When it comes to business, only the aggressive, risk-taking alpha male can expect to succeed. The statement might sound sexist but according to a new research, it represents a commonly held gender stereotype, which influences whether or not men and women decide to pursue entrepreneurship as a viable career option.
According to a University of Missouri researcher, perception may limit both men and women in the decision to become entrepreneurs.
"Perception may limit both men and women in the decision to become entrepreneurs," said Daniel Turban, professor and chair of the Department of Management in the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business.
"One sex is not inherently more qualified than the other; unfortunately, the underlying societal stereotypes associating entrepreneurship with masculine characteristics may influence people's intentions to pursue entrepreneurial careers.
An interesting result of our study is that both men and women reported similar intentions when entrepreneurship was presented as gender neutral. This suggests that common gender stereotypes can be nullified," Turban added.
Although entrepreneurship is a masculine-stereotyped domain, Turban said many of the characteristics believed to be important to entrepreneurial success also are traditionally feminine.
For example, caring and nurturing, building relationships with others, and humility are typically attributed to females, but also characterize good entrepreneurship.
In the research, the team asked undergraduate business students to read mock news articles about entrepreneurship, answer a comprehensive question, and complete a scale about entrepreneurial intentions.
In the control article, there was no mention of gender or gender differences in entrepreneurship. In other articles, the masculine and feminine stereotypes were subtly presented or directly emphasized.
"When the masculine stereotype of entrepreneurship was subtly presented, men had higher entrepreneurial intentions than women, and both men and women were similar to the control group. Those results suggest that entrepreneurship is typically stereotyped as a masculine career option," Turban said.
"However, when masculine characteristics were strongly linked with entrepreneurship, a condition people might expect to favor men, we found that women had higher entrepreneurial intention scores while men had lower," Turban added.
Turban said one reason for the persistence of gender differences in male-type careers, like entrepreneurship, may be that common masculine stereotypes associated with this role are not openly discussed in society. Men and women are subconsciously influenced by widely held stereotypes. Turban said that if the goal is to attract more women to entrepreneurship, it may be more desirable to describe entrepreneurship as gender neutral.
The study, "The Effect of Gender Stereotype Activation on Entrepreneurial Intentions," will be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.