What Hinders & Supports the Formation & Upholding of Gender Diverse Teams? : An Exploratory Case Study Researching New Venture Teams in a Swedish Incubator
Abstract: The entrepreneurial team plays a crucial part in the new venture’s growth and success. This notion is present among many investors as they often choose to bet on the “jockey” (i.e. the team) instead of on the “horse” (i.e. the idea). Previous research has pointed to how diverse teams are better equipped to handle the complex practices a new venture is faced with, compared to homogeneous teams. The entrepreneurial environment has a prevalent gender inequality that hinders many women from entering and contributing to the industry. The purpose of this research was therefore to investigate what hinders and supports the formation and upholding of gender diverse teams. The study was written on commission for a Swedish incubator which led to an approach exploring how an incubator can influence and contribute to establishing these teams. Based on a literature review, the study chose an explorative and qualitative approach to answer the research questions as it was found that this area was relatively unexplored and contained little research on how to form and uphold gender diverse teams, especially in the Swedish incubator context. Data was collected through conducting semi-structured interviews with three different types of samples. These were the commissioner (i.e. the incubator team), incubatees (i.e. new venture teams of different compositions), and a few external actors within the Swedish incubator environment. The findings pointed to that there are several more obstacles towards forming and upholding gender diverse teams than factors supporting it. More obstacles were found in terms of forming these teams and they related to entrepreneurs experiencing a lack of knowledge on how to find the right members with complementary skills. Contextual factors also affect the possibility to adopt an appropriate strategy to find team members. An inherent fear of bringing in someone new was also present among entrepreneurs. There is an absence of female role models which increases the difficulty and gap between men and women as the step becomes even larger for women to enter and succeed in the entrepreneurial environment. In terms of upholding gender diverse teams, conflict due to experienced personal differences and more challenging communication is common and can negatively affect the venture if not managed properly. Gender roles and stereotypes also have a negative impact. On the other hand, some supportive measures were also identified. In regards to team formation, resource seeking was a better option than interpersonal relationships when it came to forming a gender diverse team. Additionally, the increased demand for diversity among several actors like state agencies, incubators, and investors further pushes new ventures to form gender diverse teams. Among the incubatees, a shared outlook of wanting greater diversity and recognizing what it contributes with, shared motives, values, and expectations further supported the upholding of gender diverse teams. Other supportive measures were creating ownership directives and shareholder agreements as well as having complementary competencies, good communication, cohesion, and cognition. Further supportive measures an incubator can adopt related to strategy, networks, and placing initial demands on new ventures.
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