Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

The Role of Gender Stereotypes in Perceptions of Entrepreneurs and Intentions to Become an Entrepreneur

Academic journal article Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice

The Role of Gender Stereotypes in Perceptions of Entrepreneurs and Intentions to Become an Entrepreneur

Article excerpt

In this study we examine the role of socially constructed gender stereotypes in entrepreneurship and their influence on men and women's entrepreneurial intentions. Data on characteristics of males, females, and entrepreneurs were collected from young adults in three countries. As hypothesized, entrepreneurs were perceived to have predominantly masculine characteristics. Additional results revealed that although both men and women perceive entrepreneurs to have characteristics similar to those of males (masculine gender-role stereotype), only women also perceived entrepreneurs and females as having similar characteristics (feminine gender-role stereotype). Further, though men and women did not differ in their entrepreneurial intentions, those who perceived themselves as more similar to males (high on male gender identification) had higher entrepreneurial intentions than those who saw themselves as less similar to males (low male gender identification). No such difference was found for people who saw themselves as more or less similar to females (female gender identification). The results were consistent across the three countries. Practical implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Introduction

Gender differences in entrepreneurial activity are well documented in the literature (Gatewood, Carter, Brush, Greene, & Hart, 2003; Reynolds, Bygrave, & Autio, 2004). Though in recent years the number of women entrepreneurs has increased dramatically (De Bruin, Brush, & Welter, 2006), empirical evidence indicates that still almost twice as many men as women become entrepreneurs, and that these differences are consistent across countries (Acs, Arenius, Hay, & Minniti, 2005). However, entrepreneurship scholars have limited understanding of the factors and decision processes that influence men and women differently to pursue (or not) entrepreneurship and become self-employed (Verheul, 2005; Zhao, Seibert, & Hills, 2005). In this study we examine the important relationship between gender stereotypes--widely shared beliefs about characteristics attributed to men and women--and entrepreneurial intentions of men and women.

Recent discussions in the entrepreneurship literature suggest that glaring and persistent differences between men and women's entrepreneurial activity may be associated with gender characterization (Carter, Anderson, & Shaw, 2001; Greer & Greene, 2003; Marlow, 2002). More specifically, scholars argued that socially constructed and learned ideas about gender and entrepreneurship limit women's ability to accrue social, cultural, human, and financial capital and place limitations upon their ability to generate personal savings, have credit histories attractive to resource providers, or engage the interest of loan officers, angel investors, and venture capitalists (Carter & Rosa, 1998; Gatewood et al., 2003; Marlow & Patton, 2005). These factors are believed to interact to influence the kinds of ventures men and women entrepreneurs start as well as its subsequent development. For example, women entrepreneurs are more likely than men to have businesses (often in the service or retail sector) that are smaller, slower-growing, and less profitable (Carter et al.), which in turn then reinforces the stereotypical image of men and women in self-employment (Carter & Williams, 2003).

Though there is a large body of literature that looks at men and women in entrepreneurship, very few studies use the "lens of gender" as opposed to sex (Baines & Wheelock, 2000, p. 45; Bem, 1993; Marlow & Patton, 2005, p. 719). The distinction between sex as ascribed to biology, anatomy, hormones, and physiology, and gender as constructed through social, cultural, and psychological means is an important one in the social sciences (Ahl, 2006; West & Zimmerman, 1987). Where sex (male and female) is innate and refers to what people are born as, gender is what people "do" when they attribute a circumscribed meaning to male and female (Bruni, Gherardi, & Poggio, 2004a). …

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