Pathways: A new approach for women in entrepreneurship
An independent review into women in entrepreneurship in Scotland, authored by Ana Stewart and Mark Logan. Based on thorough data analysis and stakeholder engagement the report's recommendations seek to address the root causes of female under-participation in entrepreneurship.
This report seeks to change how we think about the under-participation of women in entrepreneurship, to more rapidly and effectively move our society away from its current extreme gender imbalance in this field of endeavour.
The report presents concrete recommendations for how dramatically better participation rates can be achieved. These recommendations are not exhaustive; there is further work to be done if we are to fully complete the journey from extreme under-participation to balanced participation in entrepreneurship. But, taken together, we believe that these recommendations place us firmly on the right path towards that goal.
We make two requests of our readers. The first is to be open to considering the causality of under-participation from the perspective presented here, even though, for some readers, your first reaction may be to feel challenged by that perspective, or to reject it.
Most investigations into under-participation in entrepreneurship constrain themselves to the proximate causes of that under-participation, that is to say, the most immediate and visible causes. The present report goes beyond this level, following the chain of cause-and-effect through to its underlying root causes. We believe that to do otherwise is to render remedies to under-participation ineffectual and/or temporary. Therefore, our recommendations follow a portfolio-based approach, targeting both the most visible and the underlying causes of under-participation.
On such a journey, we inevitably confront an uneasy truth along the way, which is that our society is, to a degree, sexist, and not just at its extremes, and that this has a considerable bearing on participation levels in entrepreneurship, amongst many other fields. To make genuinely meaningful progress in addressing under-participation requires us to accept that reality, and its consequence.
This consequence is that most – and probably all - stakeholder groups within the entrepreneurial sector make decisions with some level of, at least, unconscious sexism operating upon their decision processes. Even partial acceptance of this assertion requires that we take a more active and profound policy position on the issue of under-participation than is normally adopted.
Doing so results in a different expression of solutions than the alternative, passive approach of assuming that society is inherently non-sexist, that the problem rests with the entrepreneurial capabilities of women themselves, and accordingly placing the burden of behavioural change upon them. It is certainly easier and less challenging to think this way, but it has not proven particularly effective in bringing about equal per-capita participation rates in entrepreneurship.
Our second request is to embrace, not only the recommendations themselves, but also the policy direction of travel expressed in the report. If the recommendations contained here are implemented but the direction lost, then we will collectively fall short of our goal of full participation in entrepreneurship.
Why should it matter anyway that entrepreneurial participation rates are so skewed away from women and other under-represented groups? In economic terms, the status-quo amounts to a continuous removal of entrepreneurial talent from the nation's economy, year after year, decade after decade, amplifying and normalising prejudices. It would surely be foolish to continue this way. In societal terms, that same status-quo denies opportunity to citizens on an industrial scale. We should not be comfortable with that state of affairs.
For these two reasons, the findings of this report are important. They are challenging to our sense of ourselves. But they also represent an opportunity for Scotland to take a leading position in addressing under-participation and, in doing so, to reap the consequent economic and societal benefits.
The report is not a lamentation; instead, most of its pages are dedicated to positive actions that can be practically implemented to put Scotland into that leadership position. Nor does the report seek to, or need to, divide. Its recommendations are intended to benefit all entrepreneurs regardless of gender, whilst ensuring that female entrepreneurs are also seen, that they are also heard, that they also have access to the same opportunities as men, and to the same degree.
About the Authors
Ana is a successful tech entrepreneur. She founded i-design in 1995, and was CEO of the fintech business, listing it on the AIM exchange in 2007 and was awarded the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award by Entrepreneurial Scotland. In 2013, she joined the Executive Committee of NASDAQ listed ATM Services company Cardtronics when it acquired i-design. She joined the seed investment firm Eos in 2019, where she is an investment partner, with £30m of investments under management. She also holds several non-executive director positions including at pet wellness business Bella & Duke and the Scottish FA, and she is an active angel investor. Ana was appointed by Kate Forbes, Cabinet Secretary For Finance and the Economy, in 2022 to chair and lead the overall review leading to this report.
Mark is the Chief Entrepreneurial Advisor to the Scottish Government, advising the government on policy development and implementation, and is the author of the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review. He is also a professor of Computing Science in the University of Glasgow, a Senior Enterprise Fellow at University of Strathclyde, an investor and non-executive director. He has over 25 years' experience as a senior executive in the technology start-up and scale-up sector, including as COO of Skyscanner, one of Europe's most successful technology companies. In 2014, the Institute of Directors named him Director of the Year and in 2016 he won the UK Digital Masters award for Excellence in General Management. In 2019, he was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science by the University of Glasgow and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2022.
We are indebted to the many contributors to this report, who gave freely of their time and expertise. We are particularly grateful to Judy Wagner, Jackie Waring and Gemma Hamilton, who each led major research streams as part of the overall research conducted for the report; and to John Cushing of mnAI and Professor Eleanor Shaw, of the University of Strathclyde, who gave many hours of their time to the disaggregated data analysis of Scotland's entrepreneurial landscape.
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