There could not be a more appropriate day to announce the launch of a new European project to increase the share of female graduate entrepreneurs. On International Women’s Day 2021, the Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre, project coordinator of the WeRIn project, Women Entrepreneurs in Regional Inclusive Ecosystems, and their German partners - Wirtschaftsförderungs- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft Steinfurt (WESt mbH) and the Accreditation Council for Entrepreneurial and Engaged Universities (ACEEU) , announce their ambition to make entrepreneurship education and support programmes more inclusive.
Given that women represent about 60% of the graduates from higher education institutions (HEIs), their under-representation amongst start-ups is a very clear challenge. Despite a rise in participation of female students in entrepreneurship education at HEIs, they still lag behind compared to their male counterparts. Even when they have participated in entrepreneurship education, they are less likely to move towards actual entrepreneurial careers after they graduate. And when they do, these graduate female entrepreneurs are less well embedded in the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem: fewer of them participate in local incubation and acceleration programmes, seek and receive funding and are active in regional enterprise networks.
A pioneering European initiative, WeRIn lead by the Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre at the FH Münster University of Applied Sciences brings together 14 partners from 6 countries. Funded by the ERASMUS+ Knowledge Alliance programme for a three-year timeframe, WeRIn partners have ambitious plans to enhance the inclusivity of regional entrepreneurial ecosystems and embeddedness of female entrepreneurs therein, through the design of more inclusive academic and non-academic entrepreneurship education and support programmes.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem from Münster will benefit from WeRIn. Dr. Sue Rossano-Rivero, Junior Professor for Entrepreneurship at the FH Münster and Project Director, and Iulia Stroila, PhD Candidate at the FH Münster and lead researcher of the project explain. “It is an exciting time to put the spotlight on increasing the share of female graduate entrepreneurs. WeRIn is packed with opportunities for other educators, policy makers, funding bodies and bodies working to increase levels of female entrepreneurs. Over the next three years, we will work on profiling good practices and needs analysis, regional reports on current state of gender inclusivity, local and international Think-tanks, testing innovative new approaches through WeRLearnIn Principles, the WeRLearnIn Approach, WeRIn Nudges and the WeRIn Toolbox, a Knowledge Portal, International Capacity Building Sessions and Communities of Practice”.
Adisa Ejubovic, Executive Manager of ACEEU, explains the project has very tangible targets “together with our colleagues, we are intent on making an impact and making the project sustainable beyond the funding cycle. We aim to increase the share of female participation by 15% in entrepreneurship education and by 20% in entrepreneurship support programmes of consortium partners three years after completion of the project. We place a special emphasis on empowering, boosting confidence and raising awareness of various stakeholders on the importance of inviting women to the world of entrepreneurship. The additional aim is to support also vulnerable groups of women, such as female immigrants.”
Birgit Neyer, Director of WESt mbH, says: “In all aspects of life you can say that diversity always brings a new perspective, innovation and creativity to any group and organization. There is so much untapped potential in the entrepreneurial ecosystem because of the underrepresented females in that sector. It is time to see the importance of mixed gender teams and women as valuable assets for holistic founding teams. With the project’s ambitions we can finally transform the untapped potential into growth. We are excited to be part of this European project with a diverse team out of six countries”.
Prof. Dr. Thorsten Kliewe, Director of the Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre, is also very excited about this initiative. “It is no longer only about educating for entrepreneurship. It is about making sure that all feel invited to be entrepreneurs and that students (male and female) are aware of entrepreneurship as a career perspective. Inclusive (entrepreneurship) education requires an approach that looks into how to transform education systems and other learning environments in order to respond to the diversity of learners. Our concept of inclusion is not only on the gender dimension, but also on the structural dimension. We want to embed female students and graduates into the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem”.
Photo credit: Prostock-studio