Informal learning of women small business owners

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Education and Training


Emerald Group Publishing Ltd

Place of Publication

United Kingdom


School of Business and Law




Sharafizad, J. (2018). Informal learning of women small business owners. Education and Training, 60(1), 82-103. Available here.


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate women small business owners’ informal learning behaviour. There is limited qualitative research that examines women small business owners’ learning process and this study aims to address this gap. The study was driven by the following research questions: “Do women small business owners prefer informal learning to formal training?” and if so, “Why do women small business owners prefer informal learning to formal training?” and “If informal learning is preferred, what role do networking and mentoring play in this learning process?” Design/methodology/approach: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 28 Western Australian women small business owners who were recruited through purposive sampling methods. Findings: The small business owners had a strong preference for informal learning. Participants used their own work experience and knowledge to start-up their businesses. A low uptake of formal training was found due to time and resource constraints and personal preferences. Participants relied on contacts within their networks to acquire knowledge or they hired others who possessed the requisite knowledge or skill. Only a small portion of participants had mentors or acted as a mentor. Research limitations/implications: This study has limitations that tend to be commonly found in exploratory studies, such as a small sample size. Practical implications: The research has implications for recognised training institutions that are engaged in entrepreneurship education. By gaining greater understanding of the nature of learning in small business, they may be able to offer more affordable and flexible informal courses that specifically target women small business owners, incorporate mentorship programs within their business courses by engaging with industry partners, or appoint instructors with industry contacts and experience, to provide mentoring support for these business owners. Originality/value: This research responds to calls for studies aimed at developing a more nuanced understanding of the learning behaviour of women small business owners.



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