Supporting Women’s Entrepreneurship in Nordic Sparsely Populated Areas

Sparsely populated areas are marked by depopulation and an ageing remaining population. As employment opportunities are limited for women, self-employment is in some cases a solution for women who wish to stay in these areas. In this working paper we formulate a policy model that can be used for supporting women’s entrepreneurship in the Nordic countries, with a special focus on sparsely populated and rural areas.

Support for women’s entrepreneurship has been put forward as a policy measure to assist women to remain in, or migrate back to, sparsely populated areas. In order to formulate a policy model we introduce the reader to women’s and men’s entrepreneurship in the Nordic countries. Looking at the statistical picture of gender and entrepreneurship in the Nordic countries we can conclude that there is a gender gap in the level of entrepreneurship; women constitute between one-fourth and one-third of entrepreneurs in these countries.

Supporting women’s entrepreneurship can be performed in various ways. Based on the literature review we conclude that there are arguments for special support programmes for women’s entrepreneurship, as few regular support systems integrate a focus on women and/or a gender perspective. We also find that national programmes to support women’s entrepreneurship encompass different measures and vary in their underlying paradigms and rationales. We also present five case studies of projects supporting women’s entrepreneurship in the Nordic countries, in order to identify ‘best practices’.

Our analyses reveal that state support programmes, in the name of supporting women entrepreneurs, tend to put women in a subordinate position to men and thereby risk sustaining a male norm. In order not to sustain women’s subordinate position and a male norm, we conclude that there is a need for a well thought-through perspective when formulating the goals and means for supporting women’s entrepreneurship. The goals and means are not ‘given’ and therefore are a matter of choice.

A policy model for supporting women’s entrepreneurship
In order to determine appropriate goals and measures, as well as the premises for supporting women’s entrepreneurship, we suggest a policy model for supporting women’s entrepreneurship in sparsely populated and rural areas, that makes the choices and process of formulating goals and means explicit. The model aims at making explicit the choice of perspective (VIEW) on supporting women’s entrepreneurship, as well as making explicit and choosing the activities (WHAT TO DO) to be arranged.

  1. WHAT VIEW should be applied when formulating the goals of supporting women’s entrepreneurship and deciding on WHY women’s entrepreneurship should be supported.
  2. WHAT TO DO, or the activities to be performed in order to support women’s entrepreneurship, deciding WHAT activities to arrange, WHOM to approach, WHERE to perform the support and WHEN to do it.

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