Since the mid-1980’s, most research on women’s entrepreneurship focused on factors influencing the start-up of ventures (Gatewood, et al, 2003). Notably absent was an understanding of factors affecting growth.
In 1999, Candida Brush, Patricia Greene, Nancy Carter, Elizabeth Gatewood, and Myra Hart launched the DIANA Project™ to study the phenomenon of women’s entrepreneurship in the United States. At the time, women-led ventures were smaller than those of their male counterparts, whether measured by size of revenues generated or the number of people employed. They asked, “Why do women owned businesses remain smaller than those of their male counterparts?” A multi-method research effort was undertaken to examine supply of and demand for growth capital relative to women entrepreneurs. US research showed that women entrepreneurs seldom acquire sufficient funds to grow their businesses aggressively and to reach their full potential. This raised a new question, “Do women face unique challenges in acquiring growth capital?” While the collective research showed demand by women entrepreneurs for equity capital (Brush, et al, 2001), there was and still is a mismatch between the women between the women, their ventures and sources of growth funding (Brush, et al, 2004). The DIANA Project™ findings prompted great interest among policy makers, practitioners and educators wanting to learn more about ways to increase women entrepreneurs’ receipt of growth capital by providing a better infrastructure of programs and curricula for women who wished to grow larger business (Gatewood, Brush, Carter, Greene & Hart, 2009).
Simultaneous to the DIANA Project™ research, interest in women entrepreneurs and growth of their ventures was rising in most countries around the world. To capture and leverage that interest, the DIANA Project™ team, in partnership with ESBRI (Entrepreneurship and Small Business Research Institute, Sweden), convened an international gathering of scholars in 2003 to develop a shared research agenda. The goal was to exchange ideas and learn from each other about the current state of research on creation and support for new women-led businesses, and particularly, support and development of growth oriented businesses. The purpose in creating the DIANA International collaborative was twofold:
- To provide a platform from which to develop, conduct and share a global research agenda
- To create an international community of scholars dedicated to answering the questions about women entrepreneurs and growth oriented businesses.
Following the first DIANA International Conference in 2003, a report was produced discussing the importance of growth oriented women-led businesses and summarizing the state of knowledge about these businesses in the initial countries involved. This report was released in spring of 2005 and provides a summary of the presentations about the state of women’s entrepreneurship by country.
In 2004, the second DIANA International Conference was held where participants presented working papers, which were peer reviewed, revised and finally submitted for consideration for an edited book. In 2005, an edited volume was written, The DIANA Project™ International: Research on Growth of Women-owned Businesses that included a series of country reports highlighting an overview of the state of women’s entrepreneurship in eight different countries, noting the extent and nature of women’s participation in entrepreneurship, growth orientation and access to resources for growth. A second series of chapters covering six countries delved more deeply in to the relationship between social and human capital, financing, risk, motivations and skills of women entrepreneurs as these affect growth.
In 2007, following a conference in Belfast, Ireland, Collette Henry, Elizabeth Gatewood, Anne de Bruin and Candida Brush co-edited a second volume, Women’s Entrepreneurship and Growth Influences: An International Perspective. This volume built on the 2005 book, examining women’s entrepreneurship across a variety of developed and less developed countries using a multi-level framework (individual, venture, environment). The first set of chapters explored how contextual factors, and especially the social and family embeddedness of entrepreneurs, have a differential impact on men and women, while the second set of chapters examined strategies, constraints and enablers of growth and performance, considering a wide variety of topics, including self efficacy, mentors, networks, socio-political and technology sector factors.
In 2012, a new volume will be added to the Diana International collection. This book, co-edited by Jennifer Jennings and Karen Hughes, marks the third edited volume examining women’s entrepreneurship around the world. It emerges from the 2010 DIANA International Conference in Banff, Canada which attracted more than 80 scholars who presented scholarly work. It moves well beyond the “state” of women’s entrepreneurship and access to resources for growth studied the first book, and builds on the theme of “context”, constraints and enablers across multiple levels explored in the second book. This book focuses on diversity among women entrepreneurs. For too many years, women entrepreneurs have often been studied as a single group, where differences in circumstances and perspectives have been homogenized. Understanding the heterogeneity of women’s entrepreneurship is not only crucial to developing theory, identifying policies, practices and educational initiatives for women, but to our understanding of entrepreneurship generally.
In addition to the evolution in scholarship on women’s entrepreneurship reflected in this volume, this book also represents a step forward in creating that legacy of growth for the next generation of DIANA International scholars. Karen Hughes and Jennifer Jennings have embraced the leadership mantle for Diana International in making this book a reality. Their passion, rigorous attention to detail and their care in working with the authors of these chapters takes research on women’s entrepreneurship to a new level. Transgenerational entrepreneurship is a concept that reflects the way that families create an ongoing legacy of entrepreneurial growth by developing the mind-set and methods for creating new streams of wealth across generations. Karen, Jennifer and all the contributors to this volume are the next generation, creating transgenerational entrepreneurial wealth for women’s entrepreneurship.
In 2014, the 7th conference was held in Stockholm, Sweden, the theme being “The Impact of Women’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation”. This conference provided a basis for top research to be presented to an audience of policy-makers, educators and academics. The conference, led by Friederike Welter and Colette Henry was sponsored by ESBRI and directed by Magnus Aronsson.
In 2015, the 8th conference was held in Wellesley, Massachusetts. This was the first time this conference was held in the United States. The theme was "Women Entrepreneurs in Ecosystems", and the conference director was Candida Brush.
The 2016 Diana Conference was hosted by The University of Nordland Business School and Nordland Research Institute in Bodo, Norway. This conference focused on Gender in Family Business and Gender in Innovation, and was led by Gry Alsos and Elisabet Ljunggren.
Gatewood, E., G., Carter, N. M., Brush, C. G., Greene, P. G., & Hart, M. M. 2003. Women Entrepreneurs, Their Ventures, and the Venture Capital Industry: An Annotated Bibliography Stockholm: ESBRI.
Brush, C.G., Carter, N.M., Gatewood, E.J., Greene, P.G., & Hart, M.M. 2001, The Diana Project: Women business owners and equity capital: The myths dispelled, Report prepared for the Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City, MO.
Brush, C.G., Carter, N.M., Gatewood, E.J., Greene, P.G., & Hart, M.M. 2004. Clearing the Hurdles: Women Building High Growth Businesses. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall-Financial Times.
Gatewood, E.J., Brush, C.G., Carter, N.M., Greene, P.G., & Hart, M.M. 2009. Diana: A Symbol of Women Entrepreneur’s Hunt for Knowledge, Money and the Rewards of Entrepreneurship,Small Business Economics Volume 32, Number 2, 129-144.