International Women’s Day 2021, March 8th, 2021, very appropriately marked the official launch of the WeRin project, Women Entrepreneurs in Regional Inclusive Ecosystems.
Lead project partner,FH Münster University of Applied Sciences, led partners from across six countries to announce their ambition to make entrepreneurship education and support programmes more inclusive and increase the share of female graduate entrepreneurs.
Given that women represent about 60% of the HEI graduates, their under-representation amongst start-ups is a clear challenge. Despite a rise in participation of female students in entrepreneurship education at Higher Education Institutes (HEI’s), they still lag behind compared to their male counterparts. Even when they have participated in entrepreneurship education, they are less likely to move towards actual entrepreneurial careers after they graduate. When they do, these graduate female entrepreneurs are less well embedded in the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem: fewer of them participate in local incubation and acceleration programmes, seek, and receive funding and are active in regional enterprise networks.
A pioneering European initiative, WeRIn brings together 14 partners from Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, Ireland, Croatia, and Norway. Funded by the ERASMUS+ Knowledge Alliance programme for a three-year timeframe, WeRIn partners have ambitious plans to enhance the inclusivity of regional entrepreneurial ecosystems and embeddedness of female entrepreneurs through the design of more inclusive academic and non-academic entrepreneurship education and support programmes.
Sue Rossano-Rivero, Junior Professor for Entrepreneurship and International Business Development at FH Münster University of Applied Sciences, explains the project has very tangible targets “Together with our EU colleagues, we are intent on making an impact. We aim to increase the share of female participation in entrepreneurship education by 15% and in entrepreneurship support programmes by 20% of consortium partners, three years after completion of the project. Our project title could not be more appropriate – We R In is a statement of intent”.
There are many opportunities to get involved in and benefit from WeRIn. Thorsten Kliewe, Professor and Director of the Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre FH Münster University of Applied Sciences, explains, “Inclusive (entrepreneurship) education requires an approach investigating how to transform education systems and other learning environments respond to the diversity of learners. Our concept of inclusion is not only on the gender dimension but also on the structural dimension. We want to embed female students and graduates into the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem. It is an exciting time to put the spotlight on increasing the share of female graduate entrepreneurs. WeRIn provides great opportunities for educators, policymakers, funding bodies and those working to increase the number of female entrepreneurs. Over the next three years, we will highlight good practices in the region, carry out a regional analysis of gender inclusivity and organise many events including international capacity building sessions and communities of practice”.