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Like Mother like Daughter? a Study of the Impact of Age on Entrepreneurial Women in Australia

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The majority of entrepreneurial research has involved men and male characteristics with research into women entrepreneurs just beginning. With the increased participation of women as business owners it is useful to explore their characteristics and contributing factors to being an entrepreneur. Research has indicated that there are two groups of women based on age with different characteristics affecting their entrepreneurship. The focus of this research was to quantify these differences in Australian women entrepreneurs. Age was found to impact on the characteristics of field of study, type of industry, source of capital, use of mentor and risk-taking propensity

INTRODUCTION

The majority of entrepreneurial research has involved men and male characteristics with research into women entrepreneurs just beginning. With the increased participation of women as business owners it is useful to explore their characteristics and contributing factors to being an entrepreneur. Research has indicated that there are two groups of women based on age with different characteristics affecting their entrepreneurship. The focus of this research is to quantify these differences in Australian women entrepreneurs.

The study of women entrepreneurs is an important part of entrepreneurial theory, as the growth rate of women starting up new ventures is increasing faster than the rate of men. The number of men in self-employment has increased by 32.3% between 1978 to 1997 (refer to Table I) whereas the number of women in self-employment has increased by 91.35% over the same period (ABS, Small Business in Australia, 1997). This trend of women starting businesses at a faster rate than men is also reflected in the U. S where 70% of new businesses are started by women (Brooks, 1997). Interestingly the self-employment rate shows a different picture. This rate is calculated by dividing the number of self employed persons in that groups by the total number of employed persons in that group.

As Table I demonstrates, the self-employment rate of women has decreased since 1978 compared to men. An explanation for this, given that the increase in number of self employed women, is that more women are participating in the workforce in 1996 than in 1978. This is supported by the 68.78% increase in the all employed group for women since 1978 which is three times the increase in the all employed group for men.

There are many areas to be studied; the differences between men and women entrepreneurs in terms of education, occupational background, motivations for starting a business, business goals, business growth and source of capital. These differences have been identified but not explained (Brush, 1992). There has also been research that indicates that age is a differentiating factor within the group of women entrepreneurs in each of the above categories (Moore, 1990). The focus of this study was to quantify these characteristics in Australian women entrepreneurs.

Moore (1990) groups women entrepreneurs into two categories, traditional and modern with the cut off age being around 35 and asserts that women under 35 have different characteristics in the areas of industry, source of finance, education, company structure and role models. It is interesting to note that in Gunter & Furnham (1992) the women's consumer market has also been segmented into two groups, traditional and modern based on their stated activities, interests and opinions.

Taking 35 as the critical age, this research explores the question of whether or not significant differences in these characteristics are apparent between female entrepreneurs based on age. Before examining the issues of age in detail, an overview of the key issues in entrepreneurship will be given.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Entrepreneurial Process

The entrepreneurial process is defined as having three stages; the founder, opportunity recognition and resource acquisition (Timmons, 1994). …