Entrepreneurial intention: the role of gender

  • Maria Cristina Díaz-García
  • Juan Jiménez-Moreno


There is general agreement in previous research, drawing on the Theory of Planned Behaviour, that attitudes towards entrepreneurship are determining factors on entrepreneurial intention and gender also seems to play a key role. This study supports the core entrepreneurial intention model and focuses on the role of gender in this process, showing that men are more likely to think about creating a firm than being determined to do it. However, of those men, the ones who perceive higher congruence between masculine and entrepreneurial attributes are more likely to have a firm entrepreneurial intention. Also, both men and women with a firm entrepreneurial intention perceive successful entrepreneurs to have feminine attributes. This, together with the characteristics of the sample, may explain the lack of a gender difference in entrepreneurial intention.


Gender Social norms Self-efficacy Attitude Entrepreneurial intention 


In the last two decades there has been growing awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship and new venture creation, since innovation and enterprise are regarded as crucial determinants of economic growth and prosperity (Drucker 1985; Harding and Bosma 2006). However, to encourage entrepreneurship, there is a need to understand the factors and decision making processes that lead an individual to become an entrepreneur; of which, despite decades of research, scholars currently have only a limited understanding (Markman et al. 2002). In recent research, there is a growing recognition that socio-psychological processes, along with cognitive ones, can lead to a better understanding of these factors (Baron 1998; Douglas and Shepherd 2000; Krueger et al. 2000; Shane and Venkataraman 2000).

Since entrepreneurship is an embedded phenomenon, subjective perceptions about one’s environment and about the individual’s relative position in that environment are very important (Jack and Anderson 2002). Thus entrepreneurial intentions are found to be related to personal perceptions with respect to the supportiveness of a given society, the business environment and one’s own abilities (Bird 1988).

Considerable evidence indicates that the culture of a society1, reinforcing certain personal characteristics or behaviours and penalizing others (Thomas and Mueller 2000), plays a critical role in determining entrepreneurial behaviour (Zahra et al. 1999). That is, the underlying system of values models normative and ability perceptions towards the entrepreneurial activity. And, within it, the gender-belief system sustains a hierarchical valuation in which masculine traits and characteristics are privileged over the feminine ones (Crannie-Francies et al. 2003; Marlow and Patton 2005). This may be the explanation of why women tend to perceive themselves (their know-how) and the entrepreneurial environment (equal opportunities) in a less favourable light than men (Langowitz and Minniti 2007). These perceptions, in turn, restrict women’s entrepreneurial endeavours; and this is a paradoxical phenomena since the allure of entrepreneurship should be even greater for women due to the perceived barriers in the labour market that would constrain the achievement of their full potential2 (Heilman and Chen 2003).

Despite all of this, gender is included only as another demographic variable to control within prior research and, therefore, the indirect effect of gender on entrepreneurial intention is explained in few studies (Kickul and Krueger 2005; Wilson et al. 2007), and none of them have explored its interaction effects. Therefore, we aim to establish whether the influence of a set of factors on entrepreneurial behaviour differs across gender, enhancing our understanding of different entrepreneurship prevalence rates between men and women. We suggest that gender may lead to changes in the antecedents of entrepreneurial intention and, thereby, influence intention in an indirect way3. Moreover, extending previous research, we suggest that this relationship is even more complex, since gender may have interaction effects on the relationships between these variables and entrepreneurial intention. It is proposed that, in the case of women, perceptions of themselves and of their environment play a greater role in their entrepreneurial intention4.

Besides this, gender-role stereotyping is included in the study because of its potentially powerful influence in guiding our behaviour; although, as it is a process that occurs largely without conscious awareness, we are unlikely to notice it. Furthermore, most of our current understanding of the entrepreneur derives from research done in Anglo-Saxon countries, and it is unclear how applicable these findings are to other cultures.

The sample for this study is made up of students, since they increasingly see the founding of a company as an attractive alternative to wage employment5 (Luthje and Franke 2003; Guerrero et al. 2008) and little is known about what young people perceive or think about entrepreneurial activity (Kourilsky and Walstad 1998). Moreover, it is believed that long term solutions to reduce gender differential in entrepreneurship have to begin in the education system and, therefore, it is important to find out the aspects related with gender that have to be treated carefully in the educational and formative programs.

The following research questions are explored: (1) Do men and women perceive the attributes associated to the successful entrepreneur in a different way? (2) What role do subjective norms, self-efficacy and attitude play in the explanation of the gender entrepreneurial gap? (3) Does gender moderate the effect of these variables on entrepreneurial intention? With these questions in mind, the work is organized as follows: in the next section we develop the theoretical framework proposed to study if and in what way entrepreneurial intention is influenced by its antecedents and by gender. In “Methodology”, we present the methodological approach, with a descriptive analysis of the sample data and the variables used in the statistical model. In “Results” we present and discuss the main empirical results obtained. Finally, “Conclusions” summarizes the main conclusions and “Implications” includes the implications of this research for scholars and institutions.

