Women are less likely to be entrepreneurs than men in most countries around the globe, and they tend to start smaller and less dynamic businesses than their male counterparts (GEM, 2021; OECD, 2021). This impacts negatively on local economies and reduces revenue-generating opportunities for women and their families. The OECD has posited that if women were to participate in early-stage entrepreneurship at the same rate as core-age men, there could be as many as 25 million additional entrepreneurs across OECD countries (OECD, 2021).
Policy support for women entrepreneurs is critical to helping more women engage in entrepreneurial activity. However, current entrepreneurship policy instruments in most countries have been shown to be biased toward male models of entrepreneurship and do not take into consideration the different challenges women face in their entrepreneurial endeavours and the different contexts in which they operate (Henry, Coleman, Foss, Orser & Brush, 2021). A recent report by the OECD in conjunction with the Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Policy Research Network (GWEP) found that many countries lack a formal overarching entrepreneurship policy; have no dedicated women’s entrepreneurship policy; offer few or no programmes that operationalise their policy; or have no evaluative measures in place to determine which initiatives are working and which are not (OECD-GWEP, 2021). Furthermore, academic research has demonstrated that scholars continuously fail to offer policy recommendations from their research work (Foss, Henry & Ahl, 2018). This, despite policy being identified as an important part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem (Mason & Brown, 2017; Spiegel & Harrison, 2018; Isenberg, 2010), and the overall effectiveness of entrepreneurship policies being called in to question (Arshed, Cater & Mason, 2014; Nziku & Henry, 2021).
The aim of this Special Issue (SI) is to gather a collection of high calibre research-based articles that explore entrepreneurship policy from a gender perspective and, in so doing, to offer valuable insights into the gendered nature of entrepreneurship policy. The SI will highlight issues relating to culture, skills, finance, networks and regulations, and argue that current public policies for entrepreneurship are often inadequate to address the gender gap. Potential policy solutions will also be identified, and existing ‘promising practice’ policy examples will be highlighted. Our overall objective is that – based on findings from this SI collection – scholars will have a much better understanding of the nature of entrepreneurship policy, its embedded gender biases, its generally (although not exclusively) perceived ineffectiveness, the importance of linking policy instruments to the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem, the importance of including women at the design stage, and the need to ensure relevant monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are built into all policies from the outset. This SI will also provide valuable insights into theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches that are appropriate to the study of entrepreneurship policy when applying a gender lens, including new theories and methods.
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