Shaping women’s enterprise policy in Scotland: Delivering an effective and sustainable model for women’s enterprise support

Published on 1 December 2022

Professor Norin Arshed’s work focuses on enterprise policy and how this policy is formulated and implemented.

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Entrepreneurship is one of the key drivers of economic and social development. Professor Norin Arshed’s work focuses on enterprise policy and how this policy is formulated and implemented. Furthermore, Arshed’s work has centred on the exploitation of enterprise policy, specifically, women’s enterprise policy. She works with policymakers, enterprise organisations and entrepreneurs themselves to understand who, when, why, where and what makes and could make enterprise policy more effective. 

The research

Arshed, N., Chalmers, D., & Matthews, R. (2019). Institutionalizing women’s enterprise policy: A legitimacy-based perspective. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice. 30(5): 595–621.

Arshed et al.’s study explored how and when individual stakeholders evaluated and influenced the legitimacy of women’s enterprise policy within the enterprise policy ‘ecosystem’, comprising of policymakers, delivery agencies and women entrepreneurs.

The key finding highlighted the lack of legitimacy accorded to women’s enterprise policy by policymakers and emphasised the gender stereotyping of women entrepreneurs. The findings showed how the top-down reproduction of stereotypical gender norms triggered ‘bottom-up’ legitimacy responses from women entrepreneurs and other stakeholders.

In conclusion the subordination of women has led to key actors engaging in practices that destabilised women’s enterprise policy and undermined the effective delivery of policy objectives.

The impact

As a direct outcome of these findings, Arshed was appointed as an Independent Government Advisor in April 2019. This led to further action-research involving key stakeholders including Women in Enterprise Action Framework Group members; start-up and growth women entrepreneurs in 11 Scottish regions; representative of support agencies within the entrepreneurial ecosystem and; 12 case illustrations of ‘promising practices’ that deliver and advocate advice and support at grassroots level.

The final research report made a total of 6 key recommendations, of which 5 were accepted (recommendations 1 and 3-6):

  1. To form a Scottish Women’s Business Centre to create an umbrella organisation for local delivery of support.
  2. Establishing eighteen ‘new’ local women’s business centres to reflect regional variations in women entrepreneurs’ needs but brings them together under the umbrella of the Scottish Women’s Business Centre organisation.
  3. Partnership working to deliver programmes of gender-tailored support in Scotland, comprising several existing agencies, individuals and Scottish Government.
  4. Charging each Scottish Women’s Business Centre with offering start-up programmes and growth (including early-growth) programmes of support to women business owners.
  5. Embedding local Scottish Women’s Business Centres into the existing infrastructure, e.g., libraries, community centres, colleges, business centres, Business Gateway premises, etc., and not requiring new buildings, people and structures.
  6. Establishing a governing board to oversee the strategic direction of the Women’s’ Business Centre and to hold the executive management team to account for their decision making and actions.

Finally, the research findings formed a core part of the evidence base for the establishment of the £50 million government backed Women’s Business Centre announced by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in September 2021.

Story category Research