Redefining the traditional notions of success for women entrepreneurs

Earlier this month, researchers from 12 countries attended the annual Diana Project International Research Conference, dedicated to advancing the understanding of women entrepreneurs and their businesses. At this year’s event, the focus was on two themes: gender and family business, and gender and innovation. One of the recurring questions at the conference concerned the definition of success for women entrepreneurs, and whether it makes sense to use strictly economic measures such as revenue growth or job creation, or whether there is indeed a need to expand traditional thinking around this issue. For instance: If a woman organises her business to focus at least as much on growing a successful family as growing a larger business – is that success? If a woman really enjoys performing the work of the business – delivering the product or service herself and choosing not to become an employer – is that a successful entrepreneurial outcome? Additionally, if a woman’s aspirations are to grow a much larger company, does she have access to the resources, particularly those of capital and network, to build that type of company successfully? Often, the definitions of success are based on very traditional building blocks, and yet in the women’s entrepreneurship space, there are very personal decisions being made on how women are choosing to design and integrate their entrepreneurial and personal lives.