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Ideas for Leaders #775

Influences on Entrepreneurial Training for Women

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Key Concept

The best entrepreneurship education and training (EET) programs for women, especially in developing countries, focus not only on the program goals and its contents or curriculum but also on often-overlooked human factors — e.g. the intentions of the participants — and the contextual environment in which the entrepreneurs will be working.

Idea Summary

Interest in the need to develop training programs for women entrepreneurs is growing, especially in developing countries where the potential influence of women entrepreneurs is significant. In these countries, woman entrepreneurs are often the first women in their families to receive an education or training. They also offer much-needed leadership models for girls and women to emulate and increase the respect for women in their communities. 

Effective EET programs for women recognize the impact of acquiring finance, management and leadership skills, but also the challenges of the marketplace, family, cultural and institutional environment that women entrepreneurs are required to navigate.

Building on their extensive experience working with women entrepreneurs in developing countries, a team of academics from the University of Delaware, University of Arizona and the University of Houston Clear Lake outline the key components for designing and implementing EET programs for women: goals, program elements, human factors, the contextual environment, and funding.

Any program design begins with clear goals — create more jobs, enhance business profitability, improve entrepreneurial attitudes — and also, from the outset, the metrics that will be used to determine whether the goals have been achieved. 

The program elements designed to meet the goals must take into account the unique circumstances of women entrepreneurs. For example, in cultures where women do not typically manage their finances, basic bookkeeping modules to help women manage cash flow are vital to managing the profitability of the entrepreneur’s business.

Thus, establishing goals and designing programs to meet those goals is just part of the equation for women entrepreneurs. Effective EET program takes into consideration other factors that can greatly influence the success of the program, such as:

  • Human factors. If, for example, the participants have strong intentions of starting businesses after the training, the program is more likely to be successful. 
  • Contextual environment. If the regulatory environment is weak, and contracts can rarely be enforced, a program targeting business growth is likely to underperform. 
  • Funding. A cost-intensive program targeting thousands of women entrepreneurs can succeed if it has enough funding to pay for the program elements required.

Female entrepreneurial leaders around the world are building and operating successful businesses and creating value for their families and their communities—even where cultural norms do not support women, entrepreneurs. Others are using newly acquired business skills to contribute in other ways to civil society. Effective entrepreneurship education and training programs help women achieve not just entrepreneurial goals, but also leadership goals that can expand beyond entrepreneurship and business.

Business Application

The extensive EET framework developed by the researchers details the key components of effective EET programs for women, beginning to establish the goals that will contribute the most to the development of women entrepreneurs in the region or nation the program is located. 

Goals can be broken down into several categories

  • Skills to the ability to inspire followers or influence the attitudes or behaviors of others. Improving business success, such as the number of new businesses, or performance of existing businesses; 
  • Fostering entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions, for example, helping women reinforce their innovativeness, self-confidence and risk-taking; 
  • Strengthening entrepreneurial capabilities, such as business management skills, communication skills, and financial literacy; and 
  • Enhancing leadership capabilities, which can range from public speaking or negotiation

With the goals clearly established, the content and curriculum can be constructed—along with a range of other program elements in support, such as 

  • Hiring the best instructors (from professors to practitioners); 
  • Choosing the delivery method of the content (e.g., lectures, experiential activities); 
  • Implementing wrap-around services that complement the main content, which can include mentoring, workshops (e.g., on business registration), and business incubators; and 
  • Focusing on governance and operations issues (e.g., setting standards and expectations, building in flexibility as required). 

Human factors that can significantly temper or increase the success of the program, and must be carefully considered in the design or the program, include: 

  • Intentions and goals, which will vary based on the women in the program: students wanting to study entrepreneurial concepts have different expectations of the program from women entrepreneurs actively running enterprises; 
  • Human capital including the educational background and real-world experiences of the expected participants;    
  • Entrepreneurial capabilities, which take into account the comprehension and experience of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial concepts, which in developing countries can vary greatly, especially for women.
  • Cognition and personality, such as self-confidence, resilience, risk and other cognitive and personality traits will also differ among participants.

The contextual environment should not be overlooked, including:     

  • Culture, for example, cultures that value planning and future-thinking, and reward achievement, are more conducive to entrepreneurial activity than hierarchical cultures or cultures that avoid uncertainty;
  • Economic development, which can introduce a range of constraints and challenges to be faced by local entrepreneurs, which depend on the host country’s current stage of economic develop. For example, are institutional systems and adequate infrastructure in place? In less developed countries, effective EET programs are presented in tandem with efforts to improve the infrastructure.
  • Quality of institutions, such as the educational system; the banking and financial infrastructure; the physical and technological structure; the political, economic and societal stability of the country or region; government support for fair practices; and more.

Finally, there is the central role of funding: little can be accomplished without financial resources, usually raised through grants, donations or fundraising, and tuition. Consider the availability of resources and the conditions attached. Granting organizations, for example will often have specific goals in mind.

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Idea conceived

  • November 2015

Idea posted

  • September 2020

DOI number



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