“We are Ewits – hear us roar!”

Empowering women in technology startups (Ewits) as an experiential learning model to challenge gendered social norms in the field 

By Cheryl D. Calhoun
December 2017

Chair: Carole Beal
Major: Curriculum and Instruction

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, https://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0051699/00001

This research seeks to understand whether educational intervention can help women succeed in technology entrepreneurship, a career field where women are underrepresented but where economic opportunity is high. This study examines women’s experiences with technology entrepreneurship within the context of an all-female experiential entrepreneurial education program, Empowering Women in Technology Startups (Ewits). Ewits uses an experiential learning model of entrepreneurship education, specifically designed to expose women to the technology commercialization process, develop the skills to form a technology startup and inspire and empower them to pursue leadership roles in technology-based companies. Using a feminist epistemology and a mixed-methods case study design, the data were analyzed through a theoretical lens of ambient belonging and gender bias. The theories of ambient belonging and gender bias were used to guide inquiry, as well as to examine the effects of program participation and participants’ resulting entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions. The findings of this study indicate that program is effective in both helping women to develop both the competencies and the confidence to become entrepreneurs. More importantly, the program created a learning environment that was effective in shifting participants perspectives of the gendered social norms of the field. This research has implications for the field in understanding how women experience entrepreneurship and how their perceptions of gendered social norms affect their desire to enter technology entrepreneurship. An updated model of planned behavior is presented which considers the effect of biased social norms on intention.