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Journal cover: Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Online from: 1994

Subject Area: Enterprise and Innovation

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Entrepreneurial competencies of women entrepreneurs pursuing business growth


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DOI (Permanent URL): 10.1108/14626001311298448

Article citation: Siwan Mitchelmore, Jennifer Rowley, (2013) "Entrepreneurial competencies of women entrepreneurs pursuing business growth", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 20 Iss: 1, pp.125 - 142


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The Authors

Siwan Mitchelmore, Bangor Business School, Bangor University, Bangor, UK

Jennifer Rowley, Department of Information and Communications, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK

Abstract

Purpose – Entrepreneurial competencies have an impact on firm performance and growth. The purpose of this paper is to report empirical research into the entrepreneurial competencies reported by female entrepreneurs who are committed to the growth of their business.

Design/methodology/approach – A questionnaire-based survey of female entrepreneurs in England and Wales was conducted. The core of the questionnaire was a list of entrepreneurial competencies compiled from previous theoretical and empirical frameworks, coupled with Likert scales through which the entrepreneurs were invited to rate their ability in relation to each competency. PCA was conducted in order to identify clusters of competencies, and to identify the competencies that loaded onto those clusters.

Findings – Four main clusters of competencies were identified: personal and relationship, business and management, entrepreneurial, and human relations competencies. Whilst previous research on the competencies of entrepreneurs has identified the two clusters of business and management, and entrepreneurial competencies, the competencies in the other two clusters have received less attention and have not been identified as clusters. Arguably, competencies in these clusters are valued more highly by female entrepreneurs than by their male counterparts.

Originality/value – This study is the first to offer a comprehensive analysis of the competencies of female entrepreneurs. By identifying four key groups of competencies, the research provides the basis for an agenda for focus in education, and development of female entrepreneurs. More specifically, the Female Entrepreneur Competence (FEC) framework generated by this research can be used to support female entrepreneurs in the self-assessment of their competencies.

Article Type:

Research paper

Keyword(s):

Entrepreneurial competencies; Female entrepreneurs; Business growth; Entrepreneurialism; Women; United Kingdom.

Journal:

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

Volume:

20

Number:

1

Year:

2013

pp:

125-142

Copyright ©

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

ISSN:

1462-6004

Introduction

There is widespread acknowledgement that the success, performance and growth of a SME is heavily dependent on the competencies of the entrepreneur. The management structure and independence of a small enterprise places the entrepreneur in a critical position in the business operation (Bird, 1995; Capaldo et al., 2004; Chandler and Jansen, 1992; Olson and Booker, 1995). Further, some researchers have suggested that an understanding of competencies that are exercised by the entrepreneurs leading successful small businesses can be used to support the development of those competencies, and has potential to, in turn, drive business growth (Churchill and Lewis, 1983; Low and MacMillan, 1988).

Whilst entrepreneurial competencies are important for all SMEs, the imperative to develop the understanding of such competencies in the context of female-led businesses is particularly strong. There are growing numbers of self-employed women in developed economies such as the UK and the USA (Carter and Shaw, 2006), and many of these businesses are highly dependent on the owner and her skills (Lerner et al., 1997). In addition, there is a widespread assumption that many of these businesses are lifestyle businesses, and as such their commitment to growth may be relatively low (Wiklund et al., 2003). Nevertheless, governments and other agencies, in pursuit of economic growth (or in these times avoidance of recession) are looking to SMEs to play a significant role (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, 2010). These agenda apply as much to those businesses led by women as to those led by men.

Although entrepreneurial competencies are seen as important to business growth and success, according to Brinckmann (2008) the discussion of competencies in the entrepreneurial literature is in its early stages. Indeed, whilst over the years there have been some notable studies that have sought to examine the skills and competences of entrepreneurs (e.g. Chandler and Jansen, 1992; Markman et al., 2002), they are few in number, and each is to some extent context-dependent. In particular, only one or two studies (e.g. Lerner and Almor, 2002) have specifically focussed on businesses owned by women, although there are other studies that have discussed women's competence in specific areas, such as financial management and management competency (e.g. Carter et al., 2006; Lerner et al., 1997; Walker and Webster, 2006).

