Innovating Women: Contributions to Technological Advancement: Volume 1


Table of contents

(17 chapters)

It is now widely accepted that entrepreneurship is vital for sustaining economies and creating new jobs. Accordingly, the field of entrepreneurship is continuously expanding, and the global community of interest continues to grow. Indeed, academic researchers, educators and their students, as well as practitioners, policymakers and support personnel all play valuable roles in the wider entrepreneurship debate. However, despite years of concerted scholarly attention as an academic discipline in its own right, there is a sense that the field of entrepreneurship still lacks an overarching theory. Thus, much-needed new perspectives on existing theories continue to emerge, challenging established norms and generating new and exciting avenues of inquiry. The aim of the ISBE-Emerald Book Series is to facilitate such enquiry by showcasing leading edge research that reflects the themes of interest to contemporary entrepreneurship scholars. Each volume in the series is designed around a specific theme that is both relevant to the ISBE Conference and of importance to the entrepreneurship and small business community. Thus, volumes in the series draw on some of the best papers presented at the ISBE Annual Conference and also include contributions from invited external experts. While volume chapters will collectively explore and develop theory and practice in the field of entrepreneurship and small business, the emphasis of the research will be on quality, currency and relevance.

Whether like the sociologist, Herbert Marcuse, or the novelist Simone de Beauvoir, we see technology primarily as a means of human enslavement and destruction, or whether, like Adam Smith, we see it primarily as a liberating promethean force, we are all involved in its advance. (Freeman, 1974, p. 15)The initial idea informing this first ISBE Book Series was sparked by the proliferation of policy and research focused upon (a) the minority status held by women in scientific activities and discoveries around the world, (b) identifying and addressing some persisting personal, professional and institutional barriers that have continued to prevent women from entry and progression within the scientific fields and (c) attempting, but without much success, to find solutions to fix the leaks in the various joints of the so-called science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) pipeline in order to remedy the current situation.

Purpose – The chapter aims to explore women's entrepreneurship in the sciences, specifically, veterinary medicine, and to highlight future potential.

Methodology/approach – Following a review of the extant literature, the chapter employs a single case approach to explore the experiences of a woman academic entrepreneur in the field of veterinary medicine.

Findings – The findings support the view that women are significantly under-represented in the sciences (SET/STEM) both as professionals and as entrepreneurs. The chapter also finds that, due to a relatively low number of veterinary professionals currently working in industry and/or commercialisable research areas, the sector offers significant potential for entrepreneurship, particularly among women veterinarians.

Research limitations/implications – Despite providing rich and meaningful insights that enhance understanding, the single case approach limits the potential for generalising the findings.

Practical implications – Given the significant increase in the number of women entering veterinary education in recent years, the chapter has important implications for how gender is considered in the promotion of entrepreneurship within veterinary medicine curricula.

Social implications – In view of the imminent gender shift within the profession, the case discussed in this chapter serves as an important role model to encourage more women to engage in entrepreneurship.

Originality/value of chapter – As one of the few studies offering insights on women's entrepreneurship in veterinary medicine, this chapter helps enhance our understanding of the field.

Purpose – To prepare for the increasingly important role women entrepreneurs are expected to play in the knowledge economy, it is imperative to understand, facilitate and manage women's training needs for full participation in the knowledge economy. The chapter introduces a skilling framework which integrates pedagogical, organisational and technological values to promote the uptake of knowledge economy skills.

Design/methodology/approach – An exploratory study approach was adopted underpinned by a social constructionist epistemology. The study fused a literature review on knowledge economy skills and women's learning needs with a desktop audit of opportunities available to women entrepreneurs to augment their knowledge economy skills.

Findings – Based on the two sets of data, the study found that a lack of attention has been paid to increasing female entrepreneurs' opportunities to develop to their full potential in the knowledge economy. Most training programmes fall short in delivering comprehensive digital and strategic skills required for women entrepreneurs' full participation in a knowledge society.