Theoretical framework and hypotheses development

The socio-psychological models explore the attitudes and their antecedents (beliefs) to develop a better understanding of entrepreneurial intention (Krueger 2007). Since entrepreneurship represents planned, intentional behaviour, it lends itself to research using formal models of intentions (Krueger et al. 2000; Armitage and Conner 2001). Besides, there is evidence that the intention to become self-employed determines actual entry into self-employment (Kolvereid and Isaksen 2006).

The predominant intention models, widely used to study entrepreneurship, are Ajzen’s (1987) theory of planned behaviour and Shapero’s model of the entrepreneurial event (1982)6. They largely focus on the pre-entrepreneurial event and integrate attitudinal and behavioural theory (Ajzen 1991) and self-efficacy and social learning theory (Bandura 1989). They also integrate exogenous factors that contribute to entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions, as proposed by Bird (1988).

This study adopts Ajzen’s model in which there are a set of cognitive variables, “antecedents”, which exert their influence on intention. The first one is the “subjective norms” construct which refers to the perceived social pressure to perform (or not) the behaviour. Secondly, the “perceived behavioural control” is defined as the perceived ease/difficulty of performing the behaviour. This construct is similar to the construct of perceived self-efficacy7. Thirdly, “attitude toward entrepreneurship” is defined as the degree to which the founder is committed to the new business in comparison with other alternatives that may be attractive for the individual and how much he/she is willing to sacrifice in order to become self-employed, that is, his/her intention to invest time and resources (Liao and Welsch 2004; Kolvereid and Isaksen 2006). The theory predicts that the greater the favourable attitude and subjective norm with respect to the behaviour, combined with a strong perceived behavioural control, the greater the intention will be to perform the particular behaviour. Therefore, it is proposed that,
  1. H1:

    A favourable perception of the environment and social norms is related positively with entrepreneurial intention.

  2. H2:

    A higher perception of self-efficacy is related positively with entrepreneurial intention.

  3. H3:

    A favourable attitude towards entrepreneurship is positively related to the intention of creating a firm.


Since the purpose of this study is to take into account different mechanisms in which gender can exert an effect on performance, the studies which serve as a basis for hypothesis’ development give gender a central role.

Social norms

In literature, evidence can be found that women tend to perceive the entrepreneurial environment in a less favourable light than men (Langowitz and Minniti 2007). If women are socialized differently, they will perceive opportunities in a different way (DeTienne and Chandler 2007). In line with these findings, Menzies and Tatroff (2006) found that, in comparison with their female classmates, a considerably larger ratio of male students choose an entrepreneurial course and a degree concentrating in entrepreneurship when studying a business degree. Female students were significantly more likely to report that entrepreneurship did not fit their personality; which led the authors to conclude that generally held myths could be influencing female respondents.

That is, negative gender stereotypes persist in the social environments that women business owners inhabit (Baron et al. 2001). These stereotypes have the effect of biasing the concept of entrepreneurial activity with respect to gender (Nilsson 1997; Delmar and Holmquist 2004). Thus recent research reported that students from both sexes still think of the successful manager as an individual who has the attributes typically ascribed to the masculine gender (Yim and Bond 2002). Even among managers, women still believe that the successful manager has an instrumental or masculine style of management (Cames et al. 2001). That is, societal values implicitly interpret entrepreneurship from women as less desirable and, as a result, society provides less normative support (Baughn et al. 2006; Langowitz and Minniti 2007) and women themselves perceive the option of creating a firm as being less desirable (Veciana et al. 2005).

Moreover, in the case of women the perception of the subjective norms related to entrepreneurship can affect to a greater extent the decision of whether or not to create a firm, since they are highly conditioned by societal norms and the roles ascribed to women (Welter et al. 2007). On one hand, a negative perception can instil a fear of failure, which has been evidenced to be an important deterrent for new business creation in the case of women (Wagner 2007). Also, there is evidence that those women with a proactive personality are significantly affected by exposure to the common ‘masculine’ stereotype about entrepreneurs and, thereby, suffer a significant decrease in entrepreneurial intentions (Gupta and Bhawe 2007). On the other hand, if entrepreneurship is perceived by women to be a career option highly related with their own characteristics and values, women will be more prone to create their own firm. In line with this, the increase in the number of women in managerial positions over the last few years has led women, but not men, to see a resemblance between the characteristics of females and managers (Schein and Mueller 1992; Duehr and Bono 2006). Therefore, it is proposed that:
  1. H4:

    Women have a less optimistic perception of the environment and social norms.

  2. H5:

    Gender moderates the relationship between the perception of the environment and social norms, and entrepreneurial intention (stronger for women).



