This study explores the career/achievement and personal life orientations of entrepreneurs, specifically the impact of sex and dependent-child status. Although a growing body of research has explored the similarities and uniqueness of women, none have explicitly analyzed entrepreneurs employing a career/achievement and personal life framework. In addition, no studies have sought to explore the career/achievement and personal life orientations of female entrepreneurs with female nonentrepreneurs of similar backgrounds. Consequently, this research explores and compares the career/achievement and personal life orientations of female entrepreneurs with a group of female nonentrepreneurs with similar educational levels, ages, and work experience. It also compares the orientations of male entrepreneurs with a group of male nonentrepreneurs in order to both confirm existing literature and create a means to compare intra-female with intra-male career and personal life orientations. The analysis shows no statistically significant differences in the career/achievement and personal life orientations of women entrepreneurs and similar female nonentrepreneurs. It also finds, confirming existing literature, that male entrepreneurs possess a greater career/achievement orientation as compared with male nonentrepreneurs.
The past two decades have witnessed a significant rise in the number and proportion of women-owned businesses. In 1997, there were 7.5 million women-owned businesses, and 38 percent of all self-employed individuals were women. The growth of women-owned businesses is more than double the growth rate of all businesses. In response to this trend, a varied and growing academic literature has emerged to explore and understand the dynamics of female entrepreneurial behavior. Integral to this exploration is research focusing on the motivational factors driving women in increasing numbers toward entrepreneurship.
Previous literature on gender and entrepreneurship implicitly observes the personal life/family and career orientations of female entrepreneurs. Specific research typically focuses on one of the two nonmutually exclusive orientations. One research stream of particular interest highlights the desire of women to create their own desired balance between career and family (Buttner 1993; Kaplin 1988; Scott 1986; Geoffee and Scase 1983). This literature notes that female and male entrepreneurs integrate career and personal life/family differently (Parasuraman et al. 1996). More recent entrepreneurship literature suggests that the personal life/family orientation of married female and male entrepreneurs with dependents differ dramatically. It also suggests that the motivations of women with and without dependents differ dramatically, whereas the motivations of men with and without dependents do not (DeMartino and Barbato 2003).
A second stream in the literature highlights the desire of women to employ entrepreneurship for career achievement motives. The career/achievement-focused stream developed in the 1980s in response to the large number of women entering professional fields. According to Buttner and Moore (1997), women pursued entrepreneurial opportunities either because their career achievement was stymied in larger corporations or because of traditional entrepreneurial motivations. Both motivations conform to the wider entrepreneurial (male-dominated) literature, which notes that entrepreneurs are more career achievement-oriented than nonentrepreneurs (Shane, Locke, and Collins 2003; Johnson 1990; McClelland 1961).
The purpose of this study is to provide a more meaningful gendered perspective on the decision to become an entrepreneur. Consequently, this research explores and compares the career/achievement and personal life/family orientations of female entrepreneurs with a group of female nonentrepreneurs with similar educational levels, ages, and work experience. It also compares the orientations of male entrepreneurs with a group of male nonentrepreneurs in order to both confirm existing literature and create a means to compare intra-female with intra-male career and family orientations. Finally, it provides inter-gender comparisons to explore systematically the impact of entrepreneurship and gender. By analyzing these comparisons, more light can be shed on how the sexes differ in their approach to choosing entrepreneurship as a career. Two specific contributions to the literature are provided. First, a motivational perspective (career/achievement and personal life/family orientations) has not been previously employed to frame entrepreneurial studies. (1) Second, such a framework has not explored intra-gender differences. Previous research has failed to explore or measure whether career/achievement and personal life/family orientations of female entrepreneurs differ from female nonentrepreneurs with similar backgrounds.
By comparing female entrepreneurs with their peers using a career/achievement and personal life/family orientation framework, this study seeks to shed light on implicit debates in the gender entrepreneurship literature. Specifically, the study addresses the question of whether female entrepreneurs are more career/achievement-oriented than similar female nonentrepreneurs. It does so by using the pertinent and relevant intervening variable of dependent child and marital status.
This paper is structured as follows. The first section provides a literature review of previous references to the career/achievement and personal life/family orientations of female entrepreneurs. The second section provides hypotheses to test regarding career/achievement and personal life/family orientations. The third section describes the survey instrument and the construction of the career/achievement and personal life framework. The fourth section provides the statistical results. The final section provides general conclusions and suggestions for future research.
Entrepreneurship and Career/Personal Life Orientation
Despite a diverse and growing gender and entrepreneurship literature, very little is understood about the motivational diversity of female entrepreneurs. The current rapid growth of women-owned businesses has popularized the notion of convergent gender roles related to family and career. This emerging growth phenomenon has given rise to new models and categorizations focusing on female middle-level managers hitting the glass ceiling or following traditional entrepreneurial needs such as achievement, autonomy, and flexibility.
In response to the emergent nature of the modern female entrepreneur, both Brush (1992) and Baucus and Human (1994) embarked on a comprehensive literature review of women and entrepreneurship and called for new models and increased rigor in analysis. Recent research, while providing insightful and valuable contributions to the literature, neglect the career/achievement and personal life/family diversity implicit in recent research. Furthermore, important intervening variables implicit in the preceding literature review, such as the role of dependent and marital/partnered status, have not been systematically explored.
Previous literature on gender and entrepreneurship has found that male and female entrepreneurs differ in their motivations and that, in particular, female entrepreneurs are motivated by the desire to balance the demands of career and personal life (DeMartino and Barbato 2003; Parasuraman et al. 1996; Buttner 1993; Kaplin 1988; Scott 1986; Geoffee and Scase 1983). Whereas some have suggested that women choose entrepreneurship to create their own desired balance between career and personal life/family (Buttner 1993; Kaplin 1988; Scott 1986; Geoffee and Scase 1983), others have found that female and male entrepreneurs integrate career and personal life/family differently. Specifically, Parasuraman et al. (1996) found that female entrepreneurs have a lesser time commitment to their businesses than their male peers.
Moore (1999) notes that career/personal life motivations of female entrepreneurs have changed over the decades, and this has been reflected in the entrepreneurial literature. Moore (1999) observes that the …