Oct. 20, 2022Print | PDF
In September, Emerald Publishing recognized a research paper from two faculty members and an alumna of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University with an Emerald Literati Award for Outstanding Paper. The awards celebrate significant contributions of authors to internationally recognized journals.
Karin Schnarr, Associate Professor of Strategic Management, Meredith Woodwark, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management, and Alison Wood (EMTM ’19), Head of Marketing and Communications at Metro Supply Chain, researched how women technology founders use single and mixed gender professional networks.
Their paper, Standing on the shoulders of giantesses: how women technology founders use single and mixed gender networks for success and change, published in the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, demonstrates the positive impacts of women-only networks, above and beyond other networks. The authors highlighted that founders participating in women-only networks found greater support for entrepreneurial diversity and access to financing, and experienced enhanced founder credibility and sponsorship. Understanding the long-term positive impact of women-only networks in entrepreneurial ecosystems is critical to ensuring ongoing support to help develop more successful women entrepreneurs.
“There was a debate in the existing research about whether women-only networks were a positive or negative thing. We dove into Alison's data and it was very clear that there's no question these women-only networks serve a unique and positive role in supporting and developing women entrepreneurs,” Woodwark said.
Wood started the research for the paper while completing her Executive Master’s in Technology Management (EMTM) at the Lazaridis School. She said there was a lack of qualitative research on the success of formal and informal networks for women entrepreneurs in technology. Schnarr and Woodwark were two of her instructors during her research, and Wood said they saw an idea that could be a formal research paper.
"I've always been interested in women entrepreneurs. When I spoke to Karin and Meredith about it, they thought it was an interesting and different enough idea for me to build it into a formal qualitative research paper. I'm a storyteller, so I didn't want it to be from the quantitative side. I wanted to hear people's lived experiences," Wood said.
Schnarr said Wood's idea stood out because of the lack of detailed research on how formal networks are helping women entrepreneurs and whether those networks lead to more success.
"One of the really interesting things about Allison's original idea was that up to that point, there was a lot of just anecdotal evidence, but when you actually went to look at the research, there actually wasn't a huge amount out there that that talked to whether women-led networks were better than mix-gender ones," Schnarr said.
Woodwark was equally impressed with Wood's rich data set. Along with Schnarr, Woodwark worked with Wood to help her get the paper published.
"Alison blew our socks off with her EMTM project. She had such incredible data that Karin and I felt that we couldn't let that sit there as a Master's project. We wanted to help her get it out there," Woodwark said.
For the paper, Wood spoke with women entrepreneurs who had participated in women-led and mixed-gender networks to understand their experiences and the impact on their businesses.
Informal and formal networks are one of the primary ways for entrepreneurs to raise funding for their businesses. In venture capital (VC), there is a well-documented funding gap between genders. In 2021, women founders accounted for only 2% of the total VC raised in the U.S.—a statistic that was not a surprise for Wood.
"For women entrepreneurs, the biggest challenge is getting funded and there's such a disparity between men and women-led firms that are providing funding. We already knew what that gap was, but what we didn't realize was how important those formal networks of women-led VC firms were for women entrepreneurs," Wood said.
Schnarr said the opportunity to support Wood with the paper was a fantastic experience. While working on academic papers is a core part of their careers, she said that it can often feel like a struggle to get them completed and submitted. The experience working with Wood on this paper was the opposite for Schnarr and Woodwark.
"I had such a great time doing it and there was such a strong receptivity from the journal, which is a wonderful experience as an academic doing this. At the Lazaridis School, entrepreneurship is a huge focus of what we're doing, and certainly a big subset of that is women's entrepreneurship. For us to be able to help contribute to the reputation of the school with a paper that's been recognized by the journals as something that they think is interesting and important is just such a thrill," Schnarr said.
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