Monday 26 September 2022
Defined as entrepreneurial activity that takes place primarily through digital media, mobile applications and development, cloud computing and the internet of things, digital entrepreneurship is widespread and growing within our internet-connected societies.
It is posited to lower the normal barriers to entry when starting a business, reduce overheads, provide access to unlimited global customer base, and increase the flexibility of work .
Digital entrepreneurship is particularly relevant to women who are still more likely to be primary care providers for children and elders and may be more inclined to seek part-time or flexible working schedules .
Despite this, little is known about how women experience the transition into digital entrepreneurial careers, and the coping strategies they employ in order to navigate this new digital work environment. This was starting point for a new study by Queen’s University Belfast and Dublin City University which looks at the experiences of women who have changed careers to become digital entrepreneurs within the health and fitness sector.
The research undertook interviews with women digital entrepreneurs based in Ireland who previously held jobs such as nursing, accountancy, and teaching, in order to capture their lived experiences of being a female digital entrepreneur.
The findings highlight the potential of digital technology for women and demonstrates how women negotiate a new sense of self as digital entrepreneurs when occupational structures, roles, and their associated status are gone.
Interestingly, the findings shed light on the creative ways in which women digital entrepreneurs acquire and develop new knowledge, skills and relationships. It also highlighted the opportunities afforded by digital technologies as enablers of new business models for women, and working in digital spaces as sites of freedom and excitement, giving them an opportunity to have flexibility and to be more productive and creative.
The other benefits included building new networks and online communities, building knowledge and becoming leaders and authoritative figures; and the work offering a sense of meaning and purpose.
However, working in the digital space does not come without a few downsides. The women reported feelings of self-questioning, alienation and embarrassment about pursuing a digital career which was coupled with scepticism and critique from friends and colleagues. They also expressed feelings of being under scrutiny with a blurring of private and public boundaries, particularly due to the unregulated nature of digital spaces, which meant that harassment and bullying were unfortunately an endemic feature.
Women entrepreneurs make a significant contribution to the socio-economic development of society but continue to be underrepresented in digital spaces. This study shows that the digital entrepreneurship journey for women is a paradoxical cocktail of excitement, creativity, symbolic stress, perception of outsider status, and social inferiority.
By Dr Gráinne Kelly, Lecturer in Management from Queen’s Management School at Queen’s University Belfast and Professor Maura McAdam, Professor of Management and Director of Entrepreneurship at DCU Business School. The research was funded by the CHARMS Centre at Queen’s Management School.
Buzzing after being back again in the classroom with my wonderful Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University students. Loved the curiosity, dedication, and energy of my students!
During the week of the 4-11th of Sept 2022, I had the pleasure of being back in the classroom teaching women entrepreneurship to MBS students in Riyadh
Featured in RTE Brainstorm- 9th of August 2022
Analysis: here's how budding women business owners and entrepreneurs can overcome the pitfalls and challenges they face
Entrepreneurship has traditionally been associated with men and was once considered a form of masculinity and a "men only" career. In years gone by, some even claimed that entrepreneurship required high levels of testosterone. Although this may now seem absurd, this traditional association of entrepreneurship with men and all its embedded assumptions can still present challenges for those considering entrepreneurship who do not fit the ideal image of the male entrepreneur – namely women.
I have conducted 35,000 hours of research and interviewed 300 female entrepreneurs in various stage of their journeys. It is clear that entrepreneurs, regardless of gender, face such generic challenges as finance, building a customer base and growing the business to name just a few.
Here, I have distilled my research into five things potential women entrepreneurs should be aware of as they attempt to navigate the pitfalls. For those women who do decide to become entrepreneurs, they are positioned within contemporary entrepreneurial discourse, including popular media, as a discrete and separate category with their own label – "female entrepreneurs" "mumpreneurs", "fempreneurrs", or "lipsticks entrepreneurs". These special classifications only go to confirm that there are normal entrepreneurs (men, family teams, partnerships) and then, separate from them, there are women.
Don't be afraid to say 'I am entrepreneur'
Women are often reluctant to claim the entrepreneurial identity. Many of the women I have worked with refer to their "wee business"! This reluctance is significant as "owning/claiming" is an important first step in the building of a credible entrepreneurial identity (i.e., being seen by stakeholders as an entrepreneur). Women need to be bold and not be afraid to say "I am an entrepreneur" when asked what they do for a living.
