Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Female Business Owners in Singapore and Elsewhere: A Review of Studies

Academic journal article Journal of Small Business Management

Female Business Owners in Singapore and Elsewhere: A Review of Studies

Article excerpt

Singapore is well established as an international business center with its large number of multi-national companies (MNCs), considerable international trading, and famous international port. Although it has been thriving for some decades, its continued growth may be largely dependent on how creative its small business owners can be. Women contribute substantially to the development of small businesses, especially those in the service sector - an important and growing part of the Singapore's economy.

In this article we review the literature to assess what motivates women in general, and Singaporean women in particular, to set up their ventures. Various factors contributing to the success of female business owners in Singapore and elsewhere and the problems they may face are also surveyed. We further examine the business and personal profile of Singaporean female business owners and compare such characteristics to those of small business owner/managers globally from America and Canada to the UK and Australia.

Personal Profile

Table 1 summarizes demographic information on female business owners from several academic studies. Lee-Gosselin and Grise (1990) observed Canadian women business owners to be between 31 and 45 years old and married with an average of 2.4 children, and Burdette (1990) described US female owner/managers as mostly under 51 and married with few children. Deng, Hassan, and Jivan's (1995) Asian study noted the majority of women business owners in the region to be in their 30s and early 40s. Similarly, Singaporean female entrepreneurs have an average age of 41, are mostly married, and have an average of two children (Teo 1996).

Female business owners are generally well educated, with the majority having at least a secondary education. In Australia, for example, slightly more than 25 percent of those female business owners interviewed by Breen, Calvert, and Oliver (1995) held a university degree, while another 18.2 percent also held a higher degree. Only a minority of 15.3 percent had not completed secondary school. In comparison, Teo (1996) found most of the female Singaporean business owners to have at least 10 years schooling, while 35 percent held first or postgraduate degrees, 15 percent had professional or polytechnic qualifications and 50 percent had completed secondary-level education.

Results from both Collerette and Aubury (1991) and Teo (1996) indicated that prior to setting up their ventures, the majority of female business owners, Canadian or Singaporean alike, had previous work experience. Breen, Calvert, and Oliver (1995) found that Australian female business owners were similarly experienced. The type of experience women possess prior to setting up their new venture, however, is not always homogeneous across countries: while Burdette (1990) observed that the work experience for most American female owner/managers was in a business similar to their current one, in Australia two-thirds of the women surveyed had previous managerial experience in a different industry than their current business, though more than a quarter of the female business owners had experience in the same industry as their current business.

[TABULAR DATA FOR TABLE 1 OMITTED]

Business Profile

Although the business types for female-owned businesses are broadly distributed, the majority of female business owners in Singapore seem to be in the service and retail industries (Teo 1996). This may be the result of the high start-up costs involved in the manufacturing and construction sectors, as well as prospective female business owners' lack of prior experience and technological skills in such sectors. Consequently, female-owned businesses in Singapore usually started as small service and retail ventures with few employees and grew to became progressively more established-the majority of Singapore female-owned businesses have been in operation for an average of nine years (Teo 1996). …

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