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Role Orientation and Women Entrepreneurial Aspirations

Role orientation and women entrepreneurial aspirations are topical issues which researchers sought to identify some underlying factors that motivated or encouraged individuals to engage in entrepreneurial activity. Some of these factors had direct link to individual differences in family background, education, age, sex, or personal attributes (Krueger and Brazeal, 1994; De Martino and Barboto, 2003 Sequeira et al., 2005, Zhao et al., 2005).

Shane et al. (1991) and Mueller et al. (2002) have also maintained that factors such as the general economic environment, culture, or availability of resources to start a business could motivate individual to engage in business or an enterprise. Major initiatives have been under taken globally to measure and assess the extent, type and health of entrepreneurship. In one of the most Significant annual studies carried out in 1999, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), noted that there were wide levels of variation in entrepreneurial activities worldwide. While the average percentage of the world’s population engaged in entrepreneurial activity was about a percent for the period between 2001-2003, the range of activity in the forty countries analysed spanned from 2 percent to 29 percent. The cause or causes of such variations has generated an ongoing contentious argument with regard to the role of divergent cultures, education and environment. The question that deserves our attention is: how does culture, education and environment impact on entrepreneurial orientation?

With regard to culture, Morris and Schindeutte (2005) agreed that “… culture matters, but it is less a precedent to entrepreneurship and is instead a complex and dynamically interacting factors”. In addition, the impact of culture environmental factors, education and other entrepreneurial training are perceived to influence entrepreneurial activity.

There is the notion that not all individuals are interested in entrepreneurial activity. Recent studies have tried to explain why some individuals were more likely than others to become entrepreneurs. An unsettled question among researchers was whether Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy (ESE) differs between men and women. While early studies seemed to have Suggested that men have higher ESE than women, more recent studies are inconclusive in their findings. However, in this article we shall endeavour to look for other factors to explain Variations in entrepreneurial self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is a psychological state generally defined as possessing self-confidence in performing a specific task. Self-efficacy explains why some individuals are motivated to become entrepreneurs and others are not. Boyd and Vozikis (1994) theorised that self-efficacy in performing task associated with creating a business was instrumental in Motivating an individual to engage in such activities.

Another important aspect of research is that which investigated the opportunities and Challenges that women faced in desiring to be entrepreneurs. Buttner and Moore, (1997), admitted that although women have made great strides in recent years, towards bridging the “entrepreneurial gap, the fact still remained that women were under-represented among business owners because they lacked the same motivations as men when considering entrepreneurship as a career choice.

Studies undertaken by Bonnett and Furnham, (1991) and Mueller (2004) suggested that men were more likely than women to undertake an entrepreneurial venture. Differences between the sexes may be attributed to men having higher levels of confidence in their ability to perform entrepreneurial tasks such as developing a unique and visible idea for a business, raising initial capital and engaging employees. It was argued that the fundamental reason for the identified gap between men and women was that girls were socialised differently than boys which resulted to difference in carrier aspirations including the desire to be an entrepreneur (Scherer et al., 1990, Mueller 2004).

To address the above contentious issues, we need to firstly address the differences between men and women with respect to sex role specialisation and its effect on career preferences. Secondly, we shall discuss the development of gender role orientation and attempt to establish how sex roles can ascertain the measurement of femininity, masculinity and androgyny. Thirdly, we shall identify factors that accounted for differences between men and women in career self-efficacy generally and entrepreneurial self-efficacy specifically. All these are discussed under the sub-headings below:

1. Socialisation of Women and Stereotype Sex Roles

Historically, men and women assumed different roles in the society. Traditionally there were jobs that have been considered more appropriate for men and others more appropriate for women (Williams and Best, 1982). These widely – held beliefs in the appropriateness of these conventional sex roles are called male and female gender stereotypes. Here, there are assumed patterned-difference in the psychological characteristics of males and females. For example, women are believed to be more emotional and nurturing than men, while men are believed to be more aggressive and independent than women. Williams and Best (1982) and Williams et al., (1999) asserted that when these gender stereotypes are accepted as true, definitely they would influence the assignment of men and women to different occupational roles.

Further research on sex role stereotypes suggested that traits ascribed to men constituted behaviours interpreted as reflecting competence and the ability to “get things done”.
These traits include:
– Independence
– Active
– Objective
– Confident
– Ambitious
– Assertive and
– Logical

Traits traditionally ascribed to women include:
– Gentle
– Emotional
– Interpersonally sensitive and Tactful

These traits are interpreted as reflecting warmth and expressiveness.

