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Research Reveals Experiences Of Women Entrepreneurs

New research documenting the experiences women entrepreneurs have had when trying to raise capital has revealed the challenges they face navigating entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Raising Capital in Aotearoa New Zealand: Insights From Women Entrepreneurs by University of Auckland Business School researcher Dr Janine Swail, outlines the insights and experiences of 26 women entrepreneurs in the process of raising external finance to grow their businesses.

The study focused on three key areas: What women want (from their entrepreneurial ecosystems); what they experience in the process of trying to raise capital and what we don’t talk about; the often ignored sphere of household and homelife.

What women want explored the expectations that women founders have of prospective investors, and revealed that company fit and value alignment were of paramount importance, followed by the requirement for investors to contribute networks and knowledge. Good fit was assessed in terms of investor knowledge, reputation, and degree of involvement. Women entrepreneurs also expressed a desire for more diverse investors.

What women experience explored the more gendered encounters women had on the way to raising capital and reflected on the strategies used to overcome the challenges bias can present. For instance, women who had a male co-founder or business partner commented how during introductory investor meetings, some investors would direct their conversation towards their male colleagues, assuming that the women were not founders or decision-makers.

Among the women entrepreneurs, strategies for dealing with bias ranged from accepting it existed and simply getting on with it, to openly addressing it.

What we don’t talk about focused on the role of the household, with many women founders reporting having to negotiate conflicting identities, laden with gender role expectations.

“Entrepreneurship ecosystems cast the domestic sphere as wholly separate and do not recognise the interplay of household dynamics on the business ownership experience,” says Dr Swail.

A recent report in New Zealand discovered if men contributed more at home the economy would be NZ$1.5bn better off. Women tend to carry what’s referred to as the ‘cognitive load’ of households, taking responsibility for forward planning, children’s healthcare and education, balancing the household budget and other stressful planning tasks.

“We need to talk more openly about women’s entrepreneurial experiences and address the challenges,” says Dr Swail.

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