The structure of the remainder of this article is as follows. First, a literature review argues the case for the importance of female entrepreneurship and the role of competencies in its development, and reviews previous theory and research on entrepreneurial competencies. Next, the methodology for this research is outlined, including the questionnaire design, data collection and analysis, respondent profile, and data analysis. The Findings section that follows presents the result of the PCA analysis, and the Female Entrepreneurial Competence (FEC) framework that emerges. The Discussion section then compares the FEC framework with previous research on entrepreneurial competencies. Finally, the Conclusions section summarises the contribution of this research and offer recommendations for practice and for further research.

Literature review

The importance of female entrepreneurship and the role of competencies

In 2010, 104 million women in 59 economies which represent more than 52 per cent of the world's population and 84 per cent of world GDP embarked on new venture creation and development. These self-employed women comprise between 1.5 per cent and 45.4 per cent of the adult female population in their respective economies (Levie and Hart, 2012). Accordingly, women-owned businesses make an increasingly important contribution to economies. Many of these businesses are SMEs (Hart and Levie, 2010), which means there is considerable concern regarding support for new venture creation and business growth (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants , 2010). In the USA, the Women's Business Act of 1988 put in place long-term infrastructure to support women's enterprise development. Subsequently women's business ownership has increased significantly. This growth has been aided by federal recognition of its importance and a sustained commitment to its development over a 30-year period. Unfortunately such initiatives are less in evidence in other countries.

Frequently, businesses owned by women are privately owned and depend largely on the owner and her skills or competencies (Lerner et al., 1997). Entrepreneurial competencies have been identified as a specific group of competencies relevant to the exercise of successful entrepreneurship. Such entrepreneurship is often associated with the survival and development of small and new businesses (e.g. Colombo and Grilli, 2005; Nuthall, 2006). Interest in entrepreneurial competence derives from the supposed link between competencies and the birth, survival and growth of a venture (Baum et al., 2001; Bird, 1995). There is evidence to suggest that understanding of the competencies in small businesses will support the development of competence, and, will, in turn, have consequences for successful business growth (Churchill and Lewis, 1983; Low and MacMillan, 1988). Lerner and Almor (2002), in one of the few studies to examine a range of entrepreneurial competencies in women, found evidence of the link between an entrepreneur's skills and venture performance and growth.

Most of the previous studies on the entrepreneurial competencies of female business owners have focussed on specific aspects of their competencies or skills, and specifically consider women's competencies relative to those of their male counterparts. For example, there is evidence that women business owners tend to feel that social adroitness and interpersonal skills are their strongest personal assets (Birley et al., 1987). On the other hand, there is a considerable body of research that suggests that women may be weaker in financial skills than men (Collerette and Aubrey, 1990; Stevenson, 1986). More specifically, women frequently rate themselves as less competent in financial skills than do men (Brush, 1992; Chaganti, 1986).

In a review of the literature, Jennings and Cash (2006) note that there is a solid base of empirical research demonstrating that for the most part male and female business owners do differ in some fundamental ways with respect to their:

  • social and human capital;
  • motivations;
  • goals and success criteria;
  • growth orientations;
  • strategic choices; and
  • use of financial capital.

Women business owners may be disadvantaged in their access to various entrepreneurial capitals, given their personal backgrounds and employment experiences and the socio-economic and cultural context in which their businesses operate (Carter and Shaw, 2006). Entrepreneurial competencies comprise those that are grounded in components that are deeply rooted in a person's background (traits, personality, attitudes, social role and self-image) as well as those that can be acquired at work or through training and education (skills, knowledge and experience) (Man and Lau, 2005).