Research limitations/implications: Given the exploratory study approach, researchers are encouraged to adopt and test the proposed framework.

Practical implications – The interlinking of business and technology offers unique opportunities for women to engage in entrepreneurship and innovation. For policy makers this analysis provides insights on how to foster female entrepreneurship in the knowledge economy. For educators it provides a teaching and learning framework that encompasses evidence based content, gender-sensitive approaches to business skilling and collaborative learning environments.

Originality/Value of chapter – This framework helps lay a foundation for future research on the skilling of heterogeneous women entrepreneurs in the knowledge economy.

Purpose – An investigation of how women construct their entrepreneurial identities as owners of high growth technology ventures within the context of business incubation.

Methodology/approach – A qualitative case study approach is adopted to enable the development of an in-depth and nuanced picture of high technology business incubation.

Findings – The women oscillated between trying to emulate the behaviour of their male colleagues within the incubator as the prevailing ‘entrepreneurial identity’ was embedded in masculinity; thus, to achieve credibility and legitimacy, the women attempted to deny associations with femininity by undertaking a metaphorical sex change. Once, however, the firms became successful, they again felt comfortable displaying elements of their femininity as the tensions surrounding entrepreneurial and feminine characterizations could be negated by demonstrations of business competence.

Research limitations/implications – The documented limitations of case study research are noted. There are a number of implications surrounding the utility and accessibility of incubation for female entrepreneurs and the underlying assumption that these are spaces specifically for male entrepreneurs.

Practical implications – It is essential to critically evaluate current policy initiatives and managerial strategies informing current incubation practices.

Social implications – Gender disadvantage is reproduced within business incubators.

Originality/value of chapter – There are few explorations of the accessibility of business incubators to encourage and support female entrepreneurship.

Purpose – To explore routes taken to start and grow businesses in science, engineering and technology (SET) sectors by 15 female entrepreneurs.

Methodology/approach – Entrepreneurial routes are explored using the ‘possible selves’ perspective to explore why they felt able to continue in SET when many do not and how they envisaged themselves in relation to SET and enterprise.

Findings – All participants felt that SET was ‘normal’, so there had been ‘no problem’ in starting or running a SET business as a woman but gendered practice was embedded in how they operated, how they made decisions and how they envisaged the future. The heuristics used by participants were acceptance, adaptation and allowances to adapt to a male environment in SET and within entrepreneurship.

Research limitations/implications – This was a qualitative study, therefore, as is normally the case, offers insights but cannot be generalised to populations.

Practical implications – The comments by participants on their experience of university and to some extent secondary school curriculum showed when they were ‘turned off’ SET mainstream activities. Changes in curriculum content and format and awareness building for staff might address this.

Social implications – Gendered practice remains in organisations due to the norms and expectations of a wider society, this chapter shows how this works in SET environments.

Originality/value of chapter – This is a new study given the lack of work so far exploring entrepreneurial routes of women in SET especially using the possible selves perspective.

Purpose – This chapter addresses the participation of women (or lack of it) in industrial research and development (R&D), one of the key indicators of innovation.

Methodology/approach – The empirical investigation is based on a sample of 84 science- and technology-based small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), engaged in new product development and innovation, operating in the United Kingdom.

Findings – The results demonstrate that the participation of women in R&D employment, particularly at senior levels, in the SME sector operating in England, is extremely low, partly attributed to some specific challenges faced by science and R&D-based SMEs. As a result of under-representation in the scientific research, women are missing out on the opportunities that are offered by ‘open innovation’ activities such as university–industry collaboration, access to external networks, exchange of knowledge and ideas and working on joint innovation projects with other scientific researchers elsewhere.

Research limitations/implications – There is a need for more rigorous research at firm levels to examine the cumulative effects of factors that could be translated into policy measures in order to attract more women to industrial research.

Practical implications – Specific policy measures should also focus on addressing barriers faced by SMEs to meet the specific needs of their female R&D employees, particularly those expecting or looking after young children while undertaking scientific research in laboratories.

