Entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions: assessing gender specific differences

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  • 452 Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 15, No. 4, 2012

    Copyright 2012 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.

    Entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions: assessing gender specific differences

    Andreas Strobl* Department of Strategic Management, Marketing and Tourism, University of Innsbruck, Universittsstrasse 15, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria E-mail: andreas.strobl@uibk.ac.at *Corresponding author

    Christopher Kronenberg Department of Strategy, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, Kingston University, Kingston Hill, Kingston Upon Thames Surrey, KT2 7LB, UK E-mail: c.kronenberg@kingston.ac.uk

    Mike Peters Department of Tourism Business Studies, MCI Management Center Innsbruck, Weiherburggasse 8, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria E-mail: Mike.Peters@mci.edu

    Abstract: The attitude towards entrepreneurship can strongly influence the probability of individuals to become self-employed. The mindset or attitudes of an individual to move into self-employment make up the foundation for future entrepreneurial activities. Former studies indicate differences between male and female perceptions or intentions to become entrepreneurs. This paper attempts to assess womens entrepreneurial intentions of as well as their attitudes towards being independent and comparing them to the mail counterparts. A survey among university students was carried out revealing that male students show more positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship and much more concrete entrepreneurial intentions.

    Keywords: entrepreneurship attitude; entrepreneurial intentions; gender differences; quantitative study.

    Reference to this paper should be made as follows: Strobl, A., Kronenberg, C. and Peters, M. (2012) Entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions: assessing gender specific differences, Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 15, No. 4, pp.452468.

  • Entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions 453

    Biographical notes: Andreas Strobl is a Researcher at the Department of Strategic Management, Marketing and Tourism Management at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. Since 2008, he investigates entrepreneurs accessing resources in the course of his doctoral degree. Furthermore, he is part of the transnational project ClimAlpTour studying the impact of climate change on alpine tourism destinations. Further research interests are problems associated to entrepreneurship and tourism.

    Christopher Kronenberg is a Lecturer of Strategy at the Department of Strategy, Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Kingston University, England. He teaches strategic management, entrepreneurship and contemporary issues in business at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. His research interests are related to small and medium-sised enterprises, focusing on growth and development as well as strategic management implementation and entrepreneurial tasks in small businesses.

    Mike Peters is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Tourism Business Studies, MCI Management Center Innsbruck and an Associate Professor at the Department of Strategic Management, Marketing and Tourism Management, University of Innsbruck, Austria. He started his career with an apprenticeship in the restaurant industry and received his Doctoral degree in 2001 for his study on the internationalisation behaviour of small and medium-sized tourism businesses. Since then, his research interests focus on the processes of entrepreneurship and associated problems, such as succession planning, product development and innovation.

    1 Introduction

    A number of scientific contributions in social sciences attempted to model and analyse intentions positively influencing the likelihood of becoming a start-up entrepreneur: e.g., Shapero (1984) identified desirability, defined as the desire to establish a new venture, as a major trigger of entrepreneurial intentions. Additionally, the perceived feasibility of the new venture and the individuals propensity to act influence intentions to become an entrepreneur (Shapero, 1984). Furthermore, perceived alternatives play an important role (e.g., the reliability and attractiveness of possible offers on the job market), past experiences with own or others entrepreneurial activities, but also self-efficacy, an individuals perceived capability managing certain activities, certainly have a severe impact on entrepreneurial intentions (Ajzen, 1991; Audet, 2004; Shapero and Sokol, 1982; Shapero, 1984). In this context there is a lack of investigating these constructs regarding female entrepreneurship. Female entrepreneurship investigation is a relatively young field of academic research. While research in English-speaking areas started quite early dealing with female entrepreneurship scientifically (e.g., see Cuba et al., 1983; Bowen and Hisrich, 1986; Birley, 1989), in German-speaking areas there was hardly any expressive information and empirically secured knowledge available about the process of business foundation and the introduction and transformation of resources into successful potentials during enterprise foundations by women until the end of the 1980s (KMU Forschung Austria, 2005).

