Women who Stand Alone but in Company: A Case Study on formal Women-Only Networks and Female Entrepreneurship

Helén Cano Norberg & Erica Jaeckel

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to develop the understudied area of formal women-only networks (WONs) and simultaneously explore how this networking phenomenon can help female entrepreneurs. This interest is grounded in the established notion in the literature which suggest that access to business
networks is an essential factor in fostering female entrepreneurship. Although formal WONs is a growing phenomenon which has been deemed valuable for women and which provides access to expanded networks, the overlap of entrepreneurship and women-only networks is very limitedly researched and therefore deserves more scholarly attention.
With an exploratory case study approach, this paper derives its findings from two main datasets: Firstly,
semi-structured interviews with female entrepreneurs who are members in two different formal WONs,
as well as the founders of these two networks; Secondly, netnographic data from one of the networks’
Facebook groups. The paper identifies what motivates female entrepreneurs to join a formal WON, how these networks are organized and consequently used by its members, as well as the value provided by the WONs to the entrepreneurs. In combination, this aims to provide an answer to how formal WONs help female entrepreneurs. The key findings of this study show that formal WONs help female entrepreneurs through the reciprocal relationships that arise between the members and between the founder and the members. Those relationships generate continuous emotional and instrumental support which are enhanced by the comforting and open environment found in the networks. Founders are understood to take on an important role in influencing this environment by being “tone-setting”. Thus, they foster an atmosphere of encouragement, openness and comfort which is deemed important to the members.
Further, it is found that this atmosphere is linked to the all-female setting. The study contributes to the literature on networking and female entrepreneurship by giving exploratory evidence for the value that formal WONs are found to generate for female entrepreneurs. Given the exploratory nature of this research, it provides a basis for further research within the area. Although more research is needed on the topic, the study provides a number of practical implications for female entrepreneurs (to join a formal WON to get instrumental and emotional support), network founders (to foster an environment of reciprocity and encouragement) and policy makers (to consider subsidization of formal WONs and enhance the exposure and accessibility of these networks).

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2020
Number of pages91
SupervisorsFlorence Villeséche