Networks of female entrepreneurs in technology-based firms in Jordan: structure, content and evolution
Alakaleek, Wejdan M.
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Female entrepreneurs establishing new firms in Jordan mostly do not have adequate internal resources to help support the successful emergence and growth of their enterprise. Agreement has emerged among scholars that network ties are an effective source or route through which entrepreneurs are able to reach and obtain the resources necessary to assist their firm through its various stages development. Understanding more about how Jordanian female entrepreneurs engage in networking in order to establish and grow their firms, might help inform policy intervention as well as inform theory by identifying the model of network development in a field where there is a lack of studies and literature that explores the networking behaviour of female entrepreneurs, particularly in Eastern societies. Thus, this research investigates the development of networks for resource acquisition by exploring the experiences of female entrepreneurs in 14 technology-based firms in Jordan. It explores the structural characteristics and the content of their networks and how they have developed over time to deliver advantage in resource acquisition during the venture formation and early development stages. Rich qualitative data were collected utilising a two-stage, in-depth interview approach. Evidence is presented as to how changes in aspects of network structure, including diversity, reachability, density, centrality and the presence of strong and weak ties, yield different types of resources available to the entrepreneurs. The network structure of female entrepreneurs at start-up was characterised by business ties established within male-dominated networks. There was evidence of these women building new strong ties and reaching out through a small number of indirect ties. Typically there was a high degree of interconnectedness between different parts of the women’s networks, which were characterised by their density. These structural characteristics of the network enabled these women to reach and obtain human capital, financial resources and achieve legitimacy. As the female entrepreneurs grew their businesses there were changes in the network structure as it became characterised by a higher level of diversity in terms of types of tie. The prominence of male-dominated network ties continued, but there was a growing presence of weak ties; a decline in the level of network density; and the appearance of centrality, where women started to act as a broker between two other actors in their networks. These changes saw the women benefitting mainly in building network ties, including gaining access to new contacts of different types. The research revealed that professional business ties and access through these ties play an important role in venture creation and growth. These business ties are used to act as the gateway to resources rather than the personal ties identified in previous research. Further, in support of network-based research suggesting that the entrepreneurs’ network ties and their structural characteristics change overtime as the resource needs change, this research provides empirical evidence of the changing content (resources) that these structural characteristics provide through the start-up and early development stages. Therefore, the findings of this exploratory research on female technology entrepreneurs in Jordan contribute to theory development at the intersection of work on network processes, network development and entrepreneurship in Middle Eastern societies. The findings also have a number of implications for policy and practice, which are considered in the conclusions to the thesis.