    The importance of female self-employment is on the rise across many countries, however, only little research is available regarding female specific start-up and

  • 454 A. Strobl et al.

    entrepreneurship research (Langowitz and Miniti, 2007; Baughn et al., 2006). Wanzenbck (1998) generated valuable knowledge by investigating enterprise development in Austria, also evaluating the results partially gender-specifically. Frank et al. (1999) analysed demanding and restraining factors in the foundation process and developments in Austrian foundations. However, within the scope of this study a gender-specific investigation was carried out in a very limited way. The study of Korunka et al. (2003) analysed the effect of type-forming signs like age, gender and professional status on business foundation.

    This study attempts to assess gender specific differences amongst university students. In a first step a literature review derives a number of factors influencing self-employment decisions to develop a model illustrating the main causal relationships between personnel and environmental factors and the perceived image of entrepreneurship. The survey at hand aims at discussing gender specific differences regarding attitudes toward entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial intentions. The paper concludes with future research paths, as well as policy implications.

    2 Literature review

    The decision to become self-employed can be seen as a career decision influenced by socialisation, learning experience and the educational system and made following a value-maximising point of view (Hrtel, 1995; Holling et al., 2000; Welte, 1999).

    Individual interests, characteristics and capabilities, knowledge and experience, job market and employment odds, flexibility and mobility, family, friends and acquaintances, school and university influence, career guidance, the media, personal aims, social values, perceived support and threats are potential factors influencing decisions concerning the choice of employment (Audet, 2004; Hrtel, 1995; Kolvereid, 1996; Korunka, et al., 2003; Peterman and Kennedy, 2003; Ussman, 1998; Welte, 1999). The image of a profession can be drawn from the configuration of the above-mentioned factors. These factors influence attitudes and intentions towards entrepreneurial ventures. Furthermore, the propensity towards risk, environmental influences, innovativeness and similar factors are of importance for entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions (Ajzen, 1991; Autio et al., 2001; Krueger, 2000; Lthje and Franke, 2003; Shapero 1984; Shapero and Sokol, 1982; Tietz, 1995).

    According to Shapero (1984) desirability, feasibility and the propensity to act constitute for intentions towards entrepreneurship. Furthermore, it is a question of possible alternatives and their credibility, as well as of previous experiences concerning entrepreneurship (working experiences, familiar successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs).

    The perceived ability to accomplish a conscious action is termed self-efficacy by Shapero (1984). Self-efficacy influences the perceived feasibility and for its part is determined by experiences and social influences (Shapero, 1984; Shapero and Sokol, 1982).

    Action, requiring a certain degree of planning, is determined by the intentions to accomplish this action (Ajzen, 1991). Ajzen (1991) identifies the attitude towards behaviour, the subjective norm (social and environmental influences) and the perceived behavioural control as the main factors determining intentions. In this respect, it is all about the aptitude of personal characteristics and abilities concerning an action.

  • Entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions 455

    3 Model development

    The attitudes and intentions towards entrepreneurship of the students encompass two groups of variables: personal background variables and environmental variables. The relationship between attitudes and intentions is seen as reciprocal. In this respect, the attitudes towards entrepreneurship influence the entrepreneurial intentions as well as vice versa (Peters et al., 2006; Achtenhagen and Welter, 2003).

    This relationship between entrepreneurial intentions and attitudes will be denoted as the image of entrepreneurship and can be seen as an attitude including a sort of agency (entrepreneurial intention) (Allport, 1967; Antonoff, 1975; Boulding, 1968; Peters et al., 2006). The proposed model of this piece of research measures the variables attitude towards entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial intention, whereas the image of entrepreneurship is obtained merely by an interpretation of these two variables. In this sense a positive image of entrepreneurship is achieved when the respondent is prepared to cease an entrepreneurial opportunity, which in general is perceived as feasible and desirable. Entrepreneurial intention is a variable proposing activity, so the individual has to search for such entrepreneurial opportunities proactively.

