, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 129-144
Date: 18 Nov 2008

Diana: a symbol of women entrepreneurs’ hunt for knowledge, money, and the rewards of entrepreneurship

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Abstract

This article discusses the questions and issues that prompted the founding of the Diana Project, a multi-university research program aimed at identifying factors that support and enable high growth in women-led ventures. Despite the fact that women business owners comprise a significant portion of the economy, women face challenges in acquiring the resources needed to expand their businesses. This article details both the myths and realities associated with women’s entrepreneurship in their quest for growth. In particular, we examine the strategies that women entrepreneurs use to position their firms for growth, especially those strategies related to growth capital. Our results show that women seeking venture capital (VC) have degrees, graduate degrees, and experience that should not preclude them from obtaining financing. We also found that even though women-led businesses are frequently clustered in industries less attractive to financiers, women seeking equity funding are in the appropriate industries. Further, women spend a considerable amount of time using both formal and informal networks in their search for capital and in seeking capital. Because of the importance of the VC industry as a provider of growth capital and its reliance on its network for investment referrals, we also examined the participation and role of women as decision-makers in industry. Women’s participation in the VC industry has not kept pace with industry growth, and women have exited the industry at a faster rate than men, thus creating a significant barrier for women entrepreneurs in that it is less likely that their networks will overlap with the financial supplier networks, despite any effort they may expend networking and seeking capital.