Diversity and Inclusion Hub

Female social entrepreneurship

Dr Isobel O’Neil, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Nottingham University Business School

£250 billion of income generation is missing every year from women entrepreneurs not scaling up. Dr Isobel O’Neil, Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, researches the untapped potential of female entrepreneurship. Her initial research in this field has revealed the hurdles in the way of women entrepreneurs (lack of confidence, lack of role models, lack of development support, low income, BAME, impostor syndrome) which provided the evidence for her to devise EDI-Entrepreneurship Toolkit and Workshops for women in Nottingham. The latter is an ESRC Impact Accelerator Account (ESRC IAA) funded project. Launched in January 2019 in Nottingham, the toolkit is being trialled with Boots and will then be commercialised for the corporate sector.

Funded by the Smallwood Trust, Dr O’Neil also launched a 6 week-course for 15 local-to-Nottingham women from low-income backgrounds, half of whom are BAME, who are starting a micro-business. She is now sharing best practices designed to support women already in self-employment with key stakeholders in Nottingham, Nottingham City Council, referral bodies, and Nottingham Business Ventures. She is looking at existing policies, reviewing and improving them through praxis to create a better-supported ecosystem for women entrepreneurs.

Dr O’Neil’s EDI research responds to frequent calls to action to encourage more women to start and scale businesses (e.g. The Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, 2019; Deloitte/ Women’s Business Council 2018). The impact of her research is already embedded within the toolkit and workshops in terms of direct to female entrepreneurs. Beyond Nottingham City Council, she is working towards extending her policy advice to national organisations supporting female entrepreneurship e.g. the Allbright Collective, Chamber of Commerce, FSB, and banks.

The support she would be looking for from the D&IRH and the Institute for Policy and Engagement is advice and pathways on how UoN can help her find the right sponsor in Nottingham to commission the Smallwood Trust Toolkit. Dr Isobel’s work is an example of research-based interventions that promote inclusive local economic growth in Nottingham.

Research team







Diversity and Inclusion Hub

The University of Nottingham
Address line two
Nottingham, postcode

telephone: +44 (0) 115 XXX XXXX
email: research-group-email@nottingham.ac.uk