The WiRE program: advancing women in rural, regional and remote enterprises through entrepreneurship, detailed final report to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Project report


Wiesner, Retha. 2018. The WiRE program: advancing women in rural, regional and remote enterprises through entrepreneurship, detailed final report to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Springfield, Queensland, Australia. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

The WiRE program: advancing women in rural, regional and remote enterprises through entrepreneurship, detailed final report to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Report TypeProject report
Authors
AuthorWiesner, Retha
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Number of Pages202
Year2018
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationSpringfield, Queensland, Australia
Abstract

The WiRE Program addresses the following problems:

• There are 8 million people in rural Australia – half are women. However in regional Queensland alone only 13% of businesses are founded by females compared to 34% in metropolitan areas (Regional Queensland 2015 – Startup ecosystem report, 2016). Women also struggle to find suitable employment and acquire new employability skills without support. The WiRE program supports female participants in venture development and also enhancing their employability;
• Rural women struggle to develop businesses owing to unique challenges such as lack of confidence, distance, lack of networks and mentoring opportunities, lack of access to entrepreneurship capacity building, lack of funding. The WiRE program assists women through self-directed development and accountability and establishes networking, collaboration and mentoring;
• Women in rural areas have significant less employment opportunities and financial security than their city counterparts. The WiRE program increases women’s access to finance and helps enhance their life-long financial position;
• Finding ways to foster the capacity of rural, regional and remote (RRR) women can change their lives and communities.

During the past 18 months this $290,000 program co-funded by the Federal and Queensland Government, has assisted 1795 female participants to increase their confidence and entrepreneurial skills, provide access to support and mentorship, fill knowledge gaps, build networks/collaborations, overcome distance barriers and provide no or low cost access to capacity entrepreneurship building.

The aim of the Women in Rural, Regional and Remote Enterprises (WiRE) Program is to promote entrepreneurial behaviour of women in rural, regional and remote enterprises through enhancing individual and organisational awareness, participation, skills, competencies, capacity, building support networks, sharing knowledge, growing resilient communities and creating sustainable change in the Queensland region through delivering an integrated program consisting of multiple capacity-building activities.

The WiRE Program is unique because:
(1) It focuses specifically on rural, regional and remote women entrepreneurs;
(2) it’s about self-employment but also becoming employable;
(3) it’s unique because it helps women in all stages of their entrepreneurial journey;
(4) it provides a safe place for women to network, collaborate and support each other;
(5) it delivers a cutting edge program from light to deep learning components;
(6) it was co-created with over 300 women in rural, regional and remote enterprises;
(7) it integrates academic research and emerging entrepreneurial trends with participant’s development objectives. All of this is underpinned by evaluation;
(8) it is steered by a consortium made up of university, industry, government and community organisation partners.


As will be reflected in this report, the evidence is that the WiRE Program is working.

For example:

• Eighty-seven percent of women who participated in the deep learning aspects of the program such as the 19 hour Bootcamps and WiRE Hubs, indicated that their entrepreneurial confidence improved;
• Eighty-two percent indicated their entrepreneurial skills improved;
• All respondents felt they benefited in terms of receiving peer support;
• Ninety-percent of respondents indicated that they benefited by way of an enhanced feeling of belonging in an entrepreneurial sense;
• Eighty-six percent of respondents felt they benefited in terms of networking with like-minded peers, and 86% felt they benefited with an increased sense of accountability;
• Ninety-one percent of women saw knowledge-sharing as a significant benefit of the program;
• All participants in these aspects of the program indicated that other components like the WiRE webinars and virtual workshops added significant value to their journey to achieve their main goals they set out to achieve in the program; and
• Nine out of ten participants indicated that they were satisfied to very satisfied with the program, with 1% neutral and not one dissatisfied.

Stimulation of self-employment and employability are central to the program. The WiRE Program builds RRR women’s personal, entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial capacity, become part of a strong entrepreneurial community and support them regardless their location in RRR Queensland. The program enhances their confidence, creates an entrepreneurship mindset, develop entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial behaviour, opportunities to enhance their financial position and a rural entrepreneurship eco-system. Participants also give back through mentoring others in their communities.

This flexible innovative program encompasses blended learning and a flipped-classroom approach where technical content is developed and delivered by university, industry and community specialists. Participants engage in numerous program components (See Figure 1), with various levels of interaction with peers, mentors and facilitators. One component, the WiRE Hub Program, takes participants through a 90-day challenge of actual venture/project development and growth. Our approach is to continuously build, measure and learn.

This report reflects the activities, outcomes and evaluation of the WiRE Program between 2 January 2017 and 30 June 2018.

Keywordswomen entrepreneurship, women in rural regional and remote enterprises, entrepreneurship, women entrepreneurs
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020350704. Entrepreneurship
Public Notes

Please contact Professor Retha Wiesner at retha.wiesner@usq.edu.au regarding the information published in this report.

Byline AffiliationsSchool of Management and Enterprise
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