Social implications – There is a need to raise a greater awareness and promote the take-up of numerous specific positive action measures, networking platforms and other promotional activities amongst women working in the private sectors, particularly those working in isolation in laboratories.

Originality/value of chapter – The findings are, fundamentally, based on an original and unique database. Women in industrial R&D is relatively a new topic of policy and research and their participation in R&D team within the science and technology-based SMEs in England has not been investigated before.

Purpose – This chapter explores the actual situation of women as patent originators in the European Union (EU) and provides insights into the innovation climate in companies by presenting best-practice examples.

Methodology/approach – Based on a gendered secondary patent database analysis from the European Patent Office (EPO), gender-specific patent data were obtained by a first name assignment, followed by a statistical analysis and input–output comparisons with a focus on high-technology sectors. The best-practice examples are based on expert interviews with male and female inventors.

Findings – The success of women in patenting is lower than their participation in research and development would otherwise predict. The production of technological knowledge depends also on scientific subcultures with dramatic input–output gaps even in feminised sectors. Exemplarily, the case studies reveal success factors on the organisational as well as on team and individual levels which enhance women's performance in the innovation arena.

Research limitations/implications – Further qualitative research is needed to investigate factors in the innovation area which have an impact on the patenting behaviour of men and women.

Social implications – Women are contributing significantly to European patents. Yet overall, their high potential is not being fully included in the innovation process. Their under-representation in patenting should be a concern to policy makers in the EU.

Originality/value of chapter – The availability of gender-disaggregated data in innovation supports the political commitment for the long-term promotion of women's participation in science and technology.

Purpose – To discover and unravel the contribution of women to innovation and invention. This chapter builds upon a book published in 2003, called, Ingenious Women. The purpose of the book was to discover the invisible women inventors and patent holders operating between 1637, when the first patent was awarded to a woman, and the outbreak of war in 1914. For the purpose of this essay, the time frame has been extended to the present.

Methodology – Historical patents are used as the main research base, supported by searches of other relevant databases, directories and specialist archives (census records, registered designs, company records, museum collections) as well as specialist literature.

Findings – The research illustrates that women and men were often part of a wide network of discoverers and innovators and were able, by using the latest technologies and materials available, to resolve problems both large and small.

Research limitations/implications – This categorisation on patent databases or directories and searches were by female first names or by object type. his categorisation highlights the historical assumption that women are not inventors. Although this search method highlighted hundreds of women, there must be many still undiscovered.

Practical implications – Not all the ideas went into production and some have now become obsolete. Others continue to be produced and have formed the basis of successful companies. Many women became entrepreneurs and developed businesses based on their inventions and some, as widows, successfully ran their deceased husbands' companies.

Social implication – The women in this hidden history often had to navigate a path through social attitudes and legislative frameworks. They are all an example to women today that anyone, regardless of gender, can be innovative and entrepreneurial. What is crucial is that the ideas being developed are unique and have a purpose.

Purpose – This chapter outlines and describes a number of case studies detailing the experiences and activities of individual women scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs who have made substantial contributions to particular fields of science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) activities.

Methodology/approach – The chapter employs a qualitative case approach to offer detailed insight into the experiences of successful women entrepreneurs.

Findings: These case study reports describe the tactics, strategies and achievements of successful female innovators within the STEM sector.

Research limitations/implications – Although offering rich descriptions of the achievements of women innovators, these cases cannot be generalised. However, they do illustrate that woman have a notable and meaningful presence within the field of entrepreneurial STEM innovation.

Practical implications – These cases can act as role model illustrations to encourage other women to act as STEM innovators and entrepreneurs.

Social implications – Indicative that despite gendered ascriptions which limit women's engagement with STEM subjects they can, and do, offer a critical contribution to innovation and entrepreneurial activity within the field.

Originality/value of chapter – A relatively rare celebration of women's achievement within the STEM sector.

Publication date
Book series
Contemporary Issues in Entrepreneurship Research
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN