Organizations with the resources to support entrepreneurs often overlook their own organizational roles, reinforcing stereotypes of entrepreneurs as primarily male, white, and technology-focused.
Globally, women are less likely to benefit from entrepreneurship education and training, especially programs that support high-growth companies. When entrepreneurship programs consider inclusion, most focus on gender, without considering age, ethnicity, race, or other identity factors.
From an economic development perspective, the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of entrepreneurship programs is important because new businesses account for the majority of net job creation.
Entrepreneurial training is related to entrepreneurial intention, inspiration, tolerance for ambiguity, and starting a business. Many people will be self-employed during their career. For these reasons, entrepreneurship education should be on everyone's agenda.
Our research is concerned with providing entrepreneurship educators with resources to identify bias within programs that support all learners.
Framework for analyzing barriers
We collaborated on research on entrepreneurship programs with an international team, including medical anthropologist Anita Shankar, investigating the impact of psychosocial interventions in resource-poor settings in the Global South. Candida Blasch, Professor of Entrepreneurship; Amanda Elam is a sociologist and researcher in the field of gender and entrepreneurship.
Our team has developed a framework to support a comprehensive entrepreneurship education and training toolkit called Gender-Smart Entrepreneurship Education and Training Plus (GEET+) 2.0. “Plus” extends the gender equality lens to include intersecting identity factors (such as race, ethnicity, religion, age, education, sexual orientation, culture, income, language, mental or physical disability, etc.) It means to consider.
The toolkit also presents lessons learned from a systematic review of the literature on entrepreneurship education and highlights barriers that marginalized and underrepresented populations encounter in entrepreneurship programs. .
Read more: How MBA programs can remove disability-related barriers
bias in education
Academics warn that entrepreneurship education and training needs to be critically examined.
Research, including one conducted at the University of Ottawa Telfer School of Management, has documented bias in entrepreneurship education programming.
If you ask students from around the world, from Jordan to Canada, to name entrepreneurs, most will mention the American male tech icon. Most people cannot name their own entrepreneurial leaders, especially women leaders.
19 countries and EDI entrepreneurship education
Our research found a lack of policies and standards related to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in entrepreneurship education and training.
We also found that many educators and trainers are seeking guidance on increasing inclusion in entrepreneurship programs and define “inclusion” and “diversity” in different ways.
We asked a panel of entrepreneurship educators from 19 countries to think about their entrepreneurship programs. What we wanted to know:
- How comprehensive is it?
- How do they perceive the need for change?
- What are the cultural, gender, and entrepreneurial identity barriers and indicators that characterize inclusive programming?
The first of three online surveys included questions about the challenges people feel in enrolling and engaging students from underrepresented or marginalized groups.
While some respondents said there were no problems, others noted multiple challenges to the process, program content, and outcomes. We learned that how educators recognize who is underrepresented in entrepreneurship programs varies depending on the context. For example, Argentine entrepreneurship educators have identified low-income people as “the most marginalized population in Argentina.” While U.S. educators tended to discuss ethnicity when talking about equity and who is marginalized, German educators described how German language programs excluded immigrants.
Overall, a key finding was that EDI efforts generally do not reach entrepreneurship programs.
Several panelists cautioned against assuming commonality or homogeneity within groups.
This toolkit helps educators evaluate seven content areas of their programs. Knowledge and expertise in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). Access to resources. Program design. Program development. Program delivery. and program evaluation.
Each component of the framework was tested in US and Canadian settings.
All organizations used this toolkit to assess program status and identify gaps in program services and comprehensiveness. Some believe this toolkit will help legitimize efforts to incorporate her EDI efforts with organizational leaders and funders.
Read more: Learning entrepreneurship: Every college student can benefit
Building common understanding and goals
Educators from large organizations emphasized the value of involving experts in EDI through workshops and team discussions. They developed a shared understanding of issues of equity and inclusion in entrepreneurship education and training.
In some organizations, the evaluation process led to team building and ultimately to program changes.
Some entrepreneurship programs define knowledge and expertise requirements (e.g., hiring trainers with real-world experience in specific underserved communities) and develop the knowledge and expertise requirements needed to reform the program. Clarified resource and leadership commitments.
For more information, a toolkit containing the framework and evaluation criteria can be downloaded from the University of Ottawa.