Women shy away from entrepreneurial activity more frequently than men due to a lower perception of self-efficacy in carrying out entrepreneurial tasks (Birley 19898; Scherer et al. 1990; Chen et al. 1998; Shaver et al. 2001; Wilson et al. 2004; Kwong et al. 2006), particularly in some industry sectors perceived to be traditionally male (Anna et al. 2000). Relatedly, women admit to needing more financial and accounting aid than men (Jones and Tullous 2002) and less frequently perceive themselves as entrepreneurs (Verheul et al. 2003).

Focusing on youth, young females perceive themselves as having a lower level of self-efficacy in stereotypically male areas which also are related to entrepreneurship (Hackett et al. 1992; Kourilsky and Walstad 1998; Marlino and Wilson 2003) and, therefore, embark on entrepreneurial ventures to a far lesser extent (Kourilsky and Walstad 1998; Wilson et al. 2007). This lower self-efficacy was also perceived by female MBA students, signalling that, even with work and/or life experience, differences in entrepreneurial self-efficacy persist (Wilson et al. 2007). In sum, previous studies seem to evidence that differing expectations imposed by society may shape or solidify one’s self-confidence in different domains.

However, gender might also have a moderating effect on the impact of perceived self-efficacy on entrepreneurial intention. On one hand, negative feedback about their entrepreneurial abilities (independently of their real abilities) alter female students’ expectancies with respect to their potential creation of a firm significantly more than in the case of their male counterparts (Gatewood et al. 2002). On the other hand, many men tend to be overconfident about their performance; however this fact is not necessarily related with having better results (Barber and Odean 1998; Niederle and Vesterlund 2005). Nevertheless, women tend to attribute their achievement of work goals less to their ability and more to hard work (Rosenthal 1995). In line with this, Menzies et al. (2006) observe that women are more likely to achieve an operating business, especially if they are members of a team, although male nascent entrepreneurs have a higher degree of confidence with achieving this goal. Therefore, if a woman states a high entrepreneurial self-efficacy, this may imply a more realistic assessment of her abilities and a greater intention to pursue the behaviour in which she will use her full potential. Hence, it is proposed that:
  1. H6:

    Women have a less optimistic perception of self-efficacy.

  2. H7:

    Gender moderates the relationship between self-efficacy and entrepreneurial intention (stronger for women).



Several reasons can be argued to explain why women might be less attracted to entrepreneurship. First of all, since entrepreneurship is still perceived as a male domain (Nilsson 1997; Ahl 2002; Delmar and Holmquist 2004; Winn 2005), women may anticipate that being stereotyped could be a handicap for their activity (Fagenson and Marcus 1991; Marlow 2002; Holmquist and Sundin 2002; Martins et al. 2002). Moreover, women may perceive disadvantages in the self-employment option (ie. pregnancy and maternity leave, role stress) in comparison with being an employee (Rouse 2005; Wincent and Ortqvist 2008). Another reason might be the fact that women have fewer female role models (Stewart et al. 1998). According to this evidence, it is proposed that:
  1. H8:

    Women have a less optimistic attitude towards entrepreneurship.


Entrepreneurial intention

The results of several studies reveal that men, in comparison with women, consider entrepreneurship more desirable than other careers (Shaver et al. 2001; Veciana et al. 2005), have higher perception of personal efficacy for the task and a higher preference for firm creation (Scherer et al. 1990; Chen et al. 1998; Gatewood et al. 2002; Zhao et al. 2005; Veciana et al. 2005; Langowitz and Minniti 2007; Wilson et al. 2007; Henley 2007). And, related to this, other studies observe that the number of men involved in starting businesses is significantly and systematically larger than that of women (Reynolds et al. 2000; Delmar and Davidsson 2000; Minniti et al. 2005; Davidsson 2006). Therefore, it is suggested that:
  1. H9:

    Male students have higher entrepreneurial intention than female students. A model including these hypotheses is presented in Fig. 1.



The target population of this study were students enrolled in Economy (fourth and fifth year) and Business Administration (third, fourth and fifth year) degrees in the academic year of 2006–2007 in the University of Castilla La Mancha (Southern Spain), particularly in the School of Economics and Business Administration in Albacete. The students enrolled in these courses have taken several subjects related to business management which are required to complete their degree. The total population was 967 students, the breakdown of students according to sex was 533 women (55%) and 434 men (45%) and, according to degree, 284 were from Economics (29.37%) and 683 from Business Administration (70.63%).

There are several reasons for selecting a sample of students in order to carry out this research. Firstly, Sexton and Bowman (1986) observed that entrepreneurship students did not differ in a significant way from business owners in variables like conformity, energy level, interpersonal affect, social ability and risk aversion. Secondly, they are a convenient sample which provides control in the completion of questionnaires. They are also a dynamic segment of the population and, in the digital era, they represent a main source of entrepreneurial talent (Veciana et al. 2005).

