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Women in Business Incubators

Women’s Participation in Business Incubators and Accelerators 

Washington CORE for the National Women’s Business Council

First published March 2017

Women entrepreneurs are a vital component of the U.S. economy, as they are responsible for the creation of both new businesses and jobs. However, despite the rapid increase in the number of women-owned firms in recent years, women-owned businesses face significant barriers to growth, including limited access to capital and networks.

Business incubators and accelerators can play an important role in the entrepreneurial ecosystem by not only offering training and services but also connecting women business owners to opportunities and resources that may help them overcome various challenges that limit business development and growth. Program offerings can include workspace, mentoring, technical assistance, and networking with potential investors, customers, and suppliers. Some recent studies have found that entrepreneurs who participate in a top performing accelerator perform better than those that did not participate in an accelerator in areas such as raising capital, exiting by acquisition, and acquiring customers.

The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) commissioned research prepared by Washington CORE to strengthen stakeholder understanding of incubators and accelerators as they relate to women entrepreneurs and, ultimately, to facilitate the successful participation of women entrepreneurs in these programs. This research includes a literature review, as well as a direct exploration of the experiences and perspectives of women entrepreneurs and incubator and accelerator managers through survey and interview analysis.

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