Murray Low on Women and Business
Professor Low is an experienced entrepreneur and a leading authority on entrepreneurship in independent, corporate and not-for-profit settings. Starting businesses in several industries led him to study how the entrepreneurial process differs by context. His current research examines the dynamics of entrepreneurial careers. As the founder of the Columbia Entrepreneurship Program, he has worked to make entrepreneurship a viable career option for MBA graduates. Low consults to both small and large companies, family businesses and not-for-profits. He teaches executive seminars in the areas of entrepreneurship and strategic management and makes frequent presentations to academic and industry groups. He has published widely in academic and practitioner journals and is a regular commentator in the media.
Murray Low: Historically, women have been disadvantaged in terms of being independent entrepreneurs. In the past, they have found it more difficult to get various sources of financing, either from banks or venture capitalists or angel investors. A lot of that kind of financing happens through social networks. And if women have been less involved in those social networks, they simply don’t get access to those resources. An interesting sort of development has happened though. I mentioned to you that we surveyed some 1500 Columbia Business School alums and looked at the kind of businesses that they started. And if you look just at success in terms of size of business or number of employees, we found that the female-led businesses were smaller. If you looked in terms of profitability, there was no difference. And most interestingly, if you look at motivations for starting businesses, we found that women’s motivations-- and I guess, these are on averages, so I should underline that. But if you look at the motivations, it was much more common for women to be motivated for other than financial reasons, much more for lifestyle reasons or balance reasons. And there’s a lot of women that have just decided they don’t want to play the corporate game. And they want the independence and freedom and the personal expression that comes with running their own businesses. I mean, the reality is, there is more flexibility, and the joke is you can work any 24 hours of the day you choose when you’re running your own company. But the flexibility is greatly valued by women. And interestingly, some of their businesses may be smaller, but they deliberately choose not to seek investment from outside investors, because they want the control. So they go into business because they want the independence. They want the control, and they want to be able to balance their work life with their personal life.
Historically, women have been disadvantaged, says Low
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