Women entrepreneurs, opportunity recognition and government-sponsored business networks: a social capital perspective

Document Type


Publication details

Farr-Wharton, R & Brunetto, Y 2007, 'Women entrepreneurs, opportunity recognition and government-sponsored business networks: a social capital perspective', Women In Management Review, vol. 22, no. 3, pp.187 - 207.

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Purpose – This paper uses a social capital theoretical framework to examine how the relational dimension of business networks affects the networking activities of female entrepreneurs. In particular, the study examines the role of trust on women's networking behaviour and the part played by government business development officers in supporting women entrepreneur's opportunity recognition behaviour.

Design/methodology/approach – The research used mixed methods to gather and analyse data. A survey instrument was used to gather quantitative data and qualitative data was gathered from interviews and written responses to open-ended questions included in the survey.

Findings – The quantitative findings suggest firstly that approximately 20 per cent of the reason why women entrepreneurs belong to formal business networks is to search for business opportunities; however, their experience of trusting significantly affects their perception of the potential benefits of networking activities. Moreover, government development officers appear not to positively affect women entrepreneur's trusting behaviour.

Research limitations/implications – The sampling process could have caused bias in the data collection and therefore the generalisability of the findings may be compromised. This is because the sample came from a state with the most start-ups and therefore it is likely that these women are more entrepreneurial than normal. In addition, there may be bias in the type of women entrepreneur likely to have responded to the survey. It seems likely that the women entrepreneurs that would respond to this questionnaire are apt to be more entrepreneurial in their behaviour of recognising new opportunities, thereby biasing the sample used. Finally, another limitation of this study is common methods bias in relation to the data collected using self-report questionnaire.

Practical implications – The findings have implications for government because these findings suggest that they have wrongly assumed that entrepreneurs will behave in “politically constructed business network” the same way as they behave in social networks where trust levels develop over time. This may be the reason why trust was such an important variable in affecting these women entrepreneurs' networking behaviour. The findings suggest that if women entrepreneurs are to be supported to grow, the government should focus its scarce resources on building trust within these formal business networks, so that women can build the relational trust context needed to share information likely to lead to good business opportunities.

Originality/value – The paper provides information on the role of trust on women's networking behaviour.

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