The Role of Gender and Culture

etap_509 465..493
Perceptions and
Intentions: The Role of
Gender and Culture
Rachel S. Shinnar
Olivier Giacomin
Frank Janssen
This paper examines how culture and gender shape entrepreneurial perceptions and intentions within Hofstedes cultural dimensions framework and gender role theory. We test
whether gender differences exist in the way university students in three nations perceive
barriers to entrepreneurship and whether gender has a moderating effect on the relationship
between perceived barriers and entrepreneurial intentions across nations. Findings indicate
significant gender differences in barrier perceptions. However, this gap is not consistent
across cultures. Also, a moderating effect of gender on the relationship between barriers and
entrepreneurial intentions is identified. Implications for research and practice are discussed.
It is generally accepted than men have stronger entrepreneurial intentions than women
(de Bruin, Brush, & Welter, 2007; Daz-Garca & Jimnez-Moreno, 2010; Gupta, Turban,
Wasti, & Sidkar, 2009). Empirical evidence also indicates that, in spite of growth in
female entrepreneurship, there are still almost twice as many male entrepreneurs (Bosma
& Levie, 2009). Research also suggests that cultural context can shape entrepreneurial
attitudes and intentions. For example, Wilson, Marlino, and Kickul (2004) have identified
significant differences between American boys and girls of different ethnic groups in their
interest in entrepreneurship. Also, Mitchell et al. (2002) identified significant crosscultural differences in willingness and ability cognitions among entrepreneurs from
several G7 and Pacific Rim nations. Indeed, Thornton, Ribeiro-Soriano, and Urbano
(2011) state that implicit norms, social mores, and cultural factors… influence the
individual career choice to be an entrepreneur and create a new business (p. 106).
However, few studies have examined differences across genders from a cross-cultural
perspective (Verheul, Van stel, & Thurik, 2006). A better understanding of how cultures
shape entrepreneurial intentions can serve to explain the gender gap in entrepreneurship
Please send correspondence to: Rachel S. Shinnar, tel.: 828-262-7314; e-mail: [email protected], to
Olivier Giacomin at olivier.giacom[email protected], and to Frank Janssen at [email protected].
2012 Baylor University
May, 2012 465
DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2012.00509.x
and possibly identify strategies to reduce it. Indeed, several researchers call for an
examination of gender and entrepreneurial intentions across different nations and cultures
(de Bruin et al.; Krueger, 2007; Lian & Chen, 2009; Wilson, Kickul, Marlino, Barbosa,
& Griffiths, 2009).
In this paper, we examine how culture and gender shape individual perceptions of
barriers to entrepreneurship and intentions to become an entrepreneur, within the framework of Hofstedes (1998) cultural dimensions and of gender role theory (Heilman, 1983).
We test whether male and female university students differ in the importance they give to
three types of barriers to entrepreneurship (lack of support, fear of failure, and lack of
competency), which were previously identified as significantly more important for female
entrepreneurs by Heilman and Chen (2003), Langowitz and Minniti (2007), and Thbaud
(2010). We also test the degree to which perceived barriers shape students intentions to
pursue an entrepreneurial career within and across cultures. By doing so, our study serves
to address a gap in current knowledge regarding the way in which cultural differences and
socio-cultural factors shape entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions across genders.
Indeed, Lian and Chen (2009) suggest that cross-cultural studies are needed for the
effect of different cultures and values on the entrepreneurial intention to be better understood (pp. 593594).
Our sample consists of 761 university students from three nations: China, the United
States, and Belgium. We focused on these three nations because they have been identified
in cross-cultural studies (Gupta, Hanges, & Dorfman, 2002; Hofstede, 1980) as being part
of three distinct cultural clusters: the Confucian-Asian cluster, the Anglo cluster, and the
European cluster. These clusters differ in terms of their rankings on Hofstedes four
dimensions of individualism (IDV), uncertainty avoidance (UA), power distance (PD),
and masculinity (MAS). The three nations differ mostly on the IDV, UA, and PD dimensions, which have been associated with entrepreneurship within nations. Indeed, entrepreneurial activity has been positively linked to individualistic cultures (Gupta et al.,
2010; Hofstede), ranking low on UA (Shane, 1993) and high on PD (Busenitz & Lau,
1996; Mitchell, Smith, Seawright, & Morse, 2000).
Our reliance on a student sample is suitable for examining entrepreneurial intentions
as Krueger, Reilly, and Carsrud (2000) state: Students fac[e] an immediate career choice
[and]… starting a business may be a realistic option (p. 425) for them. Similarly,
Hmieleski and Corbett (2006) advocate the importance of studying the intentions of
students, who, through university… programs and the increased infusion of entrepreneurship across educational curriculums, experience increasingly lower barriers to starting their own businesses (p. 59).
Theory and Hypotheses
Culture and Entrepreneurship
National culture consists of the underlying value systems that are specific to a group
or society and motivate individuals to behave in certain ways (Hofstede, 1998), such as
starting a business. Hofstedes seminal cross-cultural comparison differentiates among
cultures on four dimensions: IDV, UA, PD, and MAS. Busenitz and Lau (1996) suggest
that individualistic, masculine cultures ranking high on PD and low on UA would create
favorable environments for entrepreneurship and potentially lead to a higher proportion of
self-employment. In the following, we discuss each dimension, define it, and explain how
it relates to entrepreneurship.
PD refers to the degree to which individuals accept and expect that power in organizations and institutions will be unequally distributed (pluralist vs. elitist). High PD
cultures exhibit an unequal distribution of power, strong hierarchies, control mechanisms,
and an emphasis on deferring to and obeying those in positions of power (Hofstede, 1980).
Busenitz and Lau (1996) argue that high PD promotes entrepreneurial activity. Similarly,
Mitchell et al. (2000) found that PD exerts an influence on arrangement, ability, and
willingness cognitions which in turn affect the decision to start up.
IDV, as opposed to collectivism, refers to the degree to which individuals consider
themselves autonomous, different from others, and independent from social groups. In
individualistic societies, people value freedom, autonomy, and individual interests.
In collectivist societies, on the other hand, individuals consider themselves to be more
interdependent, less differentiated from others, committed to pursuing group rather than
individual goals, and integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups. The focus on materialistic
achievement and wealth common in individualistic cultures makes these more supportive
of entrepreneurial activity (Gupta et al., 2010). Indeed, Hofstede (1980) argues that
collectivist cultures, which emphasize group conformity, are generally less likely to
exhibit high rates of entrepreneurship.
UA refers to a societys tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. In cultures ranking
high on UA, members are likely to feel uncomfortable in unstructured (i.e., novel,
unknown, surprising) situations. In such cultures, individuals try to minimize uncertainty
through strict laws and rules, formal structures, as well as safety and security measures.
Given the inherent uncertainty associated with an entrepreneurial career, it may be
socially discouraged in high UA cultures. Indeed, Shane (1993) found a negative relationship between UA and innovation and Kreiser, Marino, Dickson, and Weaver (2010)
found a negative relationship between UA and risk taking.
Finally, a culture ranking high on MAS is one in which traditional male values like
earnings, recognition, advancement, and challenge play an important role (Hofstede &
Hofstede, 2005). A masculine society expects men to be assertive, tough, and focused
on material success; women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with
the quality of life (Hofstede, 1998, p. 6). In high MAS cultures, gender roles are more
differentiated showing a gap between mens-values and womens-values (Hofstede &
McCrae, 2004, p. 64). In general, qualities considered essential for business tend to be
viewed as masculine (Heilman, 2001). This includes entrepreneurship, which is perceived
to require traits such as independence, aggressiveness, autonomy, and courage, frequently
associated with men (Gupta et al., 2009).
