are often unreported and unacknowledged in the women’s entrepreneurship literature. Indeed, several papers examined such country-specific variables when considering enterprise within diasporas internationally including, the Turkish diaspora in the UK and The Netherlands (Essers and Humbert, 2010), the Palestinian diaspora in Amman-Jordan (Al-Dajani and Marlow, 2010) and the Asian and Middle Eastern diasporas in Australia and Canada (Low et al., 2010). These papers highlighted and analysed the intersection of gender, class, ethnicity, culture, religion and context and their on-going impact on the development of women’s entrepreneurship throughout the world. In keeping with the conference theme of extending research directions, these papers contributed to developing richer understandings of women’s entrepreneurship globally whilst also departing from the traditional focus on European and North American activities. The new directions and extension of research in this field was also reflected in the range of methodological and theoretical approaches adopted, including: anthropology (Di Carlo, 2010), human and social capital theory (Low et al., 2010); institutional theory (Griffy-Brown, 2010) and life-story narratives (Essers and Humbert, 2010).

To facilitate dissemination and maximise the impact of this research, the 2010 conference was linked to several publication opportunities: a special issue of “Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice” on the theme “Extending women’s entrepreneurship scholarship in new directions”; an Edward Elgar edited volume, entitled “Global women’s entrepreneurship research: diverse settings, questions and approaches”, and a special issue of the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship exploring “Gender and Entrepreneurship in International Contexts.”

The closing plenary session, entitled “Academic and policy reflections on Diana 2010”, saw an interesting and lively debate amongst the panel, comprising Howard Aldrich, Professor of Sociology at the University of South Carolina, Maggie O’Carroll CEO of Train2000 and WICED (Women’s International Centre for Economic Development) – based in Liverpool, UK and Friederike Welter, Professor in Business Administration at Jönköping International Business School, Sweden. Whilst Professor Aldrich proposed that researchers should develop more international comparative studies given that so many single country and/or highly situated accounts and research information now exist, Professor Welter countered this by saying the institutional, cultural and contextual factors impacting upon entrepreneurship could often only be truly understood in single-site studies. All acknowledged that this was of especial importance when considering gender and entrepreneurship, where the dynamics of women’s business ventures are often affected by situated social, economic, political and cultural constraints that are deeply embedded at a structural level and which have yet to be fully explored. Ms O’Carroll urged the academic community to ensure their research was accessible to the practitioner community who, when receiving findings in a timely and user-friendly manner, could maximise the impact of academic research on practice by using it as an evidence base to lobby for policy change.

At the closing plenary, the Diana 2010 Best Paper Award was presented to Kimberly A. Eddleston (North Eastern University, Boston, Massachusetts) and Gary N. Powell (University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut) for their paper entitled: “Sex, family enrichment and support, home-based business ownership, and work-family balance: what are the linkages?”. Eddleston and Powell’s paper applies gender role theory and engages with the work-family literature to analyse sex-dependent links with entrepreneurs’ satisfaction with work-family balance. Their findings suggest that, for women, satisfaction with work-family balance is associated with family enrichment and operating a home-based business while for men, work-family balance satisfaction is associated with family support at home. They argue that their research supports a gendered perspective of work-family balance where women enhance this balance through the interplay and synergy of work and family roles, while men enhance their work-family balance by drawing on family support.

The Diana 2010 Best Student Paper was awarded to Sarah Thébaud, from the Department of Sociology at Cornell University, New York, for her paper entitled “Cognitive bias and innovation in the United States and the United Kingdom: are women entrepreneurs penalized?”.

Thébaud’s paper undertook a comparative analysis of studies in the UK and the USA to explore cognitive gender bias in entrepreneurship in these two cultural contexts, examining how this bias may be moderated when entrepreneurs innovate. Her results were consistent with cross-cultural hypotheses and suggest evidence of bias amongst UK participants who rated women entrepreneurs as significantly less competent, and their businesses less profitable and less deserving of investment, than men’s. Although US participants thought women were less skilled than men, they did not rate women’s businesses differently from men’s. Thébaud also found that in both US and UK contexts, bias was reduced when participants were asked to evaluate innovative rather than non-innovative business ideas.