The questionnaire was designed to measure business start-up intentions, attitudes towards new business start-up, subjective norms and self-efficacy, as well as several control variables. It was developed using questions and scales validated in previous research and the questions were pilot tested on 6 students of both sexes. Due to the results obtained from the pre-test, some items were changed according to the students’ suggestions, in order to improve their comprehension. The final questionnaire was given to the students during a class session in May 2007. A description of the variables used in the study is included in Table 1.
Table 1

Description of variables

Name of variable

Description of variable

Entrepreneurial intention

5-point Likert scale by Veciana et al. (2005)

Have you seriously thought about creating your own business?

1 = No, never

2 = No, but I plan to join a family business

3 = Yes, vaguely

4 = Yes, seriously

5 = Yes, I have the firm intention to create my own firm

Social norms

Perception that “reference people” would approve or not the decision to become an entrepreneur

Proposed by Ajzen (2001), it is weighted by the importance of their opinion

Stereotypical perception of the “successful business owner”

Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ)a by Spence and Helmreich (1978. Two scales: “instrumental” and “expressive”, characteristics traditionally ascribed to men and to women respectively

Perception of the generic environment

Scale by Grilo and Thurik (2005). Important impact in students’ entrepreneurial intention (Autio et al. 1997; Carayannis et al. 2003; Luthje and Franke 2003).


Scale for firm creation by Chen et al. (1998) is an adjusted measure to the specific task and, therefore, has a higher power to predict the intention to undergo the activity (Bandura 1982)

Attitude toward entrepreneurship

Scale by Liao and Welsch (2004), similar to that used by Kolvereid and Isaksen (2006).


Operationalized as 1 for females and 0 for males

Entrepreneurship education

Dichotomic variable

Having a role model of a business-owner in the family

Dichotomic variable

Locus of control

Scale by Levenson (1973)b. If the individual if attributes the results to external factors (luck), can perceive her/himself with a low self-efficacy, even achieving good results

aThis is a questionnaire of proved validity and reliability that has been used by other researchers with this aim (Cames et al. 2001; Fagenson and Marcus 1991; among others)

bChen et al. (1998) used this scale for locus of control and proved the difference between this construct and self-efficacy, since the last really differentiates firm founders from managers

The questionnaire was completed by the students who were in class on the day it was handed out and participation was voluntary. After reviewing the questionnaires, 148 were usable for the study, giving a response rate of 15.3% with a sample error of ±7% at confidence level of 95% (p = q = 0.5). The proportion of men to women in the sample (46.9% men and 53.1% women) and of students enrolled in Economics (25.3%) and Business Administration degree courses (74.7%) is similar to that of the population. The mean sample age was 22.7 years.

Data was analysed using Student t-tests and a multinomial logistic regression.
Fig. 1

Conceptual model


The majority of the sample of students had thought about creating their own firm as a future career option (78.8%)9. Only 16% of male students, compared to 26% of their female classmates, did not intend to create a firm. The high entrepreneurial intention shown by the individuals in this sample could be explained by the nature of their degree subjects10 and by the majority having an entrepreneurial family background, which means they are more likely to develop entrepreneurial values themselves (Davidsson and Honig 2003). It can also be due to an important improvement in the image of entrepreneurs in Spain which has increased the desirability of this career option in recent decades (Veciana et al. 2005).

Taking into account the estimated time needed to create a firm, it seems that women are less prone to do it without having acquired certain experience in the labour market or having increased their educational background (Fig. 2)11. It may be that women do not consider the entrepreneurial option as a way to achieve a higher socio-economic level in the first years of labour activity (Constant 2006). However, these gender differences are not significant with respect to having the intention (t = 1.590, sig. = 0.114) or the estimated time to create the firm (t = −0.646, sig. = 0.520). These results could be due to the sample being composed by young, educated and inexperienced individuals. Hence, hypothesis 9 is not supported.
Fig. 2

Difference in estimated time for firm creation by gender

The perception of the hostility of the general environment is similar across genders; the average for the total sample being 2.96, in a Likert scale of five points, which can be interpreted as a neutral assessment. Similarly, it can be observed that individuals of both genders perceive the same profile of attributes of the successful entrepreneurs (Fig. 3)12. The students’ valuation of the stereotypical masculine characteristics—according to PAQ, the right semicircle—is greater (4.25 on average) than the valuation given to the feminine characteristics (3.59 on average). These results are in line with those by Gupta et al. (2008), since they found that entrepreneurs are still perceived to have predominantly masculine characteristics13. Furthermore, it can be observed that female students perceive they would have more support from their closer circle (parents, friends, other significant person) than their male counterparts (t = −4.044; sig. = 0.000), this result was also observed by Ljunggren and Kolvereid (1998)14. Therefore, hypothesis 4 is partially rejected.
Fig. 3