The three nations in our study vary in their rankings on Hofstedes (1998) four
dimensions (see Table 1). Based on these rankings and on the previously mentioned
studies linking culture and entrepreneurship, we would expect China1 (lowest UA, highest
PD and MAS) to offer the most supportive environment for entrepreneurial activity
followed by the United States (highest IDV, low UA, and high MAS). We would expect
Belgium (high IDV, high PD, moderate/high MAS) to offer the least supportive environment for entrepreneurship among the three nations.
Because culture shapes individual behavior, we would expect Chinese students to be
most likely to intend to pursue an entrepreneurial career followed by American and lastly
Belgian students. However, ignoring gender differences in the way culture shapes entrepreneurial intentions may be too simplistic. Indeed, in their cross-cultural comparison of
1. In this paper we compare the United States and Belgium against China and will therefore list China first
in our discussion and presentation of results.
May, 2012 467
students entrepreneurial perceptions and intentions, Lian, Roomi, and Santos (2010)
found that female students entrepreneurial intentions and perceptions were more affected
by the cultural context in which they live than those of men. Namely, when mens attitudes
were compared across cultures (UK and Spain), no significant differences were found, but
women differed significantly, even when other variables such as income were controlled
for, indicating the role of culture in shaping attitudes and intentions for aspiring female
We expect gender differences in entrepreneurial perceptions and intentions to be
influenced most significantly by PD and MAS. We therefore focus on these two dimensions in our discussion and exclude the other two because, as Hofstede, Hofstede, and
Minkov (2010) indicate, no gender differences between men and women from the same
country were identified on these dimensions. First, women and men in the same countries . . . showed exactly the same stress levels and rule orientation (p. 199), which is how
Hofstede et al. assessed the UA dimension. Second, there are no systematic differences
in individualism between women and men (Hofstede, 2001, p. 218). We discuss the
impact of PD and MAS on womens entrepreneurial perceptions and intentions in the
following sections.
Gender and Barriers to Entrepreneurship
Cultural values can also act to shape societal gender roles and stereotypes in terms of
the occupations considered appropriate for men or women. Gender role stereotypes lead
to gender typing of jobs as predominantly feminine or masculine (Heilman, 1983).
Heilman (1983) stresses that individuals aspire to hold jobs that are socially accepted for
their sex, while avoiding those considered appropriate for the opposite sex. Gender
stereotypes are not only descriptivedenoting differences in how men and women actually arebut prescriptive as welldenoting norms regarding behaviors that are suitable
for each, namely, how men and women should behave (Heilman, 2001). While Heilmans (1983) work examined gender stereotyping in the United States, others (Schein,
Mueller, Lituchy, & Liu, 1996) suggest that gender typecasting is a global phenomenon.
In their comparison of management students attitudes in Japan, China, the United States,
UK, and Germany, Schein et al. found that men were consistently considered to be more
likely than women to possess the traits necessary for success in managerial positions.
Entrepreneurship has traditionally been a male-dominated field (Ahl, 2006), with men
owning more businesses than women (Marlow, 2002). Commonly shared cultural beliefs
Table 1
Country Rankings on Hofstedes Dimensions
Cultural dimension China United States Belgium World average
Individualism 20 91 72 43
Uncertainty avoidance 30 46 93 64
Power distance 80 40 67 55
Masculinity 66 62 60 50
Source: Hofstede et al. (2010).
about gender roles can therefore shape the opportunities and incentives that individuals
experience in pursuing certain occupations. The fact that an entrepreneurial career is
gendered can also shape the interaction between female entrepreneurs and various service
providers and, as a result, limit womens ability to access the necessary resources or
receive necessary support to become successful entrepreneurs. This may cause women to
perceive the environment to be challenging and unsuitable for entrepreneurial activity
(Zhao, Seibert, & Hills, 2005) with insurmountable barriers. Indeed, in their 17-nation
study, Langowitz and Minniti (2007) found that women tend to perceive themselves and
their business environment in a less favorable light compared to men (p. 356). In this
study, we examine the perceptions of three types of barriers: lack of support, fear of
failure, and lack of competency. We focus on these three barriers because past studies have
identified these to be significant barriers to female entrepreneurship. Heilman and Chen
(2003) propose that lack of support is a more significant barrier to entrepreneurship for
women, Langowitz and Minniti indicate that fear of failure is negatively related to
womens entrepreneurial intentions, and finally, Thbaud (2010) identified lack of competency as a more significant barrier for women compared with men. A discussion of each
barrier is presented next.
Lack of Support Barrier. Barriers to entrepreneurship can include difficulties in obtaining institutional support for aspiring entrepreneurs, receiving family support, securing
financing from lenders, building a relationship with suppliers, and/or a solid customer
base. Lthje and Franke (2003) indicate that the perceived availability of support such as
access to qualified consultants and service support for new companies (p. 147) has a
positive impact on entrepreneurial intentions. We would expect that the perceived absence
of such support could therefore act as a barrier. Women, more so than men, may perceive
such assistance to be lacking. Heilman, Martell, and Simon (1988) explain why this
occurs. They propose that resource providers entrepreneurs depend on (i.e., consultants,
lenders, suppliers, customers) frequently make decisions under uncertainty without access
to complete information. They may therefore be especially vulnerable to the influence of
gender stereotypes, which could result in added challenges for female entrepreneurs. For
example, women starting businesses typically dominated by white males may potentially
face difficulties in obtaining a client base (Heilman & Chen, 2003, p. 359). Heilman and
Chen also report that women entrepreneurs have less bank credit compared with men,
which may cause added challenges in obtaining financial backing for business start-up
and/or growth. Kolvereid, Shane, and Westhead (1993) conclude that, not surprisingly,
women report the environment for starting a business to be hostile and difficult, which
may result in women perceiving the environment to be less supportive of female entrepreneurs and anticipating significant barriers in finding support.
Fear of Failure Barrier. The gendered nature of the entrepreneurial career (Heilman,
1983) may raise additional barriers for women in terms of fear of failure. Women may
experience a heightened fear of failure when starting a business because doing so would
constitute the pursuit of a career which is socially discouraged for women. Furthermore,
some research evidence indicates that women are more risk averse than men and that this
has a negative influence on their propensity to step into self-employment. In his study of
German individuals, Wagner (2007) found gender-specific differences in risk aversion to
be an important reason not to become self-employed with only 44% percent of all men,
but 56% of all women in his sample considering fear of failure as a reason to avoid
entrepreneurship. Similarly, in their cross-cultural study, Langowitz and Minniti (2007)
found fear of failure to be negatively related to womens entrepreneurial propensity
May, 2012 469
(p. 354) but not to mens. Higher risk aversion among women across a variety of situations
(e.g., asset management) has also been identified by Eckel and Grossman (2003). In the
context of entrepreneurship, Carter (2002) found female founders to be more risk averse
and less likely to expect debt financing (investing a higher level of their assets relative to
wealth) to capitalize their business; this includes both total debt and institutional debt
(Carter). The idea that women have lower risk tolerance has also been used to explain low
growth rates in female-owned firms (Johnson & Powell, 1994).
