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Research impact

In Scotland, women-owned business accounts for 13% of private sector employment, and around 21% of Scotland’s 339,000 small to medium sized enterprises are majority-led by women. Despite policy interventions, men are still almost twice as likely to start a business as women.

Research conducted by Prof. Norin Arshed at the University of Dundee School of Business has investigated women’s enterprise policy, looking specifically at the enterprise policy process and landscape for women entrepreneurs.

Findings from Prof. Arshed’s research highlighted how top-down gender stereotyping of women entrepreneurs triggered specific responses both in women entrepreneurs and in other stakeholders, undermining policy objectives and destabilising women’s enterprise policy. The findings also exposed how shifting strategic agendas and a lack of resources had a negative effect on policy outcomes.

Arshed’s latest report to the Scottish Parliament gives an in-depth understanding of the effects of COVID-19 on women entrepreneurs in Scotland, highlighting how historical barriers have been amplified by the pandemic. Access to finance in sectors dominated by women was disproportionately affected; barriers to networking were exacerbated; and social and cultural barriers were prevalent. Despite a willingness of enterprise agencies to support women entrepreneurs, much of the support was confusing and generic.

The research findings give voice to women entrepreneurs’ analysis of their own situation, along with views from both public and private organisations associated with enterprise support. Collectively, these findings served to inform the establishment of the £50 million government-backed Women’s Business Centre announced by Scotland’s First Minister in 2021.