Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to deal with the design of small-business training programs and focuses on women business owners, their real needs and the supply of adequate training. How and to what extent are client selection and support needs influenced by the gender system?
Design/methodology/approach – An in-depth study of an ambitious Swedish project is reported. Interviews with the participating business-owners and advisors, combined with observations during lectures and coaching sessions have been conducted.
Findings – Even gender-conscious support organizations may have a biased process of client recruitment, leading to an unintended discrimination of women business owners. The women meet the same obstacles as men but also give witness to the subtle obstacles which originate in the gender-system.
Research?limitations/implications – The study is qualitative and does not aim to provide statistically valid generalizations.
Practical implications – Gender awareness of support organizations is crucial, in client selection as well as in designing programs and when coaching. These business owners need to understand the gender system in order to handle it more effectively. It is argued that special programs are still needed, even in a country like Sweden known for its relative equality between women and men.
Originality/value – The context is interesting and the longitudinal in-depth approach brought the author unusually close to advisors and participants. It enabled an understanding of what happened over a short period of time in the minds of those involved, regarding sensitive issues.
2007. Vol. 31, no 2, 84-99 p.