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Battling with institutions: How novice female entrepreneurs contribute to shaping public policy discourse.

Abstract In France, public policy support for women entrepreneurship is still in the process of institutional consolidation. Before evaluating its results and outcomes, it is essential, as Storey (1998, 2008) suggests, to collect and analyze the
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  B   Revue de l’ Entr epr eneuriat   N°2-3, vol. 15, 2015  Renaud REDIEN-COLLOT, Noreen O’SHEA  Battling with institutions:  How novice female entrepreneurs contribute to shaping public policy discourse  Renaud REDIEN-COLLOT 1 , PhD Director of the International Relations Department NOV ANCIA  rr  Noreen O’SHEA 2 , PhD Professor of Entr epr eneurship NOV ANCIA  efore evaluating outcomes of public policy support for women entrepr eneur - ship, it is important to understand their inner workings, that is, how opinions expressed by users of support schemes and programs are appreciated. Relying on neo-institutional theory (North, 2005) and discourse analysis (Fair clough,  1992), we observe that novice French women entrepreneurs are no longer con - sidered as mere targets of policies but as potential contributors to an innovative, socio- economic relational dynamic, on its way to becoming institutionally consolidated and, in time, sustainable.    — Keywords: novice women entrepreneurs, support schemes, France, institutional processes, discourse analysis    1. Renaud Redien-Collot is presently Director of International Affairs at Novancia Business School, Paris. Since 2007, he has been a member of the Board of Administration of Académie de l’Entrepreneuriat. In 2009, he has chaired the Scientific Committee of Women Equity for Growth (WEG), an Index that has developed a robust methodology to rank every year the 50 best women-led businesses in France. He was involved in several innovative projects in entrepreneurship education in the EU, such as Pépite in France, Zlin 24h Chrono in Czech Republic, SOFA in Poland, Enspire EU in Denmark. His research interests include gender in entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship education and the renewal of SMEs’ business models in the EU. He is a reviewer for Feminist Economics and Journal of Small Business Management. 2. Noreen O’Shea is an associate professor and researcher in Entrepreneurship at Novancia Business School, Paris. Her research topics include the construction of professional identity in entrepreneurial contexts; the role of tacit knowledge and intuition in entrepreneurial learning and strategizing; coaching and mentoring practices in and for small firms as well as deve- lopments in policy-making, particularly for women entrepreneurs.  57     RenaudREDIEN-COLLONoreen 0 ' 8-IEA   Revue de  IJEntrepreneuriat   N°2-3, vol. 15, 2015  vant d'évaluer les résultats des politiques soutenant l'entrepreneuriat féminin, il est important d'en comprendre le fonctionnement interne, à savoir, l'appré- ciation qui est faite des opinions exprimées par les usagères de ces dispositifs. En nous appuyant sur la théorie néo-institutionnelle (North, 2005) et l'analyse de discours (Fairclough,  1992), nous observons que les entrepreneures novices  ne sont plus uniquement considérées comme les cibles des politiques mais comme de potentielles participantes à la création d'une dynamique d'innovation sociale et écono- mique. Ceci rend compte d'un processus d'institutionnalisation effectif de ces structures qui favorisera leur pérennité.   Mots-clés: ent r ep r eneures n ovi ces , dispositifs d'accompagnement, F ranc e , processus institutionnel , ana ly se d e di  scours    I ntroduction   For both economie and political reasons, governments in developed countries design and implement an array of public policies to support entrepreneurial activities. On an economie level, government intervention is justified through the need to respond to market failure given the ostensibly major difficulties faced by entrepreneurs in succeeding to bring their products or services to market. On a political level, entrepreneurs and small firms represent a poten- tial voting ally for governments in place, requiring the latter to pay attention to their needs by positively influencing the creation and sustainability of their ventures. And yet, the cost effec- tiveness following delivery of these policies is rarely examined, leaving businesses, the tax- payer and society as a whole in the dark (Storey, 2008). To better understand how public policy designed and delivered for novice entrepreneurs is enacted and perceived, we have chosen a specifie French entrepreneurial population. This paper explores the way in which public p o licy support for French women entrepreneurs is produced, disseminated, perceived and ultimately institutionalized. Research