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NEW E-CONOMY, OLD INEQUALITY.

Attn: News, Business and Social Affairs Editors

PR Newswire, London, June 28. This press release is transmitted on behalf of The Industrial Society.

The new economy is proving to be as resilient to change as the old economy. In spite of high profile women entrepreneurs in the e-conomy, far from being a nirvana for female entrepreneurs, dot coms are as sexist as not coms in sustaining male ways of doing business. `Dot Bombshell: women, e-quality and the new economy,' the latest Provocations report authored by Helen Wilkinson for Futures at the Industrial Society, finds that, despite the success of a few high profile women e-entrepreneurs and contrary to the media hype that surrounds them, the new economy is founded on business as usual for the predominantly male investment and finance community.

Of the E25, the list of hottest internet start-ups, only three women are listed as founders and only one per cent of business angels - self-made entrepreneur investors - are women. As Helen Wilkinson, founder of a new venture, Genderquake, says: ``The huge potential of the new economy to transform the relationship between gender and wealth creation is not being realised. An historic opportunity is in danger of being missed. The talents of women are being neglected by the most vibrant part of the economy.''

The report argues that though there appears to be no discernible difference between the patterns of business start ups in the new economy, as in the old - one in three of all new businesses are started by women and women run 25% of all businesses - the new economy is failing to deliver on its promise of reshaping the gender landscape. Women face a harder time raising financing, have greater family responsibilities and suffer from stereotyping about their abilities. Moreover the number of girls and women moving into ICT is actually falling.

Wilkinson argues that a tougher investment climate, and recent downturns on Nasdaq are reinforcing the innate conservatism of the financial institutions driving the return to business as usual. As a consequence, new forms of entrepreneurship and socially responsible business approaches are in danger of being short-changed and the challenge of building saner start ups and promoting a revolution in new ways of working, which will create a more level playing field between men and women, is being lost.

Wilkinson argues for major change in the way women entrepreneurs should be encouraged. In particular she says that:

We need incubators now more than ever before. The Government should act as the incubator of last resort, and together with the private sector should encourage and finance women-led incubators as has been happening in the United States.

Investment institutions, venture capital institutions and mainstream incubators should feminise their approach and make the link between internal diversity - and the diversity of the entrepreneurs they are financing. This means recruiting more women to work for them and appealing more to women entrepreneurs.

The Government or Equal Opportunities Commission should sponsor an `Investors in Women' kitemark.

Investors should conduct gender audits of funding decisions and industry standard associations, like the British Venture Capital Association, should monitor and publish gender related statistics so that the relationship between investment decisions and the financing of female entrepreneurship is clearer.

The creation of a 'genderquake' fund at all levels of the financing process - seed, as well as venture capital - should be targeted at women entrepreneurs navigating the new economy. In the United States three specific growth capital funds for women have emerged in recent years.

Successful women entrepreneurs should put their financial muscle and clout behind creating new ladders of opportunity for tomorrow's women.

Finally through the education system and within organisations much more needs to be done to encourage young women in IT in order to establish a `skills bank' for the new economy.

The report charts the emergence of e-business feminism but argues that women will need to be more strategic if they wish to achieve their goals by pursuing a twin track strategy of mainstreaming women's interests for the good of the economy as a whole, whilst also encouraging female experimentation and safe places to learn and offer mutual support. This would include, for example, more collaborative working between e-business women's networks to raise the profile of women entrepreneurs and encourage start-up companies to ensure that there is a supply of female non-executive directors to sit on the Boards of new businesses.

As Wilkinson says: ``A few dot bombshells do not an e-quality revolution make. The new economy needs to be rebuilt on diverse foundations that prove more creative and sustainable than one which simply reproduces the sexism of the old economy. Many of the dramatis personae of the new economy have been women. Their progress is to be applauded. However their successes are currently the exceptions that prove the rule.''

Notes to Editors:

The Industrial Society are the UK's leading thinkers and advisers on the world of work. Everything we do - from consultancy to research, from training to advocacy, from education to advisory services, is driven by our commitment to improve working life. We are a wholly independent, not-for profit body and hold Royal Charter status. Our members include companies of every size, from every sector of the economy, along with public sector organisations, charities and trade unions. The Industrial Society can be found at http://www.indsoc.co.uk

:: `Dot Bombshell: women, e-quality and the new economy' is published today, June 28 2001. Press copies are available from the Press Office below.

Helen Wilkinson is an ideas entrepreneur and associate of Futures at the Industrial Society. Her recent research into women and the new economy has been the catalyst for her latest venture, Genderquake.com, the first advocacy, research and consultancy organisation committed to feminising the new economy. Helen is an international adviser to the Women in Silicon Valley project and has her own internet start-up, http://www.elancentric.com. With Genderquake, she has been nominated as a finalist for the Upstarts award for social entrepreneurship, the brain child of the New Statesman in association with Centrica, ww.upstarts.org.uk. She is available for interview.

The Genderquake site, http://www.genderquake.com goes live on Thursday 28 June. The first 800 women entrepreneurs to sign up will receive a free copy of Dot Bombshell, sponsored by the Industrial Society.
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Date:Jun 28, 2001
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