Accordingly, there are grounds for further exploration of the unique competencies exercised by female entrepreneurs (Brinckmann, 2008). Indeed, recent reviews of the literature have acknowledged that many gaps exist in the knowledge regarding female entrepreneurs and their businesses (Carter et al., 2006; Carter and Shaw, 2006; Greene et al., 2003). Relevant to this study, there is a distinct gap in the understanding of competencies in female entrepreneurial businesses.

Researching entrepreneurial competencies

Bird (1995) suggests that entrepreneurial competencies are defined as underlying characteristics such as specific knowledge, motives, traits, self images, social roles and skills which result in venture birth, survival and/or growth. Man et al. (2002) defined entrepreneurial competencies as the total ability of the entrepreneur to perform a job role successfully. According to the resource-based theory of the firm, the value creation process of firms is strictly related to the capability of managers in acquiring and developing resources (Barney, 1991; Grant, 1991). In summary, then, there is a consensus that entrepreneurial competencies are carried by individuals, who begin and transform their businesses, and a widespread recognition that the range of skills and competencies required to run a small firm are qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from those needed in larger organisations (Fuller-Love, 2006; Johnson and Winterton, 1999; Walker and Webster, 2006). This is at least in part because in an entrepreneurial context the focus is on the individual (Hunt and Meech, 1991).

Whilst comprehensive studies of the competencies of female entrepreneurs are rare, there is more research into entrepreneurial competencies in general. We undertook a comprehensive review of this research in an earlier article (Mitchelmore and Rowley, 2010). Here we identify some of the most significant studies, and reflect on the different approaches adopted in previous studies to the measurement of entrepreneurial competencies.

One of the recurrent distinctions in the literature on the entrepreneur's competencies is that between management competencies or skills and entrepreneurial competencies or skills (Smith and Morse, 2005). For example, in one of the few studies on women, Lerner and Almor (2002) in their study of 220 female Israeli entrepreneurs found that managerial skills (finance, human resource management, operations and strategic management) and entrepreneurial skills (innovation and marketing) were separate factors. Chandler and Hanks (1994)'s research is based on the assumption that entrepreneurs needed to be competent in two key roles, i.e. entrepreneurial (recognise and envision taking advantage of opportunity) and managerial (acquire and utilise resources to co-ordinate the business interest and activities); their research in manufacturing businesses in Pennsylvania measured the two areas separately. In a seminal work in the field, Chandler and Jansen (1992) researched a sample of companies in the state of Utah, identifying entrepreneurial, managerial, and technical functional functions as the three roles that founders must competently enact in order to be successful. They suggested that effective performance in the entrepreneurial role requires the founder to have the ability to recognise business opportunities and the drive to see firms through to fruition. Effective execution of the managerial role requires conceptual, interpersonal and political competence. To be competent in the technical role, they state that founders must be able to use the tools or procedures required in their specialised field.

Other studies have also sought to understand the differentiation between management and entrepreneurship. For example, Shane and Venkataraman (2000) suggest that opportunity recognition and exploitation are focal concepts in entrepreneurship which differentiate entrepreneurship from management. Bird (1988), among others, notes the entrepreneur's intentions (e.g. persistence, perseverance) as being a key characteristic for developing a new venture.

Most researchers agree that managerial and entrepreneurial competencies are multidimensional constructs. In their overview of the competencies literature, Smith and Morse (2005) observed that there are two broad themes in managerial competencies:

  1. functional competencies, such as marketing and finance; and
  2. organisational competencies, such as the skills related to organising and motivating, personal skills and leadership.

Reuber and Fischer (1994) suggest 16 areas of expertise including general management, strategic planning and marketing. In a similar functional approach, Orser and Riding (2003) developed 25 competency scales, which were grouped into nine functional areas. Man et al. (2002), in their process/behavioural approach based on a review of previous empirical studies, identified six competency areas under entrepreneurial competencies. These were:

  1. opportunity;
  2. relationships;
  3. conceptual;
  4. organising;
  5. strategic; and
  6. commitment competencies.