Lack of Competency Barrier. Societal gender roles, stereotypes, and occupational gender
typing can also shape the perceptions individuals have of themselves. Thbaud (2010)
proposes that men and women draw on gender status beliefs in order to assess their own
abilities (p. 5). In her study of GEM data, Thbaud finds that in the U.S., despite having
approximately equal amounts of human, social, and financial capital, women are about
half as likely as men to think they have the ability to be an entrepreneur (p. 8). Krueger
(2007) adds that when certain occupations are typed as masculine, womens intentions to
pursue these occupations will be weaker, because they perceive themselves as less able
and/or skilled. In fact, Thbauds findings show that in most of the 24 countries in the
GEM sample (which includes Belgium and the United States), male entrepreneurs are
more likely to believe that they have the necessary knowledge, skills, and experience to be
an entrepreneur. In this study, we focus on individuals perceived importance of the lack
of entrepreneurial competencies as a barrier to entrepreneurship. The importance of
perceived skills was also examined cross-culturally by Uslay, Teach, and Schwartz (2002)
who assessed the importance of perceived lack of experience as a barrier to entrepreneurship in Spain, the United States, and Turkey. They found significant cross-cultural differences in the importance students attributed to this barrier. Namely, Turkish and Spanish
students perceived lack of experience as a more significant obstacle for entrepreneurship
than the U.S. respondents (p. 111).
Culture, Gender, and Barriers to Entrepreneurship
While Busenitz and Lau (1996) propose that high MAS, high PD cultures create an
environment favorable for entrepreneurial activity overall, we expect men and women to
experience this differently. In his study comparing 25 nations, Glick (2006) identified a
positive relationship between PD and gender inequality. He argues that nations that score
highly on . . . power distance exhibit less actual gender equality (p. 294). Glick further
argues that in these nations, gender inequality not only exists but is also reinforced and
legitimized. Parboteeah, Hoegl, and Cullen (2008) also found a positive relationship
between PD and traditional gender roles stating that in high PD societies, women are
likely to be at the lower ends of the societal hierarchy and people are more willing to
accept such inequalities (p. 809). In addition, the Chinese Confucian value system is at
the base of hierarchical social relationships which determine subordinate status of wives
to their husbands (Graham & Lam, 2003). We would therefore expect Chinese women to
consider barriers to entrepreneurship to be more significant due to higher gender inequality in their high PD culture. We would also expect women in China to perceive fear of
failure as a more significant barrier compared with women in the United States or Belgium
given the value this culture places on saving face and preserving a good reputation, which
is the cultural value of Mianzi (Graham & Lam, p. 90). In addition, this cultural
orientation has been linked to longer hesitation rates when it comes to innovation and
adherence to tradition. Indeed, Allen, Elam, Langowitz, and Deans (2008) findings
suggest that culture plays a role in gender differences in fear of failure. They found that,
while a higher proportion of women avoid starting a business because of their fear of
failure, this difference was significantly higher for Chinese women compared with
Belgian and American women.
In addition, because in high MAS cultures men are supposed to be more concerned
with achievements outside the home . . . be assertive, competitive and tough…. [and]
women are supposed to be more concerned with taking care of the home, of the children,
and of people in general, (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005, p. 117), we would expect women
from these cultures to consider barriers to entrepreneurship to be more significant because
of the higher degree of occupational gender typing in these cultures. The higher the degree
of gender stereotyping, the more likely women are to encounter challenges in dealing with
different stakeholders (e.g., consultant, lenders, service providers), and perceive barriers
to be more significant compared with men. Furthermore, Heilman (1983) suggests that
when a profession is gendered, individuals may underestimate their skills and avoid
pursuing that profession. We would therefore expect women to perceive lack of competency to be a more important barrier compared with men. Given that China ranks higher
on both PD and MAS compared with the United States and Belgium, we propose that:
Hypothesis 1a: The likelihood that women will perceive the lack of support barrier
to entrepreneurship to be more important than men will be larger in China than in the
United States or Belgium.
Hypothesis 1b: The likelihood that women will perceive the fear of failure barrier to
entrepreneurship to be more important than men will be larger in China than in the
United States or Belgium.
Hypothesis 1c: The likelihood that women will perceive the lack of competency
barrier to entrepreneurship to be more important than men will be larger in China than
in the United States or Belgium.
Perceived barriers to entrepreneurship may shape individual attitudes toward business
ownership as well as the perceived ability to succeed as a business owner. In the following
section we discuss the way in which perceived barriers may shape behavioral intentions to
pursue an entrepreneurial career.
Entrepreneurial Intentions
Ajzens (1991) theory of planned behavior proposes that three antecedents (personal
attraction, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control) shape individual behavioral
intentions. This theory has often been applied in studies examining entrepreneurial intentions (Daz-Garca & Jimnez-Moreno, 2010; Lian, 2008; Lian & Chen, 2009; Lian
et al., 2010; Moriano, Gorgievski, Laguna, Stephan, & Zarafshani, 2011). Most relevant to
our examination is the role of behavioral control, which refers to the perceived ease or
difficulty of performing the behavior as well as anticipated impediments and obstacles
(Ajzen). Indeed, some studies have examined the role perceived barriers play in shaping
the previously mentioned antecedents. For example, Lian assessed the impact of perceived skill on the motivational factors determining entrepreneurial intention and found
skill perceptions to have a very significant effect over the three motivational constructs
considered (personal attraction, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control)
(p. 267). In his study, Lian assessed students perceptions of their own abilities and
skills including opportunity recognition, creativity, problem-solving skills, leadership and
communication skills, development of new products and services, and networking skills.
May, 2012 471
In our study, we examine the relationship between the perceived importance of three types
of barriers (lack of support, fear of failure, and lack of competency) and behavioral
intentions between genders and across cultures.
The direct relationship between barriers and entrepreneurial intentions has already
been established. Wagners (2007) findings indicate a direct relationship between fear of
failure and intentions to pursue entrepreneurship. Lthje and Franke (2003) studied the
attitudes and entrepreneurial intentions of engineering students in several nations (United
States, Canada, Asia, and Europe) and found a direct relationship between perceived
availability of support to entrepreneurs, perceived barriers to entrepreneurship, and students intentions to pursue an entrepreneurial career. They conclude that when individuals
perceive an antagonistic environment for business founders . . . they are less likely to
become entrepreneurs. An optimistic evaluation of help and [support] available to potential business founders is associated with a higher propensity to pursue a career as an
entrepreneur (p. 143). Similarly, in their study of Spanish, American, and Chinese
students, Pruett, Shinnar, Toney, Llopis, and Fox (2009) found a direct relationship
between perceived importance of barriers and behavioral intentions. They argue that
individuals who perceive lack of knowledge, business risks, and financing [barriers] are
significantly less likely to have strong entrepreneurial intentions (p. 585). Brenner,
Pringle, and Greenhaus (1991) also argue that the perceptions of insurmountable barriers
to entrepreneurship can make a person avoid entrepreneurship and opt for paid employment instead. Finally, Lian (2008) examined the role of perceived competency in behavioral intentions and found perceived skills to play a significant and positive role in shaping
behavioral intentions.
The desire to pursue an entrepreneurial career, however, is not consistent across genders
or across cultures (Giacomin, Janssen, Pruett, Shinnar, & Toney, 2011). While a number of
studies (Baughn, Cao, Le, Lim, & Neupert, 2006; Gupta et al., 2009; Kristiansen & Indarti,
2004; Kourilsky &Walstad, 1998; Langowitz & Minniti, 2007; Wilson, Kickul, & Marlino,
2007; Wilson et al., 2004, 2009; Zhao et al., 2005) found differences in entrepreneurial
intentions across genders, with men showing stronger intentions to pursue an entrepreneurial career compared with women, few gender comparisons were done cross-culturally. A
few exceptions include Lian et al.s (2010) cross-cultural study comparing entrepreneurship students from the UK and Spain. They found female students to have lower entrepreneurial attraction and intentions than male students. Similarly, Langowitz and Minniti
found gender differences in propensity to start a business across countries and cultures.