Personal attributes of the successful entrepreneur

As a result of a factor analysis, four factors were extracted and used to measure the effects of self-efficacy (see Table 2). With respect to these factors, women perceive themselves significantly less capable of carrying out tasks related with taking risks (t = 3.183; sig. = 0.002), which is assumed to be important for entrepreneurial decisions (Iyigun and Owen 1998; Segal, Borgia and Schoenfeld 2005; Zhao et al. 2005). Therefore, hypothesis 6 is partially supported. In literature there are non conclusive results with respect to women being more averse to risk taking, some studies found this result (Sexton and Bowman-Upton 1990; Carter 2002) but not others (Masters and Meier 1988). On the other hand, women perceive themselves as having greater capabilities for innovation and for fixing and accomplishing objectives, although these differences do not reach statistical significance.
Table 2

Result of factor analysis for self-efficacy


Eigen value

% variance


Variable name

Factor loading

Operational definition





Set and meet sales goals


Self-efficacy objectives

Set and meet market share goals


Set and attain profit goals


Establish position in product market


Establish and achieve goals and objectives






Control cost


Self-efficacy financial control and management

Develop financial system and internal controls


Perform financial analysis


Strategic planning and develop information system


Reduce risk and uncertainty






New venturing and new ideas


Self-efficacy innovation

New products and services


New markets and geographic territories


New methods of production, marketing and management






Take decisions under uncertainty and risk


Self-efficacy risk-assumption

Assume the responsibility of ideas and decisions


Define organizational roles, responsibilities and policies


Work under pressure and conflict


Take risks in a calculated way


Total % of explained variance 58.909%. KMO test: 0.833. Bartlett’s test of sphericity: O2 = 1074.500, gl: 171, sig. 0.000

There are no significant differences with respect to entrepreneurial attitude (t = 0.858; sig. = 0.393) and, therefore, hypothesis 8 is not supported.

With respect to the control variables, the majority of the sample (56.2%) has a family entrepreneurial background and there are no significant gender differences with respect to this variable (t = −0.565, sig. = 0.573) or having pursued entrepreneurship education (t = 1.699, sig. = 0.092). It can also be observed that men more often than women perceive that the result of their acts depends highly on chance in the short term (t = 3.233; sig. = 0.002)15. These findings may be related with those by Rosenthal (1995), who observed that women tended to attribute their achievement of work goals more to hard work and less to other factors.

Following these analyses, a multinomial logistic regression was performed, with entrepreneurial intention being the dependent variable (the reference category being: “Yes, I have the firm intention”). The independent variables are demographic, the perception of the environment and social norms, self-efficacy and attitude. A personalized model was implemented in which these variables were entered as forced entry terms and the interaction terms with gender were entered as stepwise-forward entry terms.

Table 3 shows a summary of the model, showing those measures that allow us to affirm that the final model has a good fit to the data, since the pseudo R2 of Nagelkerke indicates that 60.8% of the variation is explained by the model. It can also be observed that the significance of the likelihood ratio test is small, which means that the effects contribute to the model. With respect to the goodness of fit tests, it can be pointed out that their significance is high, which confirms that the model fits well to the data. The final model correctly predicts 65.2% of the responses.
Table 3

Multinomial logistic regressiona

Intention category


Std. error



No, never






Sex (man)





Masculine scale of attributes





Feminine scale of attributes





Perceived difficulties in generic environment





Perceived support of the specific environment





Self-efficacy fixing-accomplishing objectives





Self-efficacy financial control-management





Self-efficacy innovation





Self-efficacy risk assumption





Entrepreneurial attitude





Entrepreneurship education (no)





Business-owner in the family (no)





Sex × masculine scale





Sex × self-efficacy innovation





No, but I plan to join a family business






Sex (man)





Masculine scale of attributes





Feminine scale of attributes





Perceived difficulties in generic environment





Perceived support of the specific environment





Self-efficacy fixing-accomplishing objectives





Self-efficacy financial control-management





Self-efficacy innovation





Self-efficacy risk assumption





Entrepreneurial attitude





Entrepreneurship education (no)




Business-owner in the family (no)





Sex × masculine scale





Sex × self-efficacy innovation





Yes, vaguely






Sex (man)





Masculine scale of attributes





Feminine scale of attributes





Perceived difficulties in generic environment





Perceived support of the specific environment





Self-efficacy fixing-accomplishing objectives





Self-efficacy financial control-management





Self-efficacy innovation





Self-efficacy risk assumption





Entrepreneurial attitude





Entrepreneurship education (no)





Business-owner in the family (no)





Sex × masculine scale





Sex × self-efficacy innovation





Yes, seriously






Sex (man)





Masculine scale of attributes





Feminine scale of attributes





Perceived difficulties in generic environment





Perceived support of the specific environment





Self-efficacy fixing-accomplishing objectives





Self-efficacy financial control-management





Self-efficacy innovation





Self-efficacy risk assumption





Entrepreneurial attitude





Entrepreneurship education (no)