Baum et al. (2001) formed the following entrepreneurship competencies:

  • knowledge;
  • cognitive ability;
  • self-management;
  • administration;
  • human resource;
  • decision skill;
  • leadership;
  • opportunity recognition;
  • opportunity development; and
  • organisation skill.

Man (2001) identified the following ten areas of entrepreneurial competencies:

  1. opportunity;
  2. relationship;
  3. analytical;
  4. innovative;
  5. operational;
  6. human;
  7. strategic;
  8. commitment;
  9. learning; and
  10. personal strength competencies.

One of the objectives of the development of classifications of entrepreneurial competencies is to be able to measure such competencies. It is important to observe that the approaches taken by the various researchers to measuring competencies are varied, and are underpinned by different assumptions. Chandler and Jansen (1992) and Markman et al. (2002) take a similar approach, explicitly taking an antecedent perspective by attempting to delineate key knowledge or abilities thought to reflect entrepreneurial and managerial competencies, based on reviews of the literature, and then having respondents self-assess their own level of competence, or level of agreement with a competence-related statement. Other researchers, focussing on the relationship between entrepreneurial cognitions and entrepreneurial decisions and their outcomes, have taken a process perspective in measuring constructs related to entrepreneurial competence (Mitchell et al., 2002; Shepherd, 1999). In a script-cue recognition methodology adapted from Read (1987), Mitchell et al. (2002) measured arrangement, willingness, and ability cognitions. This approach, based on expert information processing theory, used a nominal scale where respondents must agree or disagree with given statements. Finally other researchers, such as Lerner and Almor (2002) and Reuber and Fischer (1994), have chosen a performance-based perspective by identifying key tasks and then assessing skill acumen; the assessments were subjective self-perceptions.

In summary, over the last two decades there have been a number of investigations in different contexts that have sought to generate lists of entrepreneurial competencies, with varying levels of categorisation. Some researchers have used alternative terms such as skills or expertise, but their research generates findings that are relevant to the general field of entrepreneurial competencies. In a previous article, Mitchelmore and Rowley (2010) summarised the competencies generated by previous researchers in entrepreneurial competencies, and this list was used as the basis for the design of the research instrument for this study, where the focus is specifically on female entrepreneurs.

Methodology

Questionnaire design

A questionnaire-based survey was conducted in order to collect data about female entrepreneurs, their businesses and competencies. A survey was selected as the research strategy for two main reasons. First, questionnaire-based surveys have been the main tradition in research in entrepreneurial competencies, and therefore adopting this approach makes it easier to make comparisons between this study and previous studies. Secondly, a survey allows the researcher to enlist a large number of respondents, including respondents with businesses of different sizes, and in different sectors (Saunders et al., 2003).

The questionnaire had three sections:

  1. profile of the entrepreneur (age, years of business experience, qualifications, family history of enterprise);
  2. profile of the entrepreneur's business (annual sales, number of employees, business sector, legal status, stage of business development); and
  3. entrepreneurial competencies.

The key section was the list of entrepreneurial competencies. Mitchelmore and Rowley's (2010) generic inventory of competences for entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized businesses, which embraced both entrepreneurial and managerial competencies, was used as a basis for this study. Previous studies that focus on identifying and exploring entrepreneurial competencies are few; however, those who have researched this area have requested respondents to self-assess their own competencies (Lerner and Almor, 2002; Chandler and Hanks, 1994; Chandler and Jansen, 1992). This approach was therefore adopted in this study.

Some very similar statements of competencies were consolidated, but most were left as separate items in order to allow the most important articulations to surface in the analysis. At the top of the list of competencies respondents were invited to rate their ability from a range of competencies presented. Competencies were measured using a five-point Likert scale ranging from 1=weak to 5=excellent. Others, for example Lerner and Almor (2002) and Chen et al. (1998), have also used a self-reported five-point Likert scale when measuring aspects of entrepreneurial and managerial competencies.