Also, in their comparison of Vietnamese, Philippine, and Chinese students, Baughn et al.
identified significant differences in entrepreneurial intentions across the three nations.
These differences, however, were not homogeneous when gender was examined.
Gender differences were also identified in the importance of barriers to entrepreneurship. For example, Wagner (2007) states that fear of failure has a smaller negative
influence on the propensity to step into self-employment for men than for women (p. 16).
Langowitz and Minniti (2007) also find that among necessity-driven entrepreneurs, fear of
failure was significant for women but not for men. Allen et al. (2008) propose that lack
of competence is more likely to be an important barrier for women than for men. They find
that significantly fewer women believe themselves to have sufficient skills for running a
business and that women are less self-assured in their perceptions of their own abilities
than men. The authors suggest that this gap can possibly be explained in part by the
differences in choices for women across these country groups, in which labor markets,
institutional structures, and cultural norms provide a varying array of incentives to
womens entrepreneurial activity (p. 11). Indeed, Thornton et al. (2011) argue that both
formal and informal institutions can legitimize business activity as a socially valued or
attractive activityand promote or constrain the entrepreneurial spirit (p. 111) which
further points to the importance of cultural norms in shaping individual perceptions and
Drnovsek and Erikson (2005) propose that behavioral intentions are shaped through
perceived desirability or appropriateness of the action as well as perceived ability for
implementing the action. Bird (1988) adds that entrepreneurial intentions are shaped by
personal factors such as perceived abilities and social factors such as culture. We would
therefore expect that gender and culturally shaped gender roles (i.e., social factors) would
moderate the relationship between the perceived importance of barriers and the intentions
to pursue an entrepreneurial career. If entrepreneurship is not considered to be a desirable
or appropriate career for women in a certain culture, even women who feel that barriers
are relatively unimportant may choose not to pursue it. In order to examine the relationship between the perceived importance of barriers, gender, and culture, we propose that:
Hypothesis 2a: The potential moderating effect of gender on the relationship
between the lack of support barrier and entrepreneurial intentions will be larger in
China than in the United States or Belgium.
Hypothesis 2b: The potential moderating effect of gender on the relationship
between the fear of failure barrier and entrepreneurial intentions will be larger in
China than in the United States or Belgium.
Hypothesis 2c: The potential moderating effect of gender on the relationship
between the lack of competency barrier and entrepreneurial intentions will be larger
in China than in the United States or Belgium.
Our conceptual model representing the hypothesized relationships between the variables is presented in Figure 1.
Figure 1
Our Model
United States
Lack of
Fear of
Lack of
May, 2012 473
Our sample consists of university students from China, the United States, and
Belgium. We focused on these three nations because they have been identified in crosscultural studies as being part of three distinct cultural clusters: China is part of the
Confucian-Asian cluster (Gupta et al., 2002), the United States belongs to the Anglo
cluster, and Belgium is within the European cluster (Gupta et al.; Hofstede, 1980). Past
studies examining individual entrepreneurial dispositions focused on Eastern European
(Mueller & Goic, 2002; Mueller & Thomas, 2001), North American, Latin American
(Mueller & Thomas), and Asian (Swierczek & Quang, 2004) countries separately. In this
study, we were able to examine data from those three nations and perform a comparison
across the previously mentioned three cultural clusters, rather than focusing on a single
one. In addition, studying students allows us to assess not only the attitudes of aspiring
entrepreneurs, but also the attitudes of those students who may not want to become
entrepreneurs. Furthermore, as stated previously, student samples are suitable for examining entrepreneurial intentions because students face an immediate career choice
(Krueger et al., 2000) and because they anticipate lower barriers to business ownership
due to the increased infusion of entrepreneurship across educational curriculums
(Hmieleski & Corbett, 2006).
Data Collection and Respondents
Our sample includes 761 students (147 Chinese, 285 American, and 329 Belgian)
from a single university in each nation (China, United States, and Belgium), majoring in
various fields of study including: art, communication, political sciences, law, sociology,
foreign languages, history, management, engineering, and computer information systems.
Student samples are very common in entrepreneurship research (Lian & Chen, 2009)
especially given evidence that university graduates between 25 and 34 years of age show
the highest propensity toward starting up a firm (Reynolds, Bygrave, & Autio, 2004). Our
survey instrument is based on a study carried out by Genesc and Veciana (1984) and
replicated several times in Spain (Veciana, Aponte, & Urbano, 2005). We used the original
questionnaire developed by Veciana et al. with additional demographic questions. The
Spanish questionnaire was translated into English2 (for the American and Chinese students) and into French (for the Belgian students). The questionnaires were back-translated
into the language of origin to assure no loss of meaning. Questionnaires were adminstered
during class sessions, yielding a response rate of 100%. Using Likert scales and demographic variables, we measured students entrepreneurial intentions as well as their
perceived barriers to business start-up.
We assessed the perceptions of three types of barriers on a .
Students were asked to rate the importance of each barrier to starting a business with 1
being very unimportant to 5 being very important. Therefore, respondents scoring
2. For the Chinese students, who were taking English language classes and thus proficient in English, verbal
clarifications were given when necessary during survey administration.
low do not perceive that barrier to be important. The barriers included: (1) perceived
lack of support to aspiring entrepreneurs, (2) fear of failure, and (3) perceived lack of
Perceived lack of support was assessed by four items including lack of: (1) assistance
in assessing business viability, (2) organizations to assist entrepreneurs, (3) formal help to
start a business, and (4) legal assistance or counseling. Fear of failure was assessed by one
item: fear of failure. Measuring fear of failure with a single item has been the approach
adopted in numerous recent publications addressing this barrier to entrepreneurship
(Arenius & Minniti, 2005; Langowitz & Minniti, 2007; Minniti & Nardone, 2007;
Wagner, 2007), and is also the measure used in the GEM questionnaire (Allen et al.,
2008). In these studies, respondents were asked whether fear of failure would prevent
them from starting a business. Perceived lack of competency was measured by four items
including: lack of (1) high entrepreneurial competence, (2) knowledge, (3) experience in
management and accounting, and (4) knowledge of the business world and the market.
These correspond with what Man, Lau, and Chan (2002) label conceptual competencies, which they consider relevant to firm performance and success. Finally, entrepreneurial intentions were measured by one item, an approach used in several recent
publications (Daz-Garca & Jimnez-Moreno, 2010; Fitzsimmons & Douglas, 2005;
Graevenitza, Harhoffa, & Weberb, 2010; Veciana et al., 2005). Students were asked to
answer the following question: Have you ever thought of starting a business? Responses
were measured on a from 0 being No, never, to 3 being Yes,
I have a definite plan to start my own business. For the purposes of our analysis,
responses were coded as 0 (No, never/Yes, vaguely) or 1 ( Yes, seriously/Yes, I have
a definite plan to start my own business). Gender was coded as 1 for males and 0 for
Data Analysis
As proposed, we examine whether differences exist among Chinese, American, and
Belgian students in the mediating impact of gender on the perceived entrepreneurial
barriers. We also test whether gender moderates the impact of perceived barriers on
entrepreneurial intentions. In order to do so, we used the partial least squares (PLS)
approach to structural equation modeling. PLS is a latent variable modeling technique that
has gained popularity in entrepreneurship and management research (Echambadi, Campbell, & Agarwal, 2006; Kautonen, Tornikoski, & Kibler, 2011; Lian & Chen, 2009;
Mitchell, Mitchell, & Smith, 2008). The structural equation modeling procedure seeks to
explain the structure or pattern among a set of latent constructs, which are measured
by one or more indicators (do Pao, Ferreira, Raposo, Rodrigues, & Dinis, 2011).
