Women´s entrepreneurship has been enhanced in several different contexts and by various means. It is a topic that links socio-political objectives with academic research and produces an ensemble of professionals with expertise and authority on specifically the category of women in relation to what can be termed entrepreneurship and practices correlated to it. These professionals often construct differences between men and women, commonly in the wake of a discourse on biological differences and psychological differences (e.g. see Ahl, 2006), or by showing how women are socially subordinated men on a structural level. As part of the EU-funded Quadruple Helix project seeking ‘gender awareness’, this report is thus positioned within this professional ensemble with its predefined categories, at the same time as a normative outcome is ambitiously sought at a political level.
The lead partner of the Quadruple Helix project is the Municipality of Norrtälje (Sweden). Complementary partners are: Stockholm County Administrative Board (Sweden), BalticFem (Sweden), Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), Åbo Akademi University (Finland), Eurohouse (Estonia), Läänemaa Tourism Association (Estonia) and Saaremaa University Centre (Estonia). They are all partaking within their area of expertise, belonging to one of the helices in picture 1. An increased collaboration between these helices is to stimulate cluster formation and women’s entrepreneurship, a process focused in this report by studying the specific case of cycling tourism in the Norrtälje region, area of Roslagen.
The report presents a study of the business of cycling tourism carried out by women as part of the framework of the Quadruple Helix project of the Central Baltic Interreg IV A programme (hereafter “QH-project”). An interview study was performed during spring and summer 2011, followed up by an analysis of how the EU-project unfolded with focus on the conditions for women entrepreneurs in the Norrtälje region. Norrtälje is part of the Baltic Sea region, a region that the QH-project seeks to strengthen by stimulating clusters of the tourism sector and increase networking among women entrepreneurs. The QH-project also aims to provide innovative support by adding new mobile telephone applications for the tourism sector. Both to create a more contemporary service industry in line with new market demands, and to couple a traditionally male branch with the tourism sector.
The aim of this study is to analyse how the QH-project turned out in practice, how it was operationalized and how it unfolded as a process. Focus is on the different actors involved, especially the management team at Norrtälje municipality, the entrepreneurs involved (hereafter ‘e—team’) in the tourism business, and the NGO ‘BalticFem’, supporting the networking activities. This detailed study of how a specific network took shape and formed a prosperous innovation process, can help us to understand how we can develop and complete the Quadruple Helix innovation model. The question is also how we can focus on entrepreneurship, innovation and clusters in a more gender equal way? When we understand how a network and an innovation process aiming to support women’s entrepreneurship unfolds, we may also create more gender equal businesses by how we compile the platform consisting of the four sectors: public sector, private sector, academic sector and civil society or the so-called third sector.
Except for the overall objective to stimulate entrepreneurship and increase business life and growth, the report addresses EU’s political interest in ‘gender awareness’. ‘Gender awareness’ is both promoted as a way to change gender structures, for example in developing countries (e.g. see Wright, 1995; Elson, 1995), or by managers in companies (Wahl, Holgersson, Höök, & Linghag, 2001). In this report, gender issues will be pinpointed by first illustrating how women entrepreneurs started to collaborate around a common business idea, a cycling route, and secondly, by presenting how they positioned themselves within the predefined category ‘woman entrepreneur’ (or female entrepreneur), an often problematized group in modern society. How an innovation system has been operationalized by project-based work can thus help us to address what gender orders this type of work has contributed to (cf. Lindgren & Packendorff, 2006). And an analysis of the subject positions constructed by the interviewees and interviewer (Fenwick, 2002), may help us to understand how predefined categories are either resisted or maintained. This type of research design makes it possible to fulfil the stated socio-political objectives of the QH-project, at the same time as the academic contribution may provide with alternative insights and not merely repeat and strengthen descriptions of prevailing realities, as the one that women are structurally subordinated to men.
The description in this report will also be designed as a ‘populated text’, i.e. a text that is about people, what they can be said to do and how language produces them (Billig, 2011). For example, describing mentalities as inner states could be recognized as a ‘depopulation’ of a text, i.e. that the text is not about people pursuing their businesses, but about their claimed inner states of mind (cf. Ibid). The case described in this document is thus aiming to be a text about people, a populated narrative, delivering descriptions of practices undertaken in realization of a specific business idea and the emanation of an innovation system bottom-up.
The interview study was performed as a qualitative inquiry, with semi-structured interviews and open-ended questions. The interviews were between 30-60 minutes each, often including a visit to the premises of the entrepreneurs, their bed and breakfasts, hostels and restaurants. Altogether 14 participants were interviewed and are kept anonymous. The interviews are not transcribed, but important quotes have been collected. Documents linked to the cycling route have also been analysed, complemented with observations during an exhibition.
The report is structured as follows. The first part consists of a case description, a success story of a prosperous woman entrepreneur and practical conclusions important for the QH-project as a functioning innovation system. The second part is a more critical discussion about the re-construction of women’s entrepreneurship, subjectivities produced and the resistance towards the category ‘vulnerable woman’ and ‘responsible woman’. Taken together, the report illustrates how women were empowered to engage in entrepreneurial activities to co-produce an innovation system.
2011. , 21 p.