You have permission to start a business
Given that women often find it difficult to see themselves as entrepreneurs, and some feel that they need permission to do be one, my key message is to be aware that you do not have to wait until you get a degree, gain 10 years’ experience or reach some other self-prescribed milestone before you can be an entrepreneur – just do it. Don’t wait till you have all your ducks neatly in a row. Rather than waiting for permission, the right time and right circumstances, be ready to act. Just do 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.’ As the recent Covid-19 pandemic has shown, digital technologies enable new business models for every industry. Regardless of your business idea, if you not starting up digitally or with digital in mind, ask yourself why not. Rather than getting stuck on the tech versus non tech divide, wider your horizons by thinking different degrees of tech.
Networking is an important intangible resource for any entrepreneur. As well as being a resource, it is also a skill and, like any skill, practice makes perfect. However, it is important to be aware that when it comes to networking, as humans we tend to flock towards PLU (people like us), in other words homophily. When creating your networking training plan, try to identify gaps in your network and how you can fill them. One way in which to fill such gaps maybe to join a professional network.
There is a lot of debate with regards to what is best for women i.e. women only networks versus mixed networks. My research shows the importance of women only networks when starting off as they are good for building confidence and reducing the isolation associated with starting a business. As you, your business and your growth ambitions grow, your networks should too. They should reflect the broader entrepreneurial ecosystems, one composed of a variety of diverse stakeholders including men.
Mindset and expectations matter when it comes to creating a vision of what is possible (i.e., growth ambitions), but they can also act as unconscious constraints, limiting what is possible, especially if we focus on our problems, our worries, and allow impostor syndrome to take hold. When it comes to growth ambitions, try to let go of preconceived notions and not just think big but think bigger. Once you begin to adopt a practice of expanding your expectations, what you see as possible becomes probable. Simply put, do not be afraid of big things.
19th-22nd June 2022
The Diana International Research Conference and Impact Day brought together more than 100 scholars worldwide, providing a forum to share global research dedicated to gender and women’s entrepreneurship..
Professor of Management and Director of Entrepreneurship at DCU
Banbridge, Co. Down (the star of the County Down 😀)
In a relationship
Helping female entrepreneurs understand the facts not the fiction in relation to starting and navigating entrepreneurship and giving them a voice in a traditional masculine environment (i.e., entrepreneurship)
Time management and saying ‘no’ and having to turn down some interesting projects as I can’t fit everything in!
In one-word ‘impact’; impact on my students and seeing the impact that my work has had on women entrepreneurs.
Empathy and kindness
Worst case scenario planning 😀
Being ranked amongst the top 2% of scientists in the world for research impact, in the 2021 (by Stanford University and published in Elsevier BV, which ranks scientists across the world, based on a composite citation index from the Scopus database).
In the first instance, both of my parents who have instilled in me a strong moral compass and a strong work ethic combined with the importance of helping others.
Outside of my family, Brené Brown, as she is first and foremost a researcher and academic. We are both qualitative researchers – with a focus on retelling the stories of our respondents. I admire the way she had translated her research findings in a way that has real impact for her listeners and followers.
I am not a big fan of bucket lists, as I try to live in the moment (the best I can) and not wish my life away too much and to date I have been fortunate to have been to the Amazon, the Olympics in Rio in 2016, and zip lining in the Costa Rican rainforest.
However, if I was to come to the end of my days and never had my own puppy or given a TED Talk, I think I would be disappointed.
It’s hard work; Focus on the journey and the daily micro steps and not fixate on the outcome; it’s all part of a bigger picture.
“When you reach the top, you should remember to send the elevator back down for the others.” — Edith Piaf. This is something that motivates me on a daily basis.
Also when I first started my academic career, a work colleague, used to say “Take people as you find them” – I found this really helpful over the years.
At the Irish Women’s Awards 2019 ceremony on the 21st of Jan, I had the honour of being recognized for my contributions and commitment to education. The inaugural Irish Women’s Awards saw over 200 guests attend on Monday 21 January, with 31 award categories to recognise and celebrate women in a variety of industries and professions. The ceremony was delivered by event specialists Creative Oceanic.
“The awards also provided a platform to thank and recognise meritorious ladies for their attributions to our society as well as for the exceptional work they carry out on a daily basis that often remain un-known or even un-appreciated.” Creative Oceanic.
This recognition in the Services to Education category is another milestone in an exciting and rewarding acadmic career.
These types of awards are important as they showcase examples of courage, passion, skill, commitment and success that feature in women and provide a platform to encourage women at all ages to achieve their goals and spread the message that women can be successful leaders, entrepreneurs, influencers, scientists and CEOs. I therefore see this award not as an achievement but as a responsibility, with my responsibility being the empowerment of women through education.”