PLS comprises a measurement model and a structural model. The first determines the
relations between observed items and the latent variables. The second determines
the relations between the latent variables (Barclay, Thompson, & Higgins, 1995). Therefore, the PLS model is interpreted in two stages: First, reliability and validity of the
measurement and the model is assessed and, second, the structural model is assessed by
evaluating the explanatory power and the significance of the path coefficients (Chin,
1998). As Fornell and Bookstein (1982) emphasized, the PLS approach is more appropriate than maximum likelihood approaches when the goal of the research is prediction
rather than model fit. PLS is also particularly appropriate for exploratory research because
it makes minimal demands with respect to measurement scales, sample size, and residual
redistributions (Chin; Wold, 1985). Since the aim of our study is to predict both the direct
effect of gender on perceived entrepreneurial barriers, as well as the moderating effect of
May, 2012 475
gender on the relationship between the perceived barriers and entrepreneurial intention,
the PLS approach is well suited. In this study, we used the Smart PLS software (v2.0)
developed by Ringle, Wende, and Will (2005).
Reliability and Validity Assessment of the Latent Variables in
Each Country
In order to test the reliability and validity of the latent variables3 (lack of support and
lack of competency barriers), we performed a principal component analysis (PCA) and
used the statistic from the PLS measurement model in each country. The PCA results show
that two factors with an eigenvalue greater than one emerged in each country. We identify
these two factors as the Perceived Lack of Support and the Perceived Lack of Competency
barriers. Both KMO and Bartletts tests suggest that our data are suitable for factor
analysis. The cumulative variance explained by these two factors is 53.62% for the
Chinese, 59.71% for the American, and 56.01% for the Belgian samples. Table 2 presents
the rotated factor matrix; all items correspond to the expected factor in each country.
The reliability of each variable was assessed using Fornell and Larckers (1981)
composite reliability and Cronbachs alpha. As Table 2 shows, the composite reliability
and the Cronbachs alpha value for the two variables are above 0.7 in each country, which
demonstrates an acceptable reliability (Nunnally, 1978). The convergent validity is evaluated by analyzing the value of the average variance extracted (AVE) statistics. Table 2
shows that the AVE for the two variables is larger than 0.5 in each country, which
demonstrates an adequate convergent validity (Chin, 1998). Finally, in order to evaluate
the discriminant validity, we compare (see Table 3) the square root of the AVE statistics
with the correlations among the latent variables in each country (Chin; Hair, Anderson,
Tatham, & Black, 1998). In order to obtain acceptable discriminant validity, the square
root of the AVE needs to be higher than the corresponding bivariate correlation. Overall,
the results presented in Tables 2 and 3 indicate that the reliability and validity of each
construct are satisfactory in each of the countries.
Common Method Variance
As Chang, van Witteloostuijn, and Eden (2010) emphasized, the common method
variance (CMV) is a serious concern when data are collected from a survey instrument.
Moreover, the CMVs threat is more important when the variables (dependent and independent) used in the model refer to perceptual measures of the same individual (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Chang et al. warn that CMV can cause
systematic measurement errors that either inflate or deflate the observed relationships
betweens constructs, generating both Type I and Type II errors. In order to address this
concern, we applied the common method factor (CMF) procedure (Liang, Saraf, Hu, &
Xue, 2007). The CMF procedure consists of adding a first-order factor to the theoretical
model with all of the measures as indicators. In PLS, this approach is implemented as
follows: Each indicator is converted into a single-indicator construct making all major
constructs of interest second-order constructs. A latent CMV factor is added by creating
a second-order construct and linking all the first-order constructs. In order to identify
whether or not CMV is an issue, the theoretical model must be tested with and without
3. As the two latent variables Fear of failure and Entrepreneurial intention are measured by one indicator
each, we do not test the reliability and the validity of these two latent variables.
Table 2
Exploratory Factor Analysis (Varimax),* Reliability, and Average Variance
Extracted (AVE) Statistics by Country
Factor analysis indicators
China United States Belgium
Supp. Comp. Supp. Comp. Supp. Comp
Lack of entrepreneurial competence .371 .743 .406 .818 .260 .723
Lack of knowledge .417 .772 .416 .804 .384 .688
Lack of experience in management and accounting .397 .802 .501 .828 .346 .707
Lack of knowledge of business world and market .370 .752 .557 .739 .454 .679
Lack of assistance in assessing viability .775 .493 .696 .415 .690 .387
Lack of assistance to entrepreneurs .648 .175 .857 .502 .793 .435
Lack of formal help to start a business .693 .195 .833 .474 .829 .391
Lack of legal assistance of counseling .758 .292 .802 .446 .767 .334
Composite reliability China United States Belgium
Perceived lack of support .78 .87 .85
Perceived lack of competency .74 .87 .83
Cronbachs alpha
Perceived lack of support .76 .81 .77
Perceived lack of competency .71 .81 .76
Perceived lack of support .51 .63 .59
Perceived lack of competency .52 .63 .58
Supp., perceived lack of support; Comp., perceived lack of competency.
For China: KMO = 0.832 and Bartletts test p < 0.001; for United States: KMO = 0.838 and Bartletts test p < 0.001;
for Belgium: KMO = 0.798 and Bartletts test p < 0.001. PCA performed with SPSS 18.0.
* The boldface values represent the most significant indicators for the factors Supp. and Comp. for each country.
Table 3
Correlation Matrix and Discriminant Validity by Country
China United States Belgium
Support Comp. Support Comp. Support Comp.
Lack of support (Support) .71 .79 .77
Lack of competency (Comp.) .485 .72 .578 .79 .502 .76
Square root of the average variance extracted.
May, 2012 477
the CMF procedure. This two-step procedure allows us to examine the significance of the
structural parameters (Podsakoff et al.). Our results4 show that (1) the factor loading in
both models (with and without CMF) is significant and of similar magnitude and (2) the
direction and the p value level of the path coefficients remain the same in the two models.
We can therefore conclude that CMV is not a serious threat in this research.
In order to test our conceptual model, we proceed in a two-step process. First (Model
1), we determined the direct effect of gender on the perceived entrepreneurial barriers in
each country. Second (Model 2), we examined the potential moderating effect of gender
in each country. In order to test if gender differences (Model 1) and the gender moderating
effect (Model 2) will be largest in China compared with the United States and Belgium,
we used the exploratory group comparisons in both models (Chin, 2000) between China
and the United States and between China and Belgium. The group comparisons are based
on a t-test statistic to assess the statistical significance of the difference in coefficients
between the two groups (Eberl, 2010).
Descriptive Statistics
Survey respondents were 55.5% male, 75.2% were business majors, and 24.8%
majored in other fields of study. Also, 21.7% were first year students, 13.8% were second
year students, 25.6% were third year students, 19.4% were fourth year students, and the
remaining 19.6% were in their fifth year of study. Table 4 presents the sample characteristics for each country.
Female students are overrepresented in the Chinese subsample, whereas male students
are overrepresented in the U.S. and Belgian subsamples. The majority of male students
were fourth year students in the United States, first year students in Belgium, and second
year students in China. Concerning the female students, the majority were fourth year
students in the United States, second year students in China, and first year students in
When we examine the importance of the three entrepreneurial barriers and the entrepreneurial intentions, some gender differences appear (See Table 4). The importance of
the three barriers is lower for male than for female students in the three countries.
Concerning the entrepreneurial intention, in all three countries, male students seem more
prone to create a business compared to female students.
