Gender and Digital Entrepreneurship

Digital Entrepreneurship -What is it?

The rapid acceleration of digital technologies is reshaping markets and society globally. In Ireland, whether you are a student, an employee, a customer, a business leader or a mere observer, it seems that everyone is talking about ‘digital’. So what do we mean by digital? In the entrepreneurship context, digital platforms allow the development of digital start-ups and scale-ups ventures that incorporate novel digital technology as a vital component of their business model and which could not feasibly operate without the internet-enabled platforms. Digital entrepreneurship is, therefore, opening up fascinating innovation opportunities for entrepreneurship (see my research); whereby entrepreneurs and innovators are adopting digital technologies to develop new forms of entrepreneurial actions that move beyond traditional industry boundaries. This phenomenon is widespread and growing within Internet-connected societies.

Women’s Digital Entrepreneurship

Interestingly digital entrepreneurship has been posited as a “great leveller” of the entrepreneurial playing field whereby entrepreneurs can benefit from greater access to ideas, potential customers and necessary resources (Nambisan, 2017). The incorporation of digital architectures (e.g. online communities and social media) and artifacts (digital components, applications or media content) mean that spatial and temporal boundaries of entrepreneurial activities, when and where activities are carried out, are significantly less constrained and product and service opportunities are constantly evolving. Additionally, the Internet attributes of convenience, ease of use, large audience reach, anonymity, and interactivity mean that digital entrepreneurship offers significant potential for those groups who face barriers to engagement in the traditional bricks-and-mortar entrepreneurship. Indeed, digital entrepreneurship has been positioned to facilitate the engagement of marginalized groups, with one such group being women (McAdam et al., 2020). It is argued that the use of digital platforms can, therefore, provide women with greater access to markets, knowledge and more flexible working arrangements and greater reach to customers. It thus suggested that the Internet, with its protection of individual privacy, may provide a ‘safe space’ for women, free from the challenges they often encounter in their day-to-day offline lives given that online they are body-less, sex-less and gender-less.

So what?

However, such claims must be tempered with the reality in that digital entrepreneurship remains a resource-based activity, requiring capital investment, technical knowledge, access to online marketplaces and supporting hardware and software (Dy et al. 2017; 2018). In fact, there is evidence of a “gender digital divide” wherein some women entrepreneurs due to lack of digital literacy, skills, access, and resources are excluded from the opportunities and benefits offered by digital technologies. In order to understand the true potential of digital entrepreneurship for Irish society and its economy, greater attention needs to be paid to the everyday interactions with digital technology leading to the creation of new business ventures often outside of high-technology industries. Specifically, the importance of understanding how the ubiquity and everyday experiences of digital technology provide innovation opportunities. Although advances in digital technologies offer significant potential for women to engage in entrepreneurship, as my research demonstrates these opportunities co-exist within the confines of existing social and cultural practices.

For the full article which was published in 2020 Education Matters click here