The fight to nurture more women entrepreneurs and create more female led businesses is being given a boost by top business schools.
As government and business rolled out new measures to encourage entrepreneurship among women last week, leading schools pledged their support to the cause.
While there has been a growing focus on placing more women into senior leadership positions, the education sector is increasingly recognizing the need to do more on entrepreneurship.
Ginny Gibson, deputy dean at Henley Business School, said there is an increase on the number of women leaving the corporate market to enter self-employment, “providing greater flexibility and control over their earning power”.
AIGAC, the global network of admissions consultants, found that the rate of entrepreneurial take up is higher among female business school applicants than male applicants.
Yet just 3% of venture capital-backed start-ups in the US are led by women, and only 4% of US venture capital investors are women, according to government estimates released this month.
The data were published alongside new initiatives to help spur more female entrepreneurship. The US government’s Economic Development Administration launched a new $10 million fund. It will provide grants to state and local governments, non-profits, and universities to help build capacity for entrepreneurs seeking to turn ideas into job-creating companies.
Academic partners of the fund will join a growing number of universities that have already been pouring resources into encouraging more women to pursue start-up ventures.
Columbia University in New York this year ran a program in partnership with the Kenya Association of Women Business Owners to offer training for women- hoping to scale small and medium sized companies.
In Europe, the Netherlands’ Maastricht School of Management runs an online certificate program — the Certificate Women Entrepreneurship Promotion — aimed at female entrepreneurs.
IE Business School in Spain ran the Women Entrepreneurs in Europe competition, which provided an opportunity for young women to pitch their business ideas, and which provided seed funding for them to launch.
Aston Business School of the UK has partnered the Achievers Academy for Women, a development community for women in business. The two held an event this year featuring workshops around toolkits for growing businesses, language of the boardroom, balancing personal and working life, and networking opportunities for budding female entrepreneurs.
Other schools have set-up centres to aid women-owned ventures. This includes the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College in the US.
The UK’s Cranfield School of Management has conducted research on women entrepreneurs, and found that business schools can provide a significant boost to female-led ventures.
Dr Muhammad Azam Roomi, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Cranfield, said women’s networks act as a source of referrals and marketing for entrepreneurs.
“These networks help them in finding customers and act as an excellent word of mouth promotional strategy, saving advertisement costs,” he said.
Yet there are headwinds, such as access to venture capital. Just 2.7% of all the venture capital finance raised in the US between 2011 and 2013 went to companies led by women, according to Babson College research.
Bill Aulet, managing director of the Center for MIT Entrepreneurship at MIT Sloan School, said: “A lack of finance holds back entrepreneurs from scaling companies.”
Indeed, experts say there remains much more work to be done. “We need more women role models in business,” said Dianne Bevelander, director of Rotterdam School of Management’s Erasmus Centre for Women and Organisations.