Genders Effect on Barrier Perceptions (Model 1)
In Model 1, we test hypotheses H1a through H1c examining the mediating effect of
gender (being male) on the perceived importance of each barrier. Table 5 reports the
structural model coefficients and the t-test values for Model 1, with the two last columns
presenting the country comparisons of genders impact.
First, as we hypothesized, the importance of the lack of support barrier is perceived as
significantly less important by males than by females in all three countries (b=-0.180 in
China, b=-0.142 in the United States, and b=-0.174 in Belgium). The same relationship exists for the perceived importance of the fear of failure and lack of competency
barriers in the United States and Belgium (b=-0.134 and b=-0.223 for the United
4. The complete results of the CMF procedure are available from the authors.
States and b=-0.132 and b=-0.181 for Belgium). For these two barriers, the paths are
not significant in China, meaning that there is no statistically significant difference in how
Chinese males and females perceive these two barriers.
Second, as we expected, our results demonstrate that significant differences exist in
the gender gap among the three countries in the perceived importance of two of these
barriers (p < 0.05 for the fear of failure barrier and p < 0.01 for the lack of competency
barrier). However, contrary to what we expected, it seems that the gender gap in the
perceived importance of the fear of failure and lack of competency barriers is significantly
larger in the United States and in Belgium than in China. These results offer only partial
support for H1a, H1b, and H1c. Namely, with regard to H1a, while males do indeed
perceive the lack of support barrier to be less important than females, and while this
gender gap is consistent across the three nations, we cannot conclude that it is highest in
China compared with the United States and Belgium as we hypothesized. With regard to
H1b and H1c, while a significant gender difference in the perceived importance of the fear
of failure and lack of competency barriers was identified in the United States and Belgium
(men perceiving these barriers as less important than women), there was no statistically
significant difference in how men and women in China perceived these barriers. Furthermore, while we hypothesized that the gender gap will be largest in China, this was not the
case, with the gender gap in the United States and Belgium being larger compared with
Moderating Effect of Gender (Model 2)
Hypotheses H2a through H2c test the moderating effect of gender on the relationship
between the barriers and entrepreneurial intentions. Table 6 reports the structural model
Table 4
Sample Characteristics by Country
China (%) United States (%) Belgium (%)
Male Female Male Female Male Female
Gender 29.8 70.2 58.6 41.4 63.8 36.2
Business major 72.7 41.6 70.7 46.9 82.7 95.1
First year 0.9 9.2 18.5 50.4 34
Second year 31.9 59 9.8 11.5 5 5.4
Third year 25.5 17.1 33.2 30 20.9 27.9
Fourth year 14.9 6 47.8 40 5.8 17
Fifth year 27.7 17.1 17.8 15.6
Barriers and
intention Means
Perceived lack of support 3.29 3.52 3.36 3.67 3.24 3.51
Fear of failure 3.33 3.35 3.3 3.63 3.43 3.74
Perceived lack of competency 3.67 3.79 3.65 4.01 3.45 3.71
Entrepreneurial intention 1.34 1.03 1.42 .92 1.13 .95
May, 2012 479
Table 5
Results of the PLS Path Model Analysis for Model 1 (H1ac)
China United States Belgium ChinaUnited States ChinaBelgium
Path Path Path D Coefficient D Coefficient
H1a: GenderSupport -0.180 (1.722)** -0.142 (3.868)*** -0.174 (4.522)*** -0.037 (0.413) -0.006 (0.070)
H1b: GenderFailure 0.008 (0.180) -0.134 (3.309)*** -0.132 (3.238)*** 0.143 (2.157)** 0.141 (2.041)**
H1c: GenderCompetency 0.135 (1.047) -0.223 (6.404)*** -0.181 (4.792)*** 0.359 (3.434)*** 0.316 (3.071)***
** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01 (one-tailed).
For China, the United States, and Belgium, each cell reports the path coefficients (t-statistic value). For comparisons, ChinaUnited States and ChinaBelgium, each cell reports the
coefficient variation (t-statistic value). 500 bootstrap samples.
PLS, partial least squares.
Table 6
Results of the PLS Path Model Analysis for Model 2 (H2ac)
China United States Belgium ChinaUnited States ChinaBelgium
Path Path Path D Coefficient D Coefficient
GenderIntention 0.076 (2.022)** 0.167 (4.502)*** 0.063 (1.430)*
SupportIntention -0.116 (2.279)** -0.024 (0.491) -0.048 (0.591)
H2 a: Gender SupportIntention 0.166 (4.586)*** -0.139 (2.759)*** -0.103 (3.384)*** 0.306 (4.181)*** 0.270 (5.219)***
FailureIntention 0.040 (1.006) -0.027 (0.730) 0.007 (0.204)
H2 b: Gender FailureIntention -0.033 (0.877) -0.014 (0.383) 0.004 (0.120) -0.018 (0.335) -0.037 (0.620)
CompetencyIntention -0.018 (0.368) -0.025 (0.551) -0.090 (1.967)**
H2 c: Gender CompetencyIntention 0.030 (0.392) 0.110 (1.295)* 0.098 (1.022) -0.08 (0.627) -0.068 (0.447)
* p < 0.1; ** p < 0.05; *** p < 0.01 (one-tailed).
For China, the United States, and Belgium, each cell reports the path coefficients (t-statistic value). For comparison, ChinaUnited States and ChinaBelgium, each cell reports the
coefficient variation (t-statistic value). 500 bootstrap samples.
PLS, partial least squares.
May, 2012 481
coefficients and the t-test values of the model tested, with the last two columns presenting
the country comparisons. Before presenting the results of the moderating effect, we
include the direct effects of gender and of the perceived barriers on entrepreneurial
intentions. Concerning the direct effect of gender (being male) and the direct effect of the
perceived barriers on entrepreneurial intention, two main results appear. First, in the three
countries, our findings show significant and positive (but small in China and Belgium,
b = 0.063 and b = 0.076, respectively) effects of gender on entrepreneurial intentions.
Second, and surprisingly, while the direct relationship between the perceived importance
of the barriers and entrepreneurial intentions was negative (with the exception of fear of
failure in China and Belgium), it was not statistically significant with two exceptions: (1)
In China, the lack of support barrier had a significantly negative (b=-0.116, p < 0.05)
effect on entrepreneurial intentions; and (2) In Belgium, the lack of competency barrier
had a significantly negative (b=-0.090, p < 0.05) effect on entrepreneurial intentions.
However, as hypothesized, once the moderating effect of gender on the relationship
between the perceived barriers and entrepreneurial intention is taken into account, some
significant results appear. Our findings show that gender plays a significant moderating
role on the relationship between the perceived lack of support barrier and the entrepreneurial intention in the three countries (b = 0.166 in China, b=-0.139 in the United
States, and b=-0.103 in Belgium). The moderating effect of gender is negative for the
United States and for Belgium, but positive for China. This means that for men in
the United States and Belgium, the lack of support barrier has a stronger negative
relationship with entrepreneurial intentions than for women. In China, the opposite is true,
in that for men, the lack of support barrier has a weaker negative relationship with
entrepreneurial intentions than for women. When the gender gap in the three nations was
compared, as expected, the comparison analyses results show that the moderating effect is
largest in China, compared with the United States and Belgium (significant at p < 0.01
level), offering support for H2a.
Contrary to what we expected, gender has no moderating effect on the relationship
between the perceived fear of failure barrier and the entrepreneurial intention for the three
countries. Moreover, as our comparison analyses show, no significant differences between
China and the United States or China and Belgium appear, failing to support H2b.
