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Women on the edge of a new venture. Management gurus say the companies that will thrive in the future will be connected to the community, involve employees in innovation and decision-making, and have strong cultural values. According to SMG Associate Professor of Management Policy Candida Brush, those very organizational values can already be found among the growing population of businesses owned by women.

In a recent paper, Brush posits that gender does matter in entrepreneurial ventures. "Time fragmentation, career interruption, and lack of access to the 'old boys network' may actually facilitate a woman's ability to be flexible, to manage multiple tasks and interruptions, and to develop alternative support systems," she says. "Thus it's not surprising to find that women follow a different path, creating very different organizational characteristics than those developed by men, and creating very different organizations than those developed by men."

Women-founded ventures often exemplify what is referred to as an alternative model of organization. Rather than being bound by strictly economic-based practices, these companies often emphasize nurturing and relationship-building and foster reciprocity, diversity, and integration of work and family, rather than the traditional elements of competitiveness and homogeneity. Most often, they have flatter, nonhierarchical reporting structures.

Between 1987 and 1999 the number of female-owned firms in the United States increased by 103 percent, and government statistics show that 60 percent of all women launch their ventures from home. Dramatic leaps in information technology facilitate these new ventures -- it is easier than ever to advertise, seek customers, identify suppliers, and sell products or services.

According to Brush, several studies show that women-owned businesses are just as successful as men-owned, so their unique model must be working. Her paper will be presented at the Second International Labor Organization Enterprise Forum in November.

Welfare reform that hurts. A new investigation by Boston Medical Center pediatrics researchers found that welfare beneficiaries caring for chronically ill children may not be fully aware of the benefits available to them under the recent federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, also known as the Welfare Reform Act.

Dr. Lauren Smith, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and a research fellow at BUSM, conducted the study to determine the level of knowledge about welfare reform among welfare beneficiaries who have chronically ill children. "Awareness of program rules such as exemptions from work requirements is particularly important for people with chronically ill children," says Smith. "These children have increased health-care needs, and their parents may not understand what does or does not apply under the new rules."

The study examined 143 primary caretakers of children between the ages of 3 and 16 who were suffering from asthma or sickle-cell anemia. Researchers found the caretakers had only a limited understanding of new welfare reform rules.

"Welfare beneficiaries with chronically ill children have not made use of the available welfare program options," she says. "For instance, families who are aware of their options may be able to avoid decreases in benefits due to penalties for noncompliance with work requirements." Smith and her colleagues recommend that welfare beneficiaries with chronically ill children be targeted for additional education regarding their options.

The study was presented at the 1999 Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
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