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Fostering the public debate on university support of female scientists to start a business

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Increasing entrepreneurship among female scientists

An EU-funded initiative produced six public debates throughout Europe on the role of female scientists in entrepreneurship. The resulting collaborations provide great impetus to the encouragement of start-up ventures headed by women in science.

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The ‘Fostering the public debate on university support of female scientists to start a business’ (Femstart) project was designed to specifically address entrepreneurship by female scientists. This extended the work of previous initiatives that investigated female entrepreneurship in general. The number of female scientists receiving start-up funding or starting their own companies is disproportionately low compared to the number of women working in science. However, public opinion seems to negate the necessity for special support structures for women scientists. The Femstart initiative created an Internet platform for news and events, online registration, speaker resumes, programme overviews and paper summaries. Researchers organised and implemented six debates throughout Europe with a total of 24 countries represented. Participants included policy and programme managers as well as potential and current female entrepreneurs. The debates increased networking among partners and resulted in invitations to partners to speak about the project and its outcomes at other conferences. Most importantly, they increased sensitivity to the important role women scientists have to play in advancing the competitiveness of Europe on the world stage. The combination of increased sensitivity among programme and policy managers with the enhanced networking support for female science entrepreneurs should foster the increased representation of women among scientific start-up owners and business leaders.

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