Women Entrepreneurs Study

A joint research project by Cheskin, Santa Clara University Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and The Center for New Futures

Women have become a key driving force in the growth of new business. They also have faced unique challenges and obstacles in developing new ventures and accessing the resources necessary for them to succeed. In spite of equal educational opportunities and the perception that the playing field is becoming equal for men and women, the proverbial “glass ceiling” still exists.

Typically women entrepreneurs are still finding it very difficult to procure venture capital support for new ventures. In addition, moving upward through senior executive ranks in corporate America is also still a challenge. Women started business at twice the rate of men in 1997, yet they received only 2% of institutional venture capital money. VentureOne estimates that today less than 10% of venture funding goes directly to women-owned companies. The 1999 Catalyst Census of Women Board Directors of the Fortune 1000 found that women hold only 11.2 percent of board seats at the 500 largest publicly traded U.S. companies.

The study was undertaken to provide an understanding of the differences in the business challenges and experiences between female and male entrepreneurs and to provide insights that will stimulate discussion and guide the future development of programs, coaching and experiences to help increase women’s effectiveness within the startup arena. In addition the results of this study should benefit everyone facing typical business challenges today.

The research consisted of three phases. In the first phase, a series of twenty-minute phone interviews were conducted with five experts in the fields of developing and funding new business ventures. In the second phase, an online questionnaire was emailed to female and male Santa Clara University MBA graduates and the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs member list. A total of 367 surveys were completed.

Finally, follow-up one-on-one phone interviews were conducted with nine established women entrepreneurs to help further understand some of the issues. The interviews included a discussion of the findings from Phases 1 and 2 in order to obtain insight on some of the issues raised in the findings.

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