Lack of role models and information prevent girls from becoming startup entrepreneurs
The study found five reasons that prevent girls from getting into the world of startups: there are few female startup role models; entrepreneurship as a career choice or startup entrepreneurship are not that present at school or elsewhere; startup entrepreneurship is not a familiar term; startup entrepreneurship is considered hard work; and the mental image or experiences of entrepreneurs differ from one’s own identity or the desired professional identity in some ways.
Helsinki wants to promote girls' interest in startups
Business Helsinki wants to create an operating model that promotes the interest of girls and young women in startup entrepreneurship through their schooling. To support this operating model, Business Helsinki reviewed how these obstacles for girls in the world of startups could be made easier to overcome and how young women could be motivated to become startup entrepreneurs.
– We wanted to research this topic, as some of the root causes of this imbalance can be traced further back into childhood or adolescence. The research brought up some great starting points for developing our toolbox further,” says business advisor Pia Partanen from the City of Helsinki’s Economic Development Department.
The review was implemented in three stages. First, we interviewed five female startup entrepreneurs. Next, we held qualitative interviews with nine 9th-grade girls, in pairs or in small groups. The third stage was a quantitative unit, the questions for which were designed based on the qualitative interviews. In the quantitative section, these questions were presented to a hundred 9th-grade girls in Helsinki. The girls who answered the survey came from Pakila, Myllypuro, Meilahti and Taivallahti.
Startup entrepreneurship starts by accident
The young female startup entrepreneurs interviewed in the qualitative interviews said that they had ended up in startups randomly and by accident. Few of them even understood entrepreneurship before going to an institute of higher education or the university, unless they had an entrepreneur in their family or among their friends. Startup as a term was not familiar to them before higher education, and they did not know any startup entrepreneurs.
The 9th-grade girls interviewed in pairs and small groups brought up that they want to work with people and have a meaningful job that offers variety. No one spontaneously said that they had planned or dreamed of setting up their own business, but when this was proposed, several considered it a potential way of practicing their profession.
A good idea could lead to startup entrepreneurship
In the quantitative section of the study, a hundred girls were askede.g. where they had received information and ideas about different professions. Most commonly, they had gotten information from their parents or friends. Of the respondents, 32 per cent thought that they could become entrepreneurs. In total, 10 per cent believed they could become startup entrepreneurs while 39 per cent chose the option for ‘maybe’.
– The high number of girls considering a startup entrepreneurship career as a possibility was delightful to see in the study. Startups also offer many of the things girls are hoping for in their own job, Pia Partanen says.
The girls were also asked why they could or could not see themselves as becoming startup entrepreneurs when they grow up. The reasons the respondents could not see themselves as startup entrepreneurs were that it is too hard to do and that it seems difficult.
Those who had a positive attitude to entrepreneurship thought that entrepreneurship could be a possibility if they come up with a good idea. Those considering startup entrepreneurship as a positive option stated that they are enthusiastic to experiment with new things, and the chance to earn money also boosted their positive attitude towards startup entrepreneurship.
– A good way to inspire girls to become startup entrepreneurs is to offer role models through schools and social media. Introduction to working life periods (TET) are also a potential way of making entrepreneurship a more familiar option. The meaningfulness of work increases girls’ interest in startup entrepreneurship, and factors on an emotional level that girls tend to link to their dream jobs should be highlighted in regard to startup entrepreneurship, such as fairness and responsibility, creativeness, relaxed approach, joy and fun, says business designer Isa Merikallio from consulting company Eezy Flow, who also designed the study.