Female entrepreneurs as managers: the role of social capital in facilitating a learning culture

Document Type


Publication details

Farr-Wharton, R & Brunetto, Y 2009, 'Female entrepreneurs as managers: the role of social capital in facilitating a learning culture', Gender in Management: An International Journal, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 14-31.

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to use a social capital and learning organisation theoretical framework to clarify two issues: how female entrepreneurs manage interactions with employees and whether they learn about new business opportunities from workplace networks. The qualitative findings demonstrated that female entrepreneurs used a relational approach to manage their employees which social capital theory (SCT) predicts should have promoted a workplace environment-based on trust and reciprocity of ideas, information and resources.

Design/methodology/approach – Data were obtained from semi-structured phone and person-to-person interviews. The qualitative questions sought to solicit information about how female entrepreneurs managed (particularly their staff) and whether they used workplace processes to be innovative and learn about new venture opportunities from within their firms.

Findings – The paper provides support to previous research that argues female entrepreneurs traditionally use a relational approach to managing their businesses. However, in contrast to previous literature about SCT, this paper found that only about a quarter of the female entrepreneurs used a social capital approach to learn about potential venture opportunities from their staff. Hence, the findings suggest that these female entrepreneurs did not engage in active learning from employees.

Research limitations/implications – This study’s findings have a number of limitations. Firstly, the sampling process could have caused bias in the data collection and therefore the generalisability of the findings may be compromised. Moreover, the sample size is limited; hence further research is necessary across numerous countries to improve the generalisability of the exploratory study.

Practical implications – The implication of these findings is that the majority of female entrepreneurs probably do not use workplace employee networks to provide new venture opportunities. Governments may need to consider strategies for supporting female entrepreneurs to capture new venture opportunities.

Originality/value – Previous research suggests that small to medium-sized enterprises do not necessarily perceive networks outside of the firm as a source of new ideas and the findings from this study suggest than only a quarter of the female entrepreneurs attempted to learn from inside the firm.

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