has shown that in France, novice entrepreneurs who seek and obtain assis - tance during the initial stages of company creation increase the probability of ensuring the future success of their ventures, with two-thirds of these supported firms still in existence after 3 yea rs (Mathot, 2010). Over and above the need for information, advice, funding and legal aid, these entrepreneurs are also seeking psychological support based on an offer of effective dialogue and quality listening ,  with professional coaching proposed within a climate of mutual re spect and trust (Radu and Redien-Collot, 2013). And yet, in 2008, only 31% of French novice entre - preneurs actually called on the existing schemes 3 during the months priorto launching their f i rms (APCE, 2009). There are a significant number of French women potentially interested in crea- ting their own firm (reactions to the glass ceiling syndrome, reconciliation between persona! and professional careers, unemployment) and yet they represent only 30% of companies created in France today (APCE, 2009). They are also reluctant to seek the support provided by the sche - mes in place (de Beaufort, 2011). Despite the recent increase in the number and diversity of the offers of assistance for women entrepreneurs in France (Guide égalité Femmes 1 Hom m es en entreprise, édition 2011-2012), the number of women setting up firms in France has been stable sinee 2006 (INSEE, 2006, 2010). Furthermore, there i s  little if no empirical research o n   3. ln the same veinas Storey's wr i t i ngs ,  we will use either the term ' s cheme '  or '  support scheme' as a mainstream t er m that covers the d i fferent  types of s t ru ct ur es  that offer support to women novice and confirmed entrepreneur s .   58      Revue de l’ Entr epr eneuriat   N°2-3, vol. 15, 2015  Renaud REDIEN-COLLOT, Noreen O’SHEA how novice women entrepreneurs perceive and evaluate the assistance provided. In this paper, we attempt to reduce this gap by focusing on the nature of the discourse disseminated by the support schemes in place and the reactions perceived by the targeted users – novice women entrepreneurs. Research on the contribution of discourse analysis to the present context of female entrepreneurship has revealed some welcome truths regarding the power struggles that conti - nue to assail this field (Ahl, 2006; Welter, 2011; Brush, 1992). Recent research in the use of dis- course analysis as a methodology in entrepreneurship research has also underlined the contri- bution it can make to generate new knowledge about female entrepreneurs (Achtenhagen and Welter, 2011). Discourse analysts identify three different sources for producing discourse: ins- titutions and organizations; individuals and inter-individual interactions; and media. This paper explores the offers made by the institutions and organizations that support entrepreneurial acti- vities for women in France and questions the accuracy of the responses provided to the users. We begin with a literature review on public policy influence on women entrepreneur- ship, leading to an exploration of the neo-institutional processes at work in producing and dis- seminating discourse for novice women entrepreneurs. We then present the research design and methodology adopted which produced the results that are reported. Our contribution is on three levels. First, we demonstrate that the support schemes for novice women entrepre- neurs are still undergoing a process of institutionalization as they continue to be hampered by a high degree of rivalry between policies designed to emancipate women and those in sup - port of entrepreneurship. Despite this on-going process, women entrepreneurs are succeeding in beginning to shape the discourse through the establishment of a relatively constructive dia- logue with support schemes. Secondly, the methodological approach used provides a concrete testing of step 2 of Storey’s model (2008, 1998) for evaluating the impact of public policy on entrepreneurial firms, confirming the importance of a monitoring phase for gathering users’ opi - nions on the nature and quality of the assistance offered by support schemes. Finally, our study enabled us to propose an observation tool to diagnose the development of sustainable relations between institutionally-devised schemes and women as target users of entrepreneurial policies. This observation tool can be usefully transposed to other contexts where female entrepreneur- ship is concerned.  1. Literature review   This review explores and analyzes recent research on the public policy issues and corresponding institutional processes that shape discourse practices as they are deployed in relation to novice women entrepreneurs.  