What to Expect as a Female Entrepreneur in a Male-dominated Field : A Case Study on Gender Equality in a Swedish Incubator
Abstract: The Swedish entrepreneurial environment is a heavily male-dominated field characterized by unequal conditions, a significant gender gap, and discriminatory practices. Research is filled with contradictory arguments discussing how gender is not an issue in the world of entrepreneurship, when in fact this conceals gender equality issues that are still prevalent today. This study aimed to describe and explain, from an incubator perspective, the challenges and opportunities that arise from working with gender equality in entrepreneurship. The purpose was also to study the effects these efforts have on the ventures partaking in the incubator’s program, as well as their perceptions of it. Based on a literature review of gender equality in entrepreneurship, a qualitative approach deemed necessary to explain the complexity of this issue. This research performed a case study on one Swedish incubator consisting of two samples. Data was collected through in-depth interviews held with the incubator team and online questionnaires were distributed to some ventures currently partaking in the incubator program, as well as to some alumni. The results indicated that there were more challenges than opportunities involved in working with gender equality in entrepreneurship. The most frequently addressed challenges for female entrepreneurs related to contexts of receiving financial aid from investors, the unequal opportunities given by supporting actors such as advisors, banks, lawyers etc., and the effect of gender stereotypes. In the analysis it was identified that women’s unequal opportunities consisted of, among others, women receiving different questions than men, having to defend their ideas to a larger extent, and consistently being viewed in a traditional manner concerning family-care constraints. However, many of the identified challenges for female entrepreneurs could be used in favor of the incubator. Meaning that the incubator could turn the challenges into opportunities for helping female entrepreneurs in their incubator program. For instance, the incubator can help reduce the barriers for entrepreneurs who want to pursue industries typically dominated by the opposite gender, this in turn would create a larger diversity across industries. The incubator had a positive influence on the ventures and their perceptions indicate that equal conditions are provided between the genders. The relationship was difficult to fully describe and explain as the incubator’s gender equality work was novel. Future research could investigate more in-depth the underlying reasons why gender inequality issues still pertain, but also more about what actions could be done to address the issues.
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