One particular critic is Helen Wilkinson, who suggests that despite the media attention devoted to Martha Lane Fox (and a few other high-profile female executives), it is very much business as usual for the old boys network.
Wilkinson, author of the Provocations report Dot Bombshell: women, e-quality and the new economy is adamant that “A few dot bombshells do not an e-quality revolution make”. She suggests that the new economy “needs to be rebuilt on diverse foundations that prove more creative and sustainable than one which simply reproduces the sexism of the old economy.” Wilkinson argues that the potential for it to happen is there and that female entrepreneurs have a crucial role to play in making it come about.
One of the main planks of the report – which is sponsored by the Industrial Society – is the idea of the “payback principle”. It suggests that the various e-business networks in the UK should “work together to develop an angel network of successful women entrepreneurs for new women entrepreneurs. Today’s successful female entrepreneurs should be prepared to pay back, to put their financial clout behind “creating new ladders of opportunity for other women” says Wilkinson.
She argues that high-profile entrepreneurs could “and should” throw their support, infrastructure and cash behind a “genderquake fund” to provide stimulation to early stage investment opportunities and widen access to finance for female entrepreneurs. While the focus is on helping women, networks such as these should be mainstreamed as quickly as possible, for the good of the economy as a whole.
To challenge the “old boys network” Wilkinson suggests a ‘new girls network’ could be built up. As well as making efforts to increase the demand for women in the upper echelons of new economy businesses, she also advises women to take up non-executive positions on the boards of start-ups.
The Government is also called upon to act as “incubator of last resort,” and to encourage and finance women-led incubators. Venture capital institutions, investment institutions and mainstream incubators are called on to ‘feminise’ their approach, to make a link between internal diversity and the diversity of the entrepreneurs they finance.
Female entrepreneurs who wish to obtain a copy of the report should visit The Industrial Society’s website.