The Diana International Research Symposium 2012 will be hosted by the University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia in February 2012. The conference organiser is Professor John Watson (e-mail: from the University of Western Australia Business School.

Sally JonesCarnegie Faculty of Sport and Education, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, UKLorna TreanorRoyal Veterinary College, Centre for Veterinary and Bioveterinary Enterprise, University of London, London, UK

About the authors

Sally Jones is a centennial PhD Scholarship Student based in the Centre for Research into Higher Education at Leeds Metropolitan University. On graduating with a BA (Hons) in Humanities from Huddersfield Polytechnic in 1991, she worked for several media and ICT-based micro-businesses in roles including video editor, multimedia trainer and women’s ICT business adviser. She continued studying part time and gained a PGCE in Post-compulsory Education and Training in 2001 and an MSc in E-learning in 2003. She has managed several successful ERDF- and ESF-funded business support and training projects and has over 15 years’ experience of teaching in the FE, HE, charity and voluntary sectors. She has a research interest in gender and post-compulsory education issues, especially around the teaching and learning of enterprise and entrepreneurship. Sally Jones is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:

Lorna Treanor is a Researcher at the Centre for Veterinary and Bioveterinary Enterprise at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London. Her research interests lie in women’s entrepreneurship in atypical contexts; she has explored gender and entrepreneurship in high-tech industries, in the business incubation environment, transition economies and social enterprise.


Ahl, H. (2004), The Scientific Reproduction of Gender Inequality: A Discourse Analysis of Research Texts on Women’s Entrepreneurship, Copenhagen Business School Press, Herndon VA

Ahl, H. (2006), “Why research on women entrepreneurs needs new directions”, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 595–621

Al-Dajani, H. and Marlow, S. (2010), “Empowerment, place and motivation: the case of the displaced woman entrepreneur”, paper presented at the 5th Diana International Research Conference, Banff, 4-5 August

Baygay, K.M., Keimanesh, A., Eghtesadi, A. and Khodaparast, S. (2010), “The impact of socio-cultural variables on Iranian women entrepreneurs”, paper presented at the 5th Diana International Research Conference, Banff, 4-5 August

Brush, C., de Bruin, A. and Welter, F. (2009), “A gender-aware framework for women’s entrepreneurship”, International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 8–24

Carter, S. and Marlow, S. (2007), “Female entrepreneurship: theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence”, in Carter, N.M., Henry, C., O Cinneide, B. and Johnstone, K.> (Eds), Female Entrepreneurship: Implications for Education, Training and Policy, Routledge, New York, NY, pp. 11–36

De Bruin, A., Brush, C. and Welter, F. (2007), “Advancing a framework for coherent research on women’s entrepreneurship”, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 323–39

Di Carlo, L. (2010), “Social entrepreneurship in context: Çöp(m)adam”, paper presented at the 5th Diana International Research Conference, Banff, 4-5 August

Essers, C. and Humbert, A. (2010), “Connecting with the opportunity structure: Turkish female entrepreneurs in the UK and The Netherlands”, paper presented at the 5th Diana International Research Conference, Banff, 4-5 August

Griffy-Brown, C. (2010), “The network-based digital business world in Japan and shifts in women’s entrepreneurship”, paper presented at the 5th Diana International Research Conference, Banff, 4-5 August

Low, A., Chiang, F. and Onyx, J. (2010), “Intersections of human and social capital in immigrant women’s entrepreneurship: case studies from Australia and Canada”, paper presented at the 5th Diana International Research Conference, Banff, 4-5 August

Treanor, L. (2009), “Diana International Research Symposium 2008”, International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 164–6

Further Reading

Eddleston, K.A. and Powell, G.N. (2010), “Sex, family enrichment and support: home-based business ownership, and work-family balance: what are the linkages?”, paper presented at the 5th Diana International Research Conference, Banff, 4-5 August

Thébaud, S. (2010), “Cognitive bias and innovation in the United States and the United Kingdom: are women entrepreneurs penalized?”, paper presented at the 5th Diana International Research Conference, Banff, 4-5 August

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