Particular care was taken with the wording, layout, and presentation of the questionnaire, taking into account that the respondents would not have any recourse to the researcher during self-completion. In particular, the questionnaire was subjected to a two-stage piloting process that involved piloting with other researchers, and piloting with a selected group of female entrepreneurs. As a result of the piloting, some minor adjustments were made to wording and layout.

Questionnaires were distributed online as an e-mail attachment. An online survey was preferred over a postal survey because it is cheaper and quicker to conduct, non-responses are easier to detect, and it is possible to access larger research sample groups and difficult-to-contact populations. Following the advice of Salant and Dillman (1994) an informative and well-presented covering e-mail was sent with each survey, which explained the objectives and importance of the research. In order to increase the response rates, several tactics were adopted. These included emphasising respondents' importance to the research, capitalising on the sense of community amongst female entrepreneurs, and follow-up mailings to chase non-respondents.

Data collection and analysis

Questionnaires were distributed to a convenience sample. Convenience sampling is useful where it is otherwise difficult to elicit a sufficient level of response (Bryman and Bell, 2007). Initial attempts to elicit responses from the SMEs listed on specific databases met with only limited success. This was partly due to the volatility of the SMEs leading to dated contact details in all of the several databases of SMEs that were investigated for the purpose of this research, and partly due to the difficulty of identifying those businesses that were owned by women from such lists. Participants were identified through women's networks based in England and Wales. Many of the networks were identified by using female entrepreneur support programmes and associations such as PROWESS. In those instances where networks had publicly available mailing lists, questionnaires were e-mailed direct to the participants, but on other occasions the questionnaires were e-mailed through the agency of the network coordinators.

A total of 210 useable questionnaires were collected. Data were entered into SPSS for descriptive and principal component analysis (PCA) analysis.

Findings

Respondent profile

Respondents' profiles in terms of their age, education, years of business experience, sector, and age of business are presented below. Comparison with other statistics and studies suggests that on the basis of these variables the sample in this study can be regarded as representative of female entrepreneurs in England and Wales.

Regarding the age of respondents, the highest responding age group among respondents was between 45 and 54, followed closely by those aged 36 to 44. Other studies such as the GEM report (Hart and Levie, 2010) have noted that these are the most entrepreneurially active age groups. Overall, female entrepreneurs within this sample were mostly highly educated, with 33 per cent having a professional qualification and 46 per cent a degree. This is consistent with Carter and Shaw's (2006) assertion that women business owners increasingly have higher levels of educational attainment.

Most respondents from the sample reported some years of business experience prior to setting up their businesses, with only 17 per cent of the respondents indicating that they had no previous experience. This is not consistent with previous research, which has suggested that many female business owners lack previous entrepreneurial and managerial experience (Brush, 1992) and this has an effect to on their ability to survive (Daniel, 2004; Fuller-Love, 2006; Srinivasan et al., 1994).

As in previous studies of female entrepreneurs, there was a preponderance of businesses in the services sector (78 per cent). Data collected by the Small Business Service (Atkinson and Hurstfield, 2003) showed that 48 per cent of female entrepreneurs own businesses in the service sector. Birley (1989) suggests that the concentration of women in these sectors is not surprising given that they represent traditional areas of employment for women. Retail and service industries are categorised as female type, with manufacturing, technology and construction as male type (Fuller-Love, 2006; Walker and Webster, 2006).

Studies have shown a tendency for female-controlled businesses to be relatively young (Brush, 1992; Fuller-Love, 2006; Rosa et al., 1996). The data collected in this study also shows that many of the businesses were young: 64 per cent of all businesses were under three years old and only 18 per cent had been operating for between four and six years.

Identification of clusters of competencies

Factor analysis was used to determine the smallest number of factors to best represent the inter-relationships among the set of self-reported competencies of the female entrepreneurs, and to identify the competencies that loaded onto the key factors. Factor analysis was chosen since it is suitable for identifying correlation among variables in complex sets of data (Pallant, 2007).