Finally, gender has a significant and positive (b = 0.110) moderating effect on the
relationship between the lack of competency barrier and entrepreneurial intentions for
the U.S. subsample only, but not for the other two countries. This means that for men
in the United States, perceived lack of competency has a weaker negative relationship with
entrepreneurial intentions than for women in the same nation. However, our comparison
analyses show no significant differences between China and the United States or between
China and Belgium, failing to support H2c. Figure 2 summarizes our results and integrates
those into our conceptual model.
In this paper, we sought to examine how culture and gender shape individual
perceptions of barriers to entrepreneurship and intentions to become an entrepreneur. In
the following paragraphs, we present our findings for the three nations, as well as the
comparisons among them. First, our findings indicate that women in China, the United
States, and Belgium perceive the lack of support barrier as significantly more important
than men. Surprisingly, we found no difference in the gender gap across the three nations,
which suggests that perceptions of the support available (or lacking) are not shaped by
culture but rather by gender and/or possibly by the specific institutional environment in
each nation. This result was unexpected given the fact that, generally, in emerging
economies, fewer support mechanisms are put in place to assist aspiring entrepreneurs.
Emerging economies are typically characterized by a lack or a weakness of institutions
supporting a market-based economy, both formal (Peng & Heath, 1996) and informal
(Manolova, Eunni, & Gyoshev, 2008). One possible explanation could be that the Chinese
governments economic reforms initiated in the late 1970s, which sought to facilitate the
development of free enterprise (Anderson, Li, Harrison, & Robson, 2003; Benzing, Chu,
& Callanan, 2005; Han & Baumgarte, 2000), have opened up opportunities for young
people to pursue entrepreneurship regardless of gender and resulted in shaping their
perceptions of available support mechanisms. Indeed, in their recent examination of
individual perceptions of Chinas institutional environment (in terms of government
), Gupta et al. (2010) found it to be more favorable to entrepreneurship than in
other emerging economies including India, South Korea, and Brazil, but also more
favorable than in the United States. As China moves to a more market-oriented economy,
state-owned businesses are declining in importance, and small firms play an increasingly
important role (Anderson et al.). In their examination of Chinese business students
attitudes, Gupta et al. suggest that the institutional reforms to promote private enterprise
in China have set the country on an appropriate path help[ing] to create a suitable milieu
for entrepreneurship (p. 21). This possibly indicates that, when it comes to government
support for entrepreneurial activity, China can no longer be categorized as an emerging
5. Government policies can improve the regulatory environment for entrepreneurship by offering incentive
programs and preferential treatment for new and small ventures in procurement using public taxes (Dickson
& Weaver, 2008).
Figure 2
Summary of Main Results. Path Coefficients for China/United States/Belgium
Lack of
Fear of
Lack of
(being male)
*p < 0.1; **p < 0.05; ***p < 0.01 (one-tailed); n.s., nonsignificant path.
May, 2012 483
Second, we found that women perceived the fear of failure and lack of competency
barriers to be more important than men, but this difference was significant only in the
United States and Belgium (whereas the difference between men and womens perceptions was not statistically significant in China). Possibly, men and women in China do not
rank the fear of failure barrier differently in terms of importance because of the weight
Chinese culture places on saving face and preserving a good reputation (the Chinese
cultural value of Mianzi) (Graham & Lam, 2003), something that is equally important
for men and women. Indeed, Chinas one-child-per-family policy may have created
gender-neutral parental expectations. As Tsui (2007) proposes: Unlike previous generations where daughters were valued less than sons, one child families, at least in large urban
areas, have high parental…expectations for both boys and girls (p. 7). This genderneutral parental pressure to succeed may minimize gender differences in fear of failure.
Concerning the lack of competency, the Chinese governments efforts to equalize girls
educational opportunities (Tang, Zheng, & Wu, 2002), as well as government-sponsored
competitions such as the China girls math Olympiad (Math Sciences Research Institute,
2010), may have contributed to shaping the attitudes of female aspiring entrepreneurs who
do not perceive their competencies to be different from those of their male colleagues. In
addition, Chinese culture stresses the belief that hard work rather than ability determines
success (Tsui), which may further align the expectations across genders as to the importance of the lack of competency barrier. In the United States and Belgium, on the other
hand, gender roles and societal expectations regarding occupations considered socially
appropriate for women (Heilman, 1983) seem to still shape female perceptions of their
own competencies.
Our study also indicates that both culture and gender moderate the relationship
between the perceived importance of some of the barriers and entrepreneurial intentions.
First, our findings show that gender has a significant moderating effect on the relationship
between the perceived lack of support barrier and the entrepreneurial intention in the three
countries. For men in the United States and Belgium, the lack of support barrier has a
stronger negative relationship with entrepreneurial intentions than for women; whereas
for Chinese men, the lack of support barrier has a weaker negative relationship with
entrepreneurial intentions than for women. This means that, while both men and women
who perceive the lack of support barrier to be important are less likely to pursue an
entrepreneurial career, in the United States and Belgium this barrier has a weaker effect on
womens entrepreneurial intentions than on mens; whereas in China, this barrier has a
stronger effect on womens entrepreneurial intentions than on mens, exposing some
cross-cultural differences.
One explanation for our findings in Belgium and the United States could be that
women in these nations never expected a support infrastructure to be accessible to them
in the first place and, as a result, are less likely to be deterred by its absence. Indeed,
Heilman (1983) proposes that women expect to encounter more barriers to entrepreneurship. Zhao et al. (2005) add that women perceive the environment to be more challenging.
Our results also indicate that gender has no moderating effect on the relationship
between the perceived fear of failure barrier and the entrepreneurial intention for the three
countries. This is consistent with the research stream stressing that traits, or at least traits
alone, are not determining factors in the explanation of entrepreneurship (Gartner, 1988).
This is encouraging given that fear of failure is a rather personal characteristic which
could be challenging for policy makers to change. Thus, focusing resources and efforts on
shaping perceptual factors, such as the perceived lack of support discussed previously,
may be more instrumental in promoting womens entrepreneurship. This point will be
further developed in our implications section next.
Finally, we find that for women in the United States, perceived lack of competency has
a stronger negative relationship with entrepreneurial intentions than for men in the same
nation. However, we identified no such differences in the two other nations. Possibly,
young Chinese women perceive self-employment as a way to reduce their traditional
dependence on male family members and gain control over their own income. In China,
where patriarchy traditionally played a strong role in the family (Lee, 1984), selfemployment may be a strategy that facilitates womens empowerment. Chinese women
may therefore be as motivated as Chinese men, regardless of perceived barriers, to pursue
entrepreneurship, which may offer a way out of this dependence. As for the nonstatistically significant difference between the genders in Belgium, this is consistent with the
most recent GEM report (Kelly, Bosma, & Amors, 2010), citing the highest female
participation in entrepreneurship in Belgium compared with other Western European
nations. Furthermore, the educational systems in Belgium and China may also serve to
explain the nonsignificant gender differences in perceived importance of the lack of
competency barrier. Because higher education is not as costly as in the United States,
Chinese and Belgian students typically do not work while pursuing a degree, resulting in
less work experience, possibly shaping both mens and womens perceptions of competency and entrepreneurial intentions.
This study suffers from a few limitations. First, we collected our own data from three
universities (in China, the United States, and Belgium) by using an existing survey
instrument, which was not specifically designed for our research questions. We were
therefore unable to examine additional perceptions of barriers such as whether female
respondents believed they would encounter challenges in hiring and managing employees,
building a customer base, or working with suppliers.
