Exploring the Career/achievement and Personal Life Orientation Differences between Entrepreneurs and Nonentrepreneurs: The Impact of Sex and Dependents

By DeMartino, Richard; Barbato, Robert et al. | Journal of Small Business Management, July 2006 | Go to article overview

Exploring the Career/achievement and Personal Life Orientation Differences between Entrepreneurs and Nonentrepreneurs: The Impact of Sex and Dependents


DeMartino, Richard, Barbato, Robert, Jacques, Paul H., Journal of Small Business Management


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.

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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. …

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