    It is differentiated between general and specific attitudes, whereas the latter refer directly to entrepreneurship. In this respect, the variable attitude towards entrepreneurship is constructed out of a set of questions covering the general as well as the specific attitudes. The variables influencing the attitude towards entrepreneurship also contain general and specific aspects. In this respect, innovativeness, propensity towards risk, knowledge and curiosity, attitude towards work, desire for independence, planning and organising capabilities, perceived environmental influences, perceived aids and perceived impediments also consist out of a set of questions. This approach enables the authors to measure these figures in a holistic way capturing all aspects (Davidsson, 1995). By summing up the values of the single questions (reaching from 5 for I agree absolutely to 1 for I disagree absolutely) regarding one variable and dividing these values by the number of the questions asked key figures were derived. The answering scale was chosen so that high values (leaning towards 5) for the key figures are positive concerning entrepreneurship, while low values (leaning towards 1) are negative.

    3.1 Personal background, characteristics and abilities

    3.1.1 General facts

    Faculty and study: Autio et al. (2001) as well as Lthje and Franke (2003) analysed the attitude towards self-employment at universities with a focus on management and technical studies. The present study focuses on all faculties as it would be desirable that entrepreneurs come from all disciplines. For this reason, the correlation of the faculty affiliation with attitudes and the willingness to becoming an entrepreneur was evaluated.

    Age, number of semesters studied: It is assumed that there is a connection between the career decision and study progress (number of semesters) as well as the age of students (Davidsson, 1995). Attitudes and career concepts as well as aims become more and more concrete with progress in life. Therefore, the influence of the variables progress in life and higher education upon the attitude

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    towards entrepreneurship were investigated. Furthermore, it is unclear, if the pre-university education has an influence on the decision of starting an entrepreneurial venture.

    Work experience: Many students do company internships during holidays. This work experience could change peoples attitude towards their professional career (Davidsson, 1995). Peterman and Kennedy (2003) evaluated the influence of positive and negative work experiences and the willingness to become independent. Positive experiences raise the students willingness, negative experiences decrease the willingness to become independent. A study of Drnovsek and Glas (2002) showed similar results. Eiser and van der Pligt (1988) argued that the environment and past experiences influence the career decision.

    3.1.2 Characteristics and abilities

    Innovativeness: Innovation and creativity are often mentioned as the most important source for entrepreneurship. Several studies (Robinson et al., 1991; Ussman, 1998) see these two variables as personal characteristics for successful entrepreneurship.

    Propensity towards risks: The foundation of an enterprise is strongly connected with financial and emotional risk. Low and MacMillan (1998, p.142) mention The list of potential pitfalls associated with starting a new venture appears to be limitless. The willingness to take risks is therefore an essential characteristic of entrepreneurs (Lthje and Franke, 2003; Korunka et al., 2003; Uusitalo, 2001).

    Knowledge and curiosity: According to Drucker (1985) entrepreneurship is risky because of the lack of entrepreneurial knowledge. Knowledge and know-how are possibilities to reduce economic risks, especially the start-up phase often implicates barriers a business plan could be one possible tool to organise this first stage in the life cycle of an enterprise.

    Attitude towards work: Being independent is connected with a high amount of work rather than being employed. Uusitalo (2001) figured out that the average amount of working hours of a self-employed person is 47.8 hours per week compared to 37.7 hours of employees. Therefore, influence of the individuals attitude towards work was investigated.

    Desire for independence: Entrepreneurs are interested in working independently and being in control of their work. Several authors and studies mention this pursuit of independency as one of the major sources for getting self-employed and starting a business (Shaver et al., 2001; Korunka et al., 2003; Lthje and Franke, 2003).

    Planning and organising capabilities: The foundation of a business includes several activities, starting with financing the start-up, analysing market opportunities, but also more bureaucratic administration activities have to...


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