Gender Comparisons in Strategic Decision-Making: An Empirical Analysis of the Entrepreneurial Strategy Matrix

By Sonfield, Matthew; Lussier, Robert et al. | Journal of Small Business Management, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Gender Comparisons in Strategic Decision-Making: An Empirical Analysis of the Entrepreneurial Strategy Matrix


Sonfield, Matthew, Lussier, Robert, Corman, Joel, McKinney, Mary, Journal of Small Business Management


The strategic decision-making of male and female small businesspersons and entrepreneurs has been investigated in prior research, but the findings are mixed. This article reports on a gender comparison testing of the Entrepreneurial Strategy Matrix, a situational model which suggests strategies for new and ongoing ventures in response to the identification of different levels of venture innovation and risk. A national sample of 184 small firm owners (59 percent maie/41 percent female) was tested. Results indicate that there are no significant gender differences in venture innovation/risk situation or in strategies chosen by business owners. Male respondents did indicate a higher overall satisfaction with venture performance than did females.

A body of research exists in which gender differences in strategic management have been investigated (Carter, Williams and Reynolds 1997; Chaganti and Parasuraman 1996; Powell and Ansic 1997). This body of research has been accelerated by the growing proportion of women in the managerial, entrepreneurial, and small business workforce; their rate affirm creation; and their proportion of small business ownership. Still, relative to the study of male-owned small businesses and entrepreneurship, this body of existing research is small and inconclusive. The research reported in this article expands the existing body and focuses on the issues of whether men and women have different strategic orientations and whether they differ in their strategic decision-making behavior.

Further analysis of these issues can lead to a better understanding of the roles of social structures such as work, family, and social life versus factors such as discrimination and the "glass ceiling" on gender similarities and differences in business behavior and performance, and lead, if appropriate, to an eventual model of women's entrepreneurship beyond more general models (Carter, Williams and Reynolds 1997; Fischer, Reuber, and Dyke 1993; Hisrich, Histich, et al. (1997).

The Entrepreneurial Strategy Matrix (Sonfield and Lussier 1997) is used as the basis for this study. This model is a situational model, which suggests appropriate strategies for both new and ongoing ventures in response to the identification of different levels of venture innovation and risk. Such identification leads to the placement of the venture in one of four cells of a matrix, and appropriate strategies are presented for that cell. Since ventures may be classified as being either high or low in terms of innovation and risk, the Entrepreneurial Strategy Matrix (ESM) is a model appropriate for both entrepreneurial ventures involving high innovation and often corresponding high risk, and traditional small business ventures, which are generally low in innovation. This study deals with both types of small business ventures (see Figure 1.)

In this current research, focusing on the Entrepreneurial Strategy Matrix, a large national sample of small business owners and entrepreneurs was surveyed to determine whether significant differences existed in either the proportion of men and women who placed themselves in each of the four cells of the model, or in the strategies that they chose for their business ventures. Cell placement is a measure of the type of venture chosen, and thus reflects the respondent's strategic orientation, while strategies used is a measure of strategic behavior.

Previous Research

Most research conducted prior to 1980 concluded that gender differences clearly exist in entrepreneurial strategic behavior (Powell and Ansic 1997). More specifically, the majority of studies determined that women are more cautious, less confident, less aggressive, easier to persuade, and have inferior leadership and problem-solving abilities when making decisions under risk than men (Johnson and Powell 1994).

However, more recent research studies provide mixed conclusions but tend to support gender similarities more than differences (Chaganti and Parasuraman 1996; Powell and Ansic 1997).

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