Business-owner in the family (no)





Sex × masculine scale





Sex × self-efficacy innovation





Model Fitting Information: Likelihood ratio tests→chi-square = 106.142, Sig. = 0.000. Goodness-of-Fit→Pearson→Chi-Square = 279.384 Sig. = 1.000. Deviance→Chi-Square = 210.846 Sig. = 1.000. Pseudo R-Square→Nagelkerke = 0.608. Percentage correctly classified = 65.2%

aWith respect to the significance of the Wald test for the parameters, the subtle semantic difference among the response categories 3, 4, and 5 might explain why the majority of the explanatory variables are only significant to a 0.10 level

This regression allows us to observe that two variables differentiate those who have a firm entrepreneurial intention from individuals who do not: the former have more self-efficacy in financial control and management and perceive fewer difficulties within the generic environment16. Also, those who are determined to create their own firm have more self-efficacy in fixing and accomplishing objectives with respect to those who have never though about creating their own firm or those who have thought about it seriously. Additionally, there are more variables that characterize those individuals who have a firm entrepreneurial intention in comparison with others (except those who have the intention to join a family business), they are: having a higher entrepreneurial attitude, perceiving successful entrepreneurs as having, to a greater extent, characteristics typically understood to be feminine ones and having pursued entrepreneurship education. These results offer support for hypothesis 1 and 3—on the relation of subjective norms and entrepreneurial attitude with entrepreneurial intention—and partial support for hypothesis 2—on the relation of self-efficacy and entrepreneurial intention.

These findings are in line with those of previous research. Several studies reported the significant role played by self-efficacy as an important antecedent in the formation of entrepreneurial intentions (Krueger 1993; Boyd and Vozikis 1994; Krueger and Brazeal 1994; Chen et al. 1998; Zhao et al. 2005; Morales-Gualdrón and Roig 2005; Wilson et al. 2007). Also the relationship of entrepreneurial attitude with firm-creation intention has been proved (Autio et al. 1997; Welsch and Pistrui 1993; Pistrui et al. 1998; Luthje and Franke 2003; Kolvereid and Isaksen 2006). It can be observed that the entrepreneurial intent is directly affected by perceived factors in the entrepreneurship-related context, in line with the findings of previous studies (Luthje and Franke 2003; Liñán et al. 2007). Furthermore, entrepreneurship education has been related with a higher propensity to venture in previous studies (Kolvereid and Moen 1997; Luthje and Franke 2003; Peterman and Kennedy 2003), which might be mediated by an increase in self-efficacy (Chen et al. 1998; Wilson et al. 2007).

Another finding of this study is that men are more likely to have thought about the intention of creating a firm than of being determined to do it. However, of those men, the ones who perceive higher congruence between masculine and entrepreneurial characteristics are more likely to have a firm entrepreneurial intention. This may be related with men’s tendency to hold stronger views on gender-role stereotypes (Miller and Budd 1999). Therefore, it can be argued that the relationship between entrepreneurial intention and environment perception is moderated, at least partially, by gender; a finding which supports hypothesis 5. However, the evidence does not support hypothesis 7—on the moderating effect of gender in the relationship between self-efficacy and entrepreneurial intention. This suggests that the perception of having the necessary skills and training is an important factor in determining actual entrepreneurial participation, independent from other contextual variables including gender.

With respect to the effect of having a role model on entrepreneurial intention, we can observe that this variable is positively related with having a firm entrepreneurial intention instead of only having thought vaguely about this option. In the literature, there are no conclusive results and whereas some studies report a positive impact (Veciana et al. 2005; Vaillant and Lafuente 2007) others found a negative one (Van Aukem et al. 2006). In this study, apart from the positive effect, this variable also has a positive relationship with: (1) perceiving that the decision of becoming an entrepreneur meets with the parents’ approval (t = −3.556; sig. = 0.001); (2) perceiving higher self-efficacy with respect to certain tasks: to establish a position within the product-market (t = −2.300; sig. = 0.023), to establish and achieve goals and objectives (t = −2.506; sig. = 0.013) or to perform financial analyses (t = −2.056; sig. = 0.42) and (3) a favourable entrepreneurial attitude (t = 1.959; sig. = 0.052).

A summary of the hypotheses and results from the analyses is provided in Table 4.
Table 4

Results of the contrasts of hypothesis


H4: Women have a less optimistic perception of the environment and social norms

Partially rejected

H6: Women have a less optimistic perception of self-efficacy

Partially supported

H8: Women have a less optimistic attitude towards entrepreneurship.

No evidence

H9: Male students have a higher entrepreneurial intention than female students.

No evidence

Multinomial logistic regression

H1: A favourable perception of the environment and social norms is related positively with entrepreneurial intention.


H2: A higher perception of self-efficacy is related positively with entrepreneurial intention

Partially supported

H3: A favourable attitude towards entrepreneurship is related positively to the intention of creating a firm.