Second, males are overrepresented among the business students in our Chinese and
American samples, which may have biased our results given the higher propensity to
pursue entrepreneurship among business students compared with other disciplines. In the
Chinese sample, of all the male students, 72.7% are business majors, but only 41.6% are
business majors among the female students. Similarly, in the U.S. sample, 70.7% of the
male students are business majors, but only 46.9% of the female students are business
majors. The students are also unequally distributed in terms of progress toward graduation. The majority of male students were fourth year students in the United States, first
year students in Belgium, and second year students in China. Female students were mostly
fourth year students in the United States, second year students in China, and first year
students in Belgium. Considering that students who are in the terminal years of their
degree may more actively consider and pursue entrepreneurship, this unequal distribution
may have somewhat biased our results.
Third, because we studied university students, our findings are not generalizable to the
population at large. While college-educated women may desire to pursue an entrepreneurial career, this may not be the case for all women. Indeed, in many countries, especially
less developed cultures with masculine, traditional cultures, university students represent
the educated elite (Mueller, 2004, p. 214).
Furthermore, since our data were collected from a single university in each nation,
regional variations in large and diverse nations such as the United States and China further
limit generalizability. Also, we do not include data on government policies and/or programs aimed at promoting entrepreneurship in general and female entrepreneurship in
May, 2012 485
particular. Such policies and/or programs may differ significantly across the three nations
(or even regions) in our study and influence individual perceptions and intentions.
Implications for Research and Practice and Future Research Avenues
Our findings show that culture and gender do matter when it comes to perceptions of
barriers to entrepreneurship and their relationship with entrepreneurial intentions. The role
of gender and culture is, however, not consistent. First, gender seems to matter in how
individuals perceive lack of support; namely, we found this barrier to be significantly more
important for women than for men in the three nations. This means that gender and
institutional support, rather than national culture, or at least Hofstedes (1980) dimensions
thereof, account for the observed perception patterns. Governments wishing to promote
entrepreneurship in general and female entrepreneurship in particular, should create
support mechanisms such as chambers of commerce and/or agencies which provide
advice, training, as well as access to lenders, consultants, mentors, and networks. Indeed,
Audretsch, Aldridge, and Sanders (2011) found that access to social networks and the
ability to develop ones social capital facilitate entrepreneurship. In addition, because our
study dealt with subjective perceptions, agencies need to work on information dissemination as much as program creation because, if individuals perceive that support is lacking,
it will act as a barrier, whether support exists or not. To isolate the effect of institutional
support, future studies could examine the type and amount of support available across
countries and the awareness that aspiring entrepreneurs have of that support.
Second, culture and gender seem to play a role in shaping the perceptions of the other
two barriers: Women in the United States and Belgium perceived fear of failure and lack
of competency to be more important barriers than men in the same countries. This gender
difference, however, did not exist in China, suggesting that Chinese culture somehow acts
to shape individual perceptions of these two barriers in a way that eliminates gender
differences. This is possibly due to the emphasis Chinese culture places on the belief that
hard work, rather than ability, determines success (Tsui, 2007). Also, the fear of failure
and lack of competency may be viewed as things that are under the individuals control
and thus possibly could be overcome, which further align the expectations across genders
as to the importance of those two barriers.
Organizations and/or agencies aiming to develop female entrepreneurship in the
United States and Belgium could focus on increasing perceived competency among
women, but not so easily on reducing fear of failure. As mentioned previously, fear of
failure is a personal disposition which may be difficult to impact directly through education or institutional support. Thus, shaping confidence and self-efficacy could possibly be
more effective in increasing female entrepreneurship. Indeed, research has already identified the impact of perceived self-efficacy on entrepreneurial intentions (Baughn et al.,
2006; de Bruin et al., 2007). Implications for entrepreneurship education include the need
to focus on increasing awareness of the available institutional support mechanisms among
entrepreneurship students, as well as on increasing perceived competency in entrepreneurial skills among female students in particular, which will serve to reduce the perceived
importance of the lack of competency barrier.
Culture also plays an important role in how gender moderates the relationship
between perceived barriers and entrepreneurial intentions. First, for women in Belgium
and the United States, there is a weaker negative relationship between perceived lack of
support and entrepreneurial intentions than for men. Future studies would need to examine
the reasons for these differences, which may be best explored through alternative research
methodologies. Qualitative approaches, for example, could allow for an in-depth examination of the complex interaction between socio-cultural and contextual variables shaping
entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions. Indeed, Thornton et al. (2011) suggest that the
problem of integrating analyses of the social and cultural factors that affect entrepreneurship is challenging (p. 110).
In China, the negative relationship between the perceived lack of support barrier and
entrepreneurial intentions was stronger for women than for men. Furthermore, in this
nation, but not in the others, the overall relationship between perceived lack of support and
entrepreneurial intentions was negative and significant, stressing the importance of
addressing this barrier in general, not just for women. In the goal of promoting female
entrepreneurship, special attention should be given to the degree to which Chinese women
are aware of available assistance and the degree to which they expect to be able to find the
support they need. If Gupta et al.s (2010) propositions are indeed correct, and the Chinese
institutional environment is favorable to entrepreneurship, then Chinese institutions need
to further investigate why womens perceptions of the lack of support barrier are more
likely to stop them from starting a business compared with men. Possibly the support
available is not what aspiring female entrepreneurs need, or alternatively, they might
simply be unaware of the support mechanisms already in place.
Our results also suggest that gender and culture shape the relationship between the
perceived lack of competency barrier and entrepreneurial intentions given that it was more
strongly negative for women, albeit only in the United States. The absence of a moderating effect of gender on the relationship between perceived lack of competency and
entrepreneurial intentions in China and Belgium could lie in students overly optimistic
self-assessments, regardless of country of origin. Indeed, Shinnar, Pruett, and Toney
(2009) compared student and faculty evaluations of barriers with entrepreneurship and
concluded that students overestimated their entrepreneurial skills and abilities compared
with faculty evaluations possibly due to optimism and lack of work experience (p. 157).
The extent to which students self-evaluations are truly reflective of their actual skills and
the impact this has on the importance they give to different barriers remain to be examined
in more detail as well. Future research could investigate whether students in fact overestimate their skills and whether men and women across different cultures are equally likely
to do so, as well as the implications this has for entrepreneurial intentions.
As discussed in our limitations, our data include business and nonbusiness majors, as
well as students at various stages of their education. Future research could examine the
relationships between perceived barriers and entrepreneurial intentions for students who
are business majors versus students who major in other fields of study to examine whether
the former perceive barriers to be less important (given their academic training in the
business discipline) compared with the latter, and also whether business majors and/or
students in the terminal years of their degrees have stronger entrepreneurial intentions
than students who are nonbusiness majors or in the early stages of the academic path. This
is especially important given the recent trend to extend entrepreneurship education beyond
the walls of business schools into other disciplines such as art, sciences, engineering,
medicine, nursing, psychology, etc. (Janssen, Eeckhout, Gailly, & Bacq, 2009; Shinnar
et al., 2009). One final avenue for future research involves the measurement of cultural
values. We used Hofstedes (1980) group level cultural values as assumptions in formulating our hypothesis and explaining our research findings without directly measuring
cultural value orientations of study participants. Some researchers (McCoy, Galleta, &
King, 2005) recommend that studies addressing individual-level models should be used
with individual-level culture measures so that future studies can provide more useful
guidance in how culture influences behaviour (p. 220). Future research could possibly
May, 2012 487
assess cultural value orientations at the individual level, which would measure participants actual cultural value orientations, and in turn assess their impact on perceptions,
attitudes, and intentions. Researchers who study gender and cultures effect on entrepreneurial perceptions and intentions should examine the interaction between the two variables, even though their impact is not always uniform for all types of barriers, as our
results have shown.
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