Prior to conducting PCA the suitability of the data for this test was established by various means. Cronbach's α coefficient was calculated; with a value of 0.98 this confirmed the reliability of the scale within the sample (Bryman and Bell, 2007). Both Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) and Bartlett's test of sphericity were conducted to measure sampling adequacy. The KMO value was 0.9, which is greater than the recommended value of 0.6 (Kaiser, 1974). Bartlett's test is statistically significant at the p<0.01 level (Bartlett, 1954).

A scree plot was used to identify the number of factors; this resulted in the identification of four factors. Table I lists the eigenvalues associated with these four factors, and the variance in self-reported competencies explained by each of the factors. The selected four components explain a total of 46 per cent of the variance. More specifically, Factor 1 explains 14 per cent of the total variance; factor 2, 13 per cent; factor 3, 10 per cent; and factor 4, 10 per cent of the total variance.

Next, the factors were rotated using Varimax with Kaiser normalisation as recommended by Pallant (2007) to generate the component matrix shown in Table II. The component matrix shows a clear structure, with meaningful strong loadings for each of the four components, but with some items loading onto more than one component. This is not surprising given that the research instrument was constructed using an extremely wide range of competencies from earlier studies, with some potential repetition, coupled with the fact that there is good reason to believe that the boundaries between different groups of competencies are permeable.

All items with a correlation at 0.5 or above were selected for presentation in the Female Entrepreneurial Competencies framework shown in Table III. Some items have been slightly re-worded for clarity and succinctness. The factors are:

  • Factor 1 – personal and relationship competencies. Eleven items cluster to form the first factor. This factor includes an interesting mix of communication and relationship building skills, together with a number of personal traits that are generally associated with the internal drivers, motivators and traits of the entrepreneur.
  • Factor 2 – business and management competencies. Eight items cluster to form this factor. The factor includes competencies relating to a typical range of business tasks such as budgeting and managing finance, systems, planning, and business operations.
  • Factor 3 – entrepreneurial competencies. Nine items cluster to form this factor. This factor includes a range of competencies typically associated with the entrepreneur including innovation, risk taking, creativity, visioning, and idea generation.
  • Factor 4 – human relations competencies. Nine items cluster to form this factor. The items in this factor are an interesting mix of those skills and competencies typically shared by a human relations function and line management in larger businesses. They include hiring, staff development, leadership, employee relations and motivating staff.

Discussion

This study has contributed to the limited previous research on female entrepreneurial competencies. Specifically, it has generated a framework that shows female entrepreneurial competencies to cluster into four groups:

  1. personal and relationship competencies;
  2. business and management competencies;
  3. entrepreneurial competencies; and
  4. human relations competencies.

The FEC framework produced in this research is comparable with other frameworks of classifications of entrepreneurial competences generated by earlier researchers, although it is important to remember that most of these earlier classifications looked at entrepreneurs in general, and, as such privileged male entrepreneurs. One of the main precursors to this study in that it also focussed on women was the study by Lerner and Almor (2002). In a similar way to this study, they used factor analysis to establish that entrepreneurial skills and managerial skills were separate factors. This is consistent with earlier studies such as those by Chandler and Hanks (1994), who assumed that two categories of skills were required for the entrepreneurial role and the management role, respectively, and by Chandler and Jansen (1992), who proposed three categories of competencies or skills, i.e. entrepreneurial, management, and technical function. This last category does not arise in this research because we did not specifically explore any sector- or profession-specific skills.

On the other hand, it is important to note that this study did not only generate the two factors associated with entrepreneurial competencies and business and management competencies, but also surfaced two other clusters of competencies, relating to personal and relationship competencies and human relations competencies, respectively. Previous commentators and evidence have suggested that one of the areas in which female entrepreneurs may outshine men is in their abilities to build strong inter-personal relationships (Birley et al., 1987; Daniel, 2004; Fuller-Love et al., 2006), so perhaps it is not surprising that these two additional clusters emerge in this study.