H5: Gender moderates the relationship between the perception of the environment and social norms and entrepreneurial intention (stronger for women)


H7: Gender moderates the relationship between self-efficacy and entrepreneurial intention (stronger for women)

No evidence


The core entrepreneurial intention model is generally supported by the analysis; confirming that subjective norms, entrepreneurial attitude and self-efficacy have a significant relationship with entrepreneurial intention, consistent with the findings of previous studies with students’ samples (Luthje and Franke 2003; Liñán et al. 2007).

Furthermore, the analyses carried out clearly show the importance of theorizing the role of gender. In this study, gender has a direct impact since men are more likely to have thought about the intention of creating a firm than of being determined to do it. However the impact of this direct effect is lessened due to an interaction effect: those men who perceive higher congruence between masculine and entrepreneurial characteristics are more likely to have a firm entrepreneurial intention.

Also it is necessary to highlight the importance of including stereotyping in the model because of its subtle, yet powerful, influence. Besides the interaction effect previously exposed, we have observed that individuals with a firm entrepreneurial intention perceive feminine attributes as necessary for being a successful entrepreneur, irrespective of their gender. This finding leads to expect an increase in female entrepreneurship in the near future. It may also be related to the fact that characteristics culturally associated to women are appearing in the descriptions of management work in contemporary manuals (Fondas 1997; Bird and Brush 2002).

Both results confirm the findings obtained by Pillis and Reardon (2007), who argued that the perception of entrepreneurship as a self-consistent career was the most significant predictor of intention to become an entrepreneur for both genders. Perceptions of the importance of both masculine and feminine attributes to succeed as an entrepreneur are not mutually exclusive. Instead, Bird and Brush (2002) advocate a new perspective that broadens the view of organizational creation by encompassing the relative balance of feminine and masculine perspectives in the entrepreneur’s venture start-up process and new venture attributes.

Liñán and Chen (2009) conclude that social norms have a relevant effect on entrepreneurial intention, although this is indirect, modifying personal attraction and self-efficacy levels. Therefore, they suggest that contents specifically designed to improve perceived social norms should be included in entrepreneurship education programs. We propose that taking into account gender stereotyping as a social norm can be very fruitful. That is, a more feminine vision of entrepreneurial success has to be fostered, since many traits (such as relationship-oriented, nurturing and caring) regarded by experts to be important for entrepreneurship success are stereotypically feminine (Bird and Brush 2002).

In spite of the empirical evidence reported in previous studies relating to gender difference in entrepreneurial intention, this has not been confirmed within this sample of young, educated and inexperienced individuals. In this study, those individuals who are more predisposed to create their own firm perceive more feminine characteristics in the profile of the successful entrepreneur. This perception may lead women to perceive entrepreneurship as career that could be more compatible with themselves. Also, women perceive they would have more support from people close to them than their male counterparts, and if the family encourages the creation of the firm, this can be reflected in multiple types of support (Cuervo 2005).

In this study, the analyses have been carried out on a sample of university students. Although we have stated previously some reasons why students are often used in this type of research, we acknowledge that they may not be representative of the total population. In future research the representativeness of the sample should be improved, therefore the study will be expanded to different degrees.

Also, whereas some of the findings with respect to gender are similar to those of Gupta et al. (2008) with a USA sample, it is generally accepted that cultural differences play a relevant role in explaining entrepreneurial cognitions and in Spain women are still defined through roles connected to family and household responsibilities (Instituto de la Mujer 2005). Therefore, the results would need to be confirmed with other samples, with respect to age, occupation and country of origin, before they could be completely accepted. We believe that conducting a cross-national study of entrepreneurial intention is a fruitful avenue for future research (Shook et al. 2003), since it would allow both testing the stability of the model, as well as comparing the prevalence of entrepreneurial intent among students in different countries.

Data has been analysed using Student t-tests and a multinomial logistic regression; however alternative techniques, such as structural equations models, could be used to confirm or reject the results obtained. In addition, our data is cross-sectional, limiting the possibility of obtaining more robust analysis. We intend to repeat the study on a regular basis to compare and contrast how student’s entrepreneurial intention develops over time. Furthermore, we plan to conduct interviews to develop a deeper understanding of the process.

We believe that further research in the area of self-confidence, attitude and perceptions holds promise for enhancing the entrepreneurial intent and the effective cultivation of business founding spirit among students.


These results have a number of implications for academics, but also for politicians, related to the development of useful knowledge to implement formative and development programmes. Firstly, a reinforcement of students’ perceptions of entrepreneurial efficacy will increase the perception of self-employment as an opportunity. There are individuals who do not plan the entrepreneurial activity not because they lack the necessary skills but because they believe that they lack those skills. Self-efficacy is not a static trait, but rather it can be changed17, hence the importance of targeted educational efforts.