– Occupations associated with higher levels of rationality and assertiveness are viewed as masculine occupations.
– Occupations that are associated with dependency, passivity, nurturing and interpersonal warmth are perceived as feminine occupations (Sinar, 1985).

Examples of occupation perceived as “Masculine” include; law enforcement, engineering and architecture. Occupation perceived as “feminine” include; nursing, elementary school and flight attendance. Occupations perceived as “neutral” Include; school principal, psychologist, pharmacist and veterinary (Sinar, 1975; Couch and Sigler. 1988).

Research has found that men and women differ in their motives and preferences with regard to certain profession or occupation and self-employment. In the aspect of self-employment most men and women share the desire for independence. However, they tend to differ significantly in their priorities. Generally women are more focused on striking a balance between work and family, while men are motivated to gain wealth through business ownership (Buttner and Moore, 1997, Demartino and Barbato, 2003).

2. Gender-Role Orientation

Williams and Best (1982) defined gender (or sex) role orientation as a personal trait that was conditioned by a traditional social system in which men were expected to behave and think as men (masculine) and women were expected to think and behave as women (feminine).

3. Androgyny

A balance between sex role stereotypes. The term androgyny applies to individuals possessing both stereotypical masculine and feminine traits as outlined under the sub-topic: socialisation of women and stereotype sex roles above. Androgyny provides certain advantages, in that androgynous people have the ability to effectively utilise behaviour that is both expressive and assertive (Jonsson and Carlson, 2000).

Benefits of androgyny include:
– High self-esteem;
– Achievement motivation;
– Feeling of well-being; and
– More adaptive or flexible behaviour.

It is worthy to note that this last set of qualities, adaptability and flexibility are essential to success at performing many entrepreneurial tasks. When trying to establish a new business, an entrepreneur may face many challenges. Initial plans may change, potential investors and business partners may quit, interest rates may rise. In all these circumstances, an entrepreneur must be adaptive, flexible and resilient. Some situations call for masculine qualities such as assertiveness (e.g. when an outside investor is demanding too large a share of the company). On the other hand, some situations require feminine qualities such as caring and patience (e.g. when a business partner needs time away from business to deal with some pressing family problems).

4. Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy has been defined as ‘‘…belief in one’s capabilities to mobilise the Motivation, Cognitive resources and courses of action needed to meet given situational demands…” (Wood and Bandura, 1989). According to Gist and Mitchell (1992), self-efficacy is based upon experience and anticipation of future obstacles. Self-efficacy affects ones belief, Whether or not specific goals are attainable. Boyd and Vozikis (1994) contended that if an individual self-efficacy is low, such individual will not act even if there is a perceived social approval for that behaviour.

Entrepreneurial self-efficacy can be useful in measuring the strength of individual’s belief that he or she is capable of successfully performing the task of an entrepreneur.

From the above definition, we have ascertained;
– what entrepreneurial self-efficacy is,
– what is career self-efficacy?
But, is there any difference between them?

Career self-efficacy deals with individual’s self-confidence to undertake a particular career. It has to do with career development and career choices of both men and women (Lent and Hackett, 1987). The extension of self-efficacy theory to the career domain could explain how personal self-efficacy expectation might be developed differently in women and men. Career self-efficacy differences are based on differential gender-role socialisation.

Hacket and Betz (1981) contended that socialisation based differences between men and women in self-efficacy for traditionally male and female careers is a primary factor for explaining women’s under-representation in many male dominated careers. Having examined gender differences in self-efficacy with regard to job duties of 10 traditionally male and 10 traditionally female occupations, it was discovered that men’s self-efficacy was equal across traditionally female occupations, but women’s self-efficacy was significantly higher for traditionally female occupation and significantly lower for male-dominated occupations. (Holland; 1985 and Hackett and Betz, 1981).

From the foregoing, we have explained the differences between entrepreneurial self-efficacy and career self-efficacy. The factors that accounted for these differences and which led to their development are gender role socialization, and a number of external and internal factors such as economic circumstances, personality and values.

In conclusion, we found that sex per se does not affect self-efficacy, but on the other hand, gender – role orientation clearly does. While the entrepreneur generally operates in 2 demanding “enterprising” task environment, not all tasks are “masculine” in nature. However, some tasks require “feminine” qualities. Moreover, demands on entrepreneur change over time. Early in the business venture, the searching and planning tasks could demand some kind of creativity and innovation where a combination of masculine and feminine traits (androgyny) are needed to improve performance. Somewhere along the process, an individual (male or female) with a strong masculine orientation could be better suited for undertaking entrepreneurial tasks associated with persuading and leading others.