However, other studies have generated frameworks that include a larger number of clusters of competencies than previous studies focusing on female entrepreneurs. For example, Baum et al. (2001) identified nine entrepreneurship competencies, whilst Orser and Riding (2003) developed 25 competency scales, which were grouped into nine functional areas. Perhaps the most interesting study for our purposes is that conducted by Man et al. (2002). They identified the following ten areas of entrepreneurial competencies:

  1. opportunity;
  2. relationship;
  3. analytical;
  4. innovative;
  5. operational;
  6. human;
  7. strategic;
  8. commitment;
  9. learning; and
  10. personal strength competencies.

All of these are variously evident in the items in our FEC framework, but they cluster differently. This may be because the competencies for female entrepreneurs do indeed have different clusters, or may be due to the rather longer list of competencies included in our research.

Ultimately, given the diversity of approaches to the construction of scales, classifications and frameworks of entrepreneurial competence it is difficult to make comparisons, and therefore difficult on the basis of this research to offer a definitive answer as to whether the entrepreneurial competencies of female entrepreneurs are essentially different to those exercised by men. Nevertheless, we draw attention to our identification of the two key clusters of competencies in this research – i.e. personal conceptual and relationship competencies and human relations competences – which seem to lend more emphasis to communication and relationship building (including its contractual and leadership dimensions) than they have previously received.

Conclusions

Entrepreneurs and the organisations that support and advise entrepreneurs are increasingly paying attention to the issue of knowledge, skills and competencies as they acknowledge the importance of the development of these for competitiveness in the knowledge-based economy. This research proposes the Female Entrepreneur Competence (FEC) framework, which encompasses four clusters of competencies:

  1. personal and relationship competencies;
  2. business and management competencies;
  3. entrepreneurial competencies; and
  4. human relations competencies.

One of the key findings and conclusions from the 2012 GEM study of women entrepreneurs is that if women perceive that they have the capabilities or competencies for entrepreneurship, they are more likely to believe that entrepreneurial opportunities exist. Accordingly, the FEC framework can be used to profile competencies and to help women to understand their strengths and weaknesses in entrepreneurial ventures. In addition, it can be used as a framework for developing the educational support for female entrepreneurship. In the longer term, developing entrepreneurial skills among entrepreneurs contributes to profitability (Cushion, 1996) and growth (Gray, 1997). Thus, the key beneficiaries of this research include government in their pursuit of economic development, particularly for training purposes, and female entrepreneurs themselves in the pursuit of business success.

We add our voice to others before us who have suggested that further research into female entrepreneurial competencies would be a valuable basis for improving understanding of women and their businesses, and would support the development of training and other relevant initiatives that could drive the performance and growth of women-owned SMEs, and thereby enhance their contribution to the economy.

Finally, it is possible to develop an extensive agenda for further research in this area, but key areas for consideration are:

  • Replication and development of this exploratory study in different contexts, including studies that support comparisons between men and women, explore competencies at different stages in the growth of a business, and embrace functional competencies relating to the products and services in different sectors.
  • The development of models that further establish the relationship between entrepreneurial competencies, and business performance and growth.
  • Qualitative research to generate a greater understanding of how female entrepreneurs develop their competencies, how competencies interact, and how they are deployed to achieve business success.

ImageTable IInitial eigenvalues for factors selected
Table IInitial eigenvalues for factors selected

ImageTable IIRotated component matrix
Table IIRotated component matrix

ImageTable IIIFemale Entrepreneurial Competencies framework
Table IIIFemale Entrepreneurial Competencies framework

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About the authors

Dr Siwan Mitchelmore is a Lecturer at Bangor Business School. She teaches and researches in entrepreneurship and new business development; her specific research interests are in female entrepreneurship.

Professor Jennifer Rowley is Professor of Information and Communications at the Manchester Metropolitan University, and was previously Professor of Marketing and Information Management at Bangor Business School. Her research interests are in knowledge management, innovation and entrepreneurship, and marketing. Jennifer Rowley is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: j.rowley@mmu.ac.uk