1.1. Public policy influence on women entrepreneurship   Government intervention in supporting entrepreneurship is often  justified firstly because of the burdens facing those entrepreneurs who consider starting a new business and secondly because of the positive or negative influence such intervention exerts on the entrepreneurs as key political constituents (Storey, 2008). In commenting on the impacts of government support in developed countries, he observes a continuing lack of evidence regarding the ways in which these public policy schemes are effectively delivered and evaluated. Despite the massive diversity of policies in operation and due to the relative absence of a tradition in eva- luation in entrepreneurship policy, “there is little reliable evidence about their effectiveness”  59     Ren a u d REDIEN - C OLLO N o r ee n   0 ' 8-I EA   Revue de  IJEntrepreneuriat   N°2-3, vol. 15, 2015  (2008:3). The particular burdens facing women entrepreneurs have been widely documente d , among which family issues (Marlow, 2002), potential discrimination regarding women as entrepreneurs (Oakley, 1973; Marlow and Patton, 2005) and choice of sector (Muoz and Prez,  2007). As Lundstrom and Stevenson (2005) point out, almost every developed country has implemented publicly funded support to lower the barriers that women entrepreneurs face. However, in a critical examination of national policies for women entrepreneurs (Storey and Greene, 2010), the authors note "the case for public policy support remains unproven given the lack of reliable information on its impact and the diversity of schemes that have been adopted" (2010:452).  To redress this imbalance, government bodies and members of the academie commu - nity focus on evaluating the results of support schemes for female entrepreneurs, which, in a number of countries, have attained a certain degree of maturity. ln this context, with regard both to minorities (Bates, 2003), and women in general (Winn, 2005), studies are characterized either by disappointing results ,  poorly defined objectives, or, in sorne cases, both.  ln their book on entrepreneurial policies, Lundstrom and Stevenson (2005) encourage government agencies and academie researchers to be careful when selecting assessment cri - teria for support schemes, especially when those schemes are either emerging or in the pro- cess of consolidation, or, in other words, in situations in which the process of institutionalization has not been completed and where many modifications are still required. A number of conclu - sions drawn by Tilmar (2007) corroborate this view. The needs of female and minority popula- tions evolve very rapidly and can quickly diverge from the objectives and results defined at a given moment in a given region (Um, Morse, Mit   c hell ,  and Seawtight, 2010). ln our view, evalua- tions based on a comparison between objectives and results are incomplete; while revealing the obsolescence of certain support objectives, they fail to isolate the organic shortcomings of sup- port schemes. ln France ,  while policies designed to provide support for female entrepreneurs were first introduced during the 1970s and 1980s, schemes implemented to afford aid in setting up busi- nesses have only been introduced within the last twenty years (Laufer,  2009). These schemes are still in the process of consolidation. ln the absence of recurrent evaluations of the performance of these schemes, the emergence of complex inter-institutional constructs can be observed, a phenomenon that causes a degree of scepticism amongst actors in the sphere of entrepreneu - rial policy (Lundstrom and Stevenson 2 005) .  Crépon (2009) points out that French government agencies take a prudent approach in terms of their evaluations of public support bodies. When, in 2012, we scanned the web pa g es of the 20 most prominent French support schemes for novice women entrepreneur s ,  we obser- ved that an emphasis on the measurement of their performance was distinctly absent. This is compounded by the fact that support schemes are forced to compete with one another for fun - ding (Léger - Jarniou ,  2008). Sinee their performances are only assessed in a superficial way, none of the schemes stands out as a priotity. Consequentl y ,  the government helps ali of them a little, but none of them enough. They must define their offer based on the constraints imposed by their various financial sponsors, which means that they effectively function as inter-institutional sche - mes whose often multiple objectives and results are difficult to compare. This leads to a situa - tion in which neither public sponsors nor users are in a position to judge the support schemes. Rather than measuring the performance of such schemes, it would perhaps be more judici o us to assess them by means of a process-based approach as Philips, Lawrence, and Hardy ( 2 004) prone in a general discussion about institutional apparatus.  60  
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