Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

A Profile of Woman Entrepreneurs and Enterprises in Poland

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

A Profile of Woman Entrepreneurs and Enterprises in Poland

Article excerpt

Among the societies of Eastern and Central Europe, Poland has moved first and most dramatically toward genuine political pluralism and economic transformation. By 1990, Poland was already a long way from the textbook version of a centrally planned economy. Numerous attempts at decentralizing the economy had led to the lowering of some entry barriers, allowing the private sector to arise and become engaged in economic activities, though not on a large scale. In January 1990, the situation evolved further as the Polish government introduced the first stage of a series of policies (the Balcerowicz Plan) aimed at creating a free market economy out of the remaining centralized communist economic system and agreed to accept the existence of already functioning semi-private and private enterprises. Societal factors also helped interest potential entrepreneurs in starting private businesses. Poland's success has, to a substantial degree, served as a stimulus for reform elsewhere in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

An increasing number of women have started small businesses in Poland. As the number of women business owners and their role in the post-communist economy increases, it is important to assess their psychological characteristics, motives, and objectives, including whether Polish female entrepreneurs behave differently from their male counterparts. A comprehensive and integrated view of female entrepreneurs and their firms in Poland can provide insights which are useful in formulating public policy on entrepreneurial development.

Purpose and Methodology

One purpose of this study is to investigate whether Polish female entrepreneurs possess the characteristics required for effective performance as entrepreneurs. Trait analysis suggests that there are no significant differences between the psychological propensities of successful female and male entrepreneurs. That is, entrepreneurs are successful because they possess those characteristics, attitudes, and temperaments that are required for successful entrepreneurship, regardless of gender. This article also explores the types of businesses started by Polish women, their business objectives, and the relationship between the entrepreneur's background and the entrepreneur's decision to start a new venture.

To explore these issues, a telephone survey of 150 male (n=110) and female (n=40) entrepreneurs was conducted in the three biggest urban centers in Poland (Poznan, Krakow and Warsaw). The survey was taken between December 1994 and January 1995. The following data were collected: (1) the demographic characteristics of the entrepreneur (age, education, knowledge, managerial skills, business experience, and family background); (2) reasons and motives for starting a new venture; (3) entrepreneurial psychological factors, attitudes, and temperaments; and (4) types of business ventures, business strategies, and short-term and long-term objectives. Results are summarized in the following sections.

Demographic Characteristics of the Entrepreneurs

The majority of female respondents were between 35 and 50 years old (median age 45). Their managerial experience ranged from one year to twenty years. This is similar to the male sample, in which age ranged from 25 to 55 years, with experience ranging from two to 27 years. Eighty percent of the women had graduated from college and held a technical or engineering degree. They were generally better educated than the male entrepreneurs. Most of them had similar or more extensive backgrounds in business than the male sample (if any such background was present); 60 percent of the female sample had some business experience. The women regarded work in the private sector in the 1980s as providing the best training for restructuring large state enterprises, as well as for creating and running new start-up firms.

Most of the entrepreneurs' businesses had been established before the implementation of the Balcerowicz Plan in January 1990, rather than in response to that plan. …

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