Secondly, those female students who believe that entrepreneurial success is based on the existence of male stereotypical traits perceive barriers to personal entrepreneurial action. Educators have to foster a feminine vision of entrepreneurial success, especially among women, since many traits (such as relationship-oriented, nurturing and caring) regarded by experts to be important for entrepreneurship success are stereotypically feminine. Therefore it is important to have “gender-sensitive programming” to satisfy the needs of both genders18. Some actions in order to foster entrepreneurship as a plausible career among women could entail: using positive role models in teaching and inviting successful women to expose their experiences19.

Finally, university education should encourage entrepreneurial behaviour even more. However, the Spanish education system does not have a strategy focused on communicating firm creation as a professional alternative for students. It may be worthwhile to study the actions undertaken in other countries, such as the enterprise education programme implemented in Scottish schools (“Determined to Succeed”) which aims to prepare students to be more flexible and entrepreneurial in attitudes as a response to increasingly uncertain labour markets20. It would be necessary to adjust the educational curricula customizing it to the particular culture of the country in order to improve its effectiveness and to promote creativity courses as an essential part of entrepreneurial intention21.


  1. 1.

    Made up with codes of behaviour, attitudes, values, norms of conduct and conventions (North 1990).

  2. 2.

    Based on stereotypical beliefs about what women are like and the inconsistency of these conceptions with what is thought to be necessary to succeed in a corporate position of responsibility.

  3. 3.

    According to theory, external variables will exert their influence only through attitudes, but do not affect intentions or behaviour independently (Krueger and Brazeal 1994).

  4. 4.

    Since recent studies show that perceptual variables play a crucial role in explaining differences across genders with respect to entrepreneurial behaviour (Koellinger et al. 2005; Minniti and Nardone 2007; Langowitz and Minniti 2007).

  5. 5.

    Due to the cost cutting and restructuring processes by large companies and to the work values usually connected with self-employment such as independence, challenge and self-realization.

  6. 6.

    Krueger et al. (2000: 424) compared the relative explanatory capacity of these two models and concluded that “both models offer researchers valuable tools to understand the process of organizational emergence”. Their study demonstrated that these two models were interrelated when employed within entrepreneurship research.

  7. 7.

    Although somewhat wider, Armitage and Conner (2001) concluded that self-efficacy is more clearly defined and more strongly correlated with intention and behaviour.

  8. 8.

    She argued that the factors which most influenced the successful creation of a firm by a woman were having surpassed the cultural conditionings and having had certain learning experiences.

  9. 9.

    Although if we split the data: only 5.5% are determined to create their own firm, 15.1% have thought seriously about it and 58.2% have thought vaguely about this option. These figures are comparable with those obtained by Veciana et al. (2005) for the Catalonian sample (4.1%, 12.1% and 51%).

  10. 10.

    Business Administration and Economics, where a higher percentage of students consider creating a new firm desirable compared with students of other degrees (Guerrero et al. 2008).

  11. 11.

    A larger percentage of male students (9.8%), in comparison with their female classmates (3.4%), reported that they have not decided in which time in the future they will consider creating their own firm.

  12. 12.

    There is only one significant difference, since women perceive less gentleness in the traits of a successful entrepreneur than their male counterparts (t = −2.026; sig. = 0.045).

  13. 13.

    However, they also observed that women perceive a greater congruence between feminine and entrepreneurial characteristics.

  14. 14.

    Although Rodriguez and Santos (2008), within a very small sample of nascent entrepreneurs, found that female nascent entrepreneurs receive less social approval from their close environment.

  15. 15.

    The factorial analysis on the scale of locus of control results in three factors: internal control, external control in the short term and external control in the long term.

  16. 16.

    In a binary logistic regression, performed in a previous version of this study, it was found that those individuals with high self-efficacy in risk assumption -which might be related with perceiving a less hostile environment—have a higher likelihood of entrepreneurial intention.

  17. 17.

    This finding has been evidenced in several studies (Hollenbeck and Hall 2004; Cooper and Lucas 2007).

  18. 18.

    Recent studies advocate this approach (Brush et al. 1995; Hazlett et al. 2006; Fuller-Love et al. 2006; Wilson et al. 2007).

  19. 19.

    Since inspiration has been found to be one of the most influential benefits of entrepreneurship programmes (Souitaris et al. 2007).

  20. 20.

    For a description of this programme see Deakins et al. (2005).

  21. 21.

    These actions are also highlighted as necessary in previous research (Lee et al. 2006; Zampetakis and Moustakis 2006).



The authors wish to thank Professor Sara Carter of the University of Strathclyde for her very helpful comments that contributed to the development of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Cristina Díaz-García
    • 1
  • Juan Jiménez-Moreno
    • 1
  1. 1.Business Administration, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y EmpresarialesUniversity of Castilla–La ManchaAlbaceteSpain

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