Rachel Garrett recently completed the MSc in Management at Imperial College Business School, England, where her dissertation focused on female entrepreneurship.
Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Rachel moved to London just under two years ago to work and attend graduate school.
Since graduating with a BA in Advertising from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, Rachel has worked at a school for special needs children and an advertising agency.
With most of her work experience in marketing, Rachel hopes to begin her career in the travel/hospitality industry and eventually start her own business.
Having come across her field of study through a friend, I asked Rachel if she could somehow condense 8,000 academic words from her dissertation into an article for WomanzWorld, so that we could all be enlightened!
She achieved all this and more in this fascinating summary below. Enjoy.
By Rachel Garrett
How far have we come?
Entrepreneurship research experienced a huge shift from the trait-based approach to the contextual, behavior approach in the late 1980′s. In the wake of this shift, research on female entrepreneurs nearly came to a halt for over a decade!
Needless to say, I was very interested to see how far female entrepreneurs had come since the 80′s. The underlying position of my dissertation stemmed from the reported pressure business women felt to act in a more masculine way.
I investigated the idea that as inequality between gender levels and the ‘glass ceiling’ ceases to exist, women’s advantages become more valuable.
The end result of my dissertation incorporated social capital, entrepreneurial behavior and their corresponding relationships with emotional intelligence (EQ). More importantly, I analyzed females’ disposition according to these concepts and relationships, highlighting some very interesting and inspirational conclusions.
Although it is understood and acknowledged that there are differences between genders, it is important to clarify that this is not about gender-related discrimination, but rather an evaluation of how these gender differences can be used to the female’s advantage in an entrepreneurial setting.
Emotional Intelligence as a competitive advantage
Simon Baron-Cohen’s extensive work in autism has demonstrated that men tend to think in a more systemizing manner, while women are more empathizing. As empathy is a fundamental aspect of EQ, supporting research illustrates that women are more apt to developing EQ.
Qualities encompassed with EQ create effective leaders, build strong interpersonal skills (necessary for networking), increase resilience to stress, contribute to confidence and overall success, and have other positive associations from which women can benefit.
For example, these qualities may have been the underlying factor for women’s entrance and success as entrepreneurs into the service industry (early research shows the highest number of female entrepreneurs in this sector) and possibly a predictor of their success henceforth.
EQ’s advantageous relationship with social capital and entrepreneurial behavior
The advantages continue as women can use their EQ to build relationships, which is imperative in networking and creating social capital (the goodwill or benefits that come from social networks).
This, in turn, not only allows women access to vital resources, but aids them in overcoming any barriers (i.e. need for capital) and increases their chance of identifying entrepreneurial opportunities through social sources.
Women’s behavior in owning or managing a business are reflective of entrepreneurial behavior (motivation and willingness to exploit opportunities) in that team-building and participative management practices are common and social support is demonstrated.
Since women have more adept interpersonal skills, it’s not surprising that they strategically use their social networks to build support for their idea and spend more time than men in doing so.
Women use networking not only as a critical tool, but also as a development strategy for their business; thus, they should spend more time in exercising this ability. Additionally, many of the EQ abilities are related to entrepreneur behaviour; so, as EQ is an advantage for women, they are more likely to act in an entrepreneurial manner, given a suitable context.
Therefore, emotional intelligence, social capital, and entrepreneurial behaviour essentially merge to provide an advantage for women entrepreneurs.
Research revealed that women entrepreneurs are less likely to have full support of a marriage partner (cited by men as an important factor in entrepreneurial success) and are the household care-giver, limiting the time and energy they have for their business.
Women entrepreneurs tend to be younger than males and younger entrepreneurs perceive less risk in starting a venture. This is important for the future of female entrepreneurship, because, as the profile of female entrepreneurs is changing, younger generations are adapting and advancing the expectations.
These younger generations no longer struggle for gender equality because it is already given to them. Therefore, they can focus on enhancing their abilities and utilizing their natural talents to help them achieve their goals and perpetuate the progression of female entrepreneurship.
Many of these claims are deducted from the weaving together of academic research and prompt many questions for further research*:
- Does a female’s ability to build relationships allow them to spot opportunities more easily?
- Does their empathizing nature cause them to be risk averse or tolerant of ambiguity?
- To what extent can social capital help one to overcome start-up barriers?
These questions along with many others would further the academic literature; however, the bottom-line for female entrepreneurs is that, effectively, women succeed by being female, not by acting in a more masculine way. So, believe in yourself and make the most of what you have!
Big thanks to Rachel for this insight. I’m sure she’d love to hear your comments below. Also check out our recent blog articles on `Why persistence pays off’ and `5 facts about Entrepreneurs that will surprise you’.