What is the impact of the Interviews of Women Entrepreneur and Role Models? By Dr. Gloria Haddad

Quel est l’impact des témoignages apportés lors de la semaine de sensibilisation à l’entrepreneuriat féminin en France ? Les roles models en question
What is the impact of the Interviews of Women Entrepreneur and Role Models?

A short introduction of the recent Research Article:

Byrne, J., Fattoum, S., & Diaz Garcia, M. C. Role Models and Women Entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurial Superwoman Has Her Say. Journal of Small Business Management.

By Dr. Gloria Haddad

The starting point: 163 Million women entrepreneurs around the world but that’s not enough!!!

Entrepreneurship is a major driver of economic growth and a crucial way to decrease unemployment rate and as such new business creation has become a major concern to national governments across the globe. With an estimated 163 million women entrepreneurs around the world, women are believed to be largely underrepresented in the entrepreneurship field. Even in the most advanced countries a significant gender gap persists which explains the renewed importance of governments in boosting women entrepreneurial activities. The Europe 2020 strategy was launched with an action plan to facilitate new business creation through education and the creation of more conducive environments for nascent entrepreneurs.  The policy interest in gender equality and women empowerment highlights the potential gains that are expected to arise from higher rates of women participation in the business world. Drawing on these facts, Byrne et al. (2018) focus on a government led entrepreneurship sensitization program for young women in France, a developed rich country where women represent 50% of the working population and yet suffer from the glass ceiling effect, and where their participation to political and economic renewal has yet to be improved in comparison with North America and Canada.

Among the authors of the article, two are faculty members at French academic institutions : Janice Byrne is Associate Professor of Human Resources and Organizational Behaviour at IÉSEG School of Management, and Salma Fattoum is Assistant Professor in Strategy at INSEEC Business School. The third author is Maria Cristina Diaz Garcia, an Associate Professor of Management at the School of Economics and Business Administration in Albacete, University of Castilla, Spain.


What we know about role modeling in entrepreneurship

The role modeling process starts with identification and social comparison then drives individuals to emulation and action. The role models set examples and provide valuable lessons to young women. The effectiveness of the process is increased when role models are similar in a way or another to the targeted individuals. This would allow the latter to construct their ideal self through observing and copying some traits for successful career development. The national context in which an individual is embedded could further improve or hinder the role modeling effect. This basically relates to gender stereotyping effects which associate men with agentic behaviors such as independence, self-confidence and assertiveness and associate women with communal behaviors such as the welfare of others, kindness, sympathy, social commitment, and interpersonal relationships. The social stereotypes strongly rooted in individuals’ unconscious might affect the definition of women identity and inhibit them from entering the entrepreneurial process.


The Research

The purpose of the study was to understand the effects of the entrepreneurship awareness building program Sensibilisation à l’entrepreneuriat conducted by the Agence Pour la Creation d’Entreprises (APCE) in France. The program aimed at raising awareness of young women in entrepreneurship through role modeling. In an attempt to understand who the role models are and what message are they conveying to women, the researchers engaged in an in-depth discourse analysis for over two years which spanned different types of data collected from campaign reports, memos, conferences and roundtable sessions, meetings with program participants, press reviews, webpages, and social network posts. The text narratives on social media sites constituted the focus of their research helping them to build complete profiles of the 51 symbolic role models of the program. Accounting for the variety of women’s entrepreneurial experiences, they based their analysis on the four entrepreneurial feminities model of Lewis (2014). It consists of identifying four types of women business owners: first, the entrepreneur who is active, individualist, capable of separating domestic and public spheres and who strongly believes in gender neutrality; second, the mumpreneur who creates her own life while connecting to traditional caring responsibilities and who establishes an explicit link between motherhood and entrepreneurship as family-convenient choice; third, the female entrepreneur who believes in the complementarity of sexes and in the active role that women are destined to play in society through pursuing collective goals and placing great emphasis on relational interactions while embracing the values of a competitive world; fourth and last, the non-preneur, who engages in unnecessary feminine displays and enacts traditional feminine role which forbids her from realizing her own ambitions.


Their findings – 4 types of Women entrepreneurial motivations

The study of role models’ accounts helped the authors to classify women entrepreneurial motivations into four major categories: empowerment, pleasure and enjoyment, doing good in the world and overcoming obstacles, and finding solutions.

Women entrepreneurs seem to be empowered individuals who control each aspect of their lives and have the capacity to shape their future with their own decisions. For them, business creation is a response to an impasse in their professional lives and a way to bounce back; it is also a way to achieve independence, freedom of thoughts and actions, and flexibility to cope with family responsibilities.

Pleasure, lust, and enjoyment seem also to be important drivers of women entrepreneurship. In their opinion, business profitability and growth fade away when confronted with emotions, passion, and personal pleasure. The strong bonding with the business often induces them to invest even more time, resources, and efforts than they had initially planned upon venture creation.

Women are motivated to make a difference in the world, to make it a better place, thus giving a meaning to their own lives. Their goodwill actions are either related to their immediate circle of family and friends or to the society at large.

In some cases, they suffer from being too considerate or too caring or even naïve in business dealings. They seek support from people they trust, from people who share same vision and ethics. Their attitude is controversial in a way that they deny gender differences claiming that opportunities are available equally to men and women while promoting at the same time women’s natural abilities which predispose them to entrepreneurship.


What about results…did the message reach the intended audience?

According to the authors the entrepreneurship sensitization program did not achieve its objectives. The reasons behind this failure seem to be linked to the chosen role models and to the way entrepreneurship is portrayed. The role models are promoted as superwomen capable of successfully handling both private and professional domains, doing good to the society, and surmounting all kinds of obstacles. The chosen cases belong to a select group of mid-career stage women, white, professional, and privileged and therefore they do not display entrepreneurial diversity. Women from other racial and ethnic backgrounds or those belonging to lower socio-economic groups are eager to copy those models however they need to face the reality of the lack of opportunities and resources which places an even bigger burden on their shoulders trying to overcome their deficits in needed attributes for success. The difficulty in identifying themselves with the proposed role models makes them lose out on potential benefits of role modeling. Regarding the way entrepreneurship is described, women entrepreneurs present it as a win-win strategy to achieve work-life balance and as a solution to the glass ceiling and the maternal wall issues which clearly demonstrates that gendered societal stereotypes are still prevailing, and that homecare and childcare remain the primary responsibilities of women. On top of pleasure and fun, exhaustion, long working hours, risks, and stress are evoked which constitute high barriers to entrepreneurial intentions. In sum, women are asked to embrace the change and invade the entrepreneurship realm while keeping them in a disadvantaged position congruent to the role they are doomed to play in society.


A final word… to government bodies and to policy makers

In designing role modeling campaigns diversity is a keyword to reach the widest possible audience.  The authors recommend engaging in a consultative process to unveil the barriers preventing young women from choosing entrepreneurship as a career choice. They also suggest specific programs to change their perceptions, improve their critical thinking, and help them challenging gender norms and inequality.