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Prowess-UK                                                  5 International Conference – February 2008

Women Entrepreneurs: Building, Maintaining, and Utilising Social Capital

             Muhammad Azam Roomi, Director Research / Senior Lecturer
       Centre for Women’s Enterprise, University of Bedfordshire Business School
                University of Bedfordshire, Vicarage Street, Luton, UK LU1 3JU
             Tel: +44 (0) 7812075951         Email: Muhammad.roomi@beds.ac.uk

                            Beatriz Acevedo, Researcher
       Centre for Women’s Enterprise, University of Bedfordshire Business School

Type of Paper: Refereed Research Paper

Purpose: Among the myriad of factors contributing to the development of women-owned
businesses, the issue of social capital has received attention from scholars and researchers such
as Brush et al. (2004); Carter et al. (2001); and Ibarra (1998). The literature strongly argues
that women do not have equal access to social capital, in comparison to their male counterparts,
as either they are excluded, or may exclude themselves, from the social networks which are one
of the most significant components of successful resource and power acquisition (Timberlake,
2005; Brush et al., 2004). Utilising the testimony of fifty women entrepreneurs from across the
East of England region, the study contributes to a greater understanding of the ways in which
women can build and maintain their contacts through networks and individual efforts.

Design/Methodology/Approach: A questionnaire was designed in order to point out the main
topics and possible relationships between categories related to: (a) business background; (b)
relationships, contacts, and networks; (c) trust, values, and norms, and (d) recommendations. In
addition, a map of relationships was designed to organise the information provided by the
women in relation to the diverse contacts and networks accessed and the types of resources
exchanged within these relationships. The interviews were conducted on a one-to-one basis, with
a majority (30) implemented face to face by the researchers, and the rest (20) carried out over
the telephone. The categories used in performing content analysis were: (a) use of social capital;
(b) building social capital, and (c) maintaining social capital.

Findings: The study explains how women participate in networks and groups, establish and
maintain their contacts; and also highlights their norms of behaviour based on trust and
obligation through which they successfully transform their contacts into useful resources,
contributing to the growth and development of their businesses. It confirms that the use of
networks and interpersonal relationships by women business owners helps them to gain access
to information, advice, and ideas, as well as financial and human resources. The availability of
these resources and / or informal assistance generated through their social capital, acts as a
catalyst in developing and growing their businesses.

Implications: This study contributes to a deeper understanding of the ways in which women
can build and maintain their social capital, through networks and individual efforts. Further
research using quantitative techniques may develop this research in terms of the identification of
topics, areas, categories, and points that characterise how women entrepreneurs build, maintain,
and use their social capital.

Originality/Value: There is no comparable previous study covering insights into the relations
between both the utility of the concept of social capital, and the particular ways in which women
build, use, and maintain their contacts and establish relationships.

Key Words: Women, Entrepreneurs, Growth, Social Capital, Social Networks, Social Resources,

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