In a recent study, researchers investigated the stereotype that women are under confident in their entrepreneurial ability. Jennifer Jennings, a University of Alberta professor in the department of strategy, entrepreneurship, and management, co-authored the study.
Her team included Zahid Rahman, an assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of Lethbridge, and Dianna Dempsey, an associate professor in the department of management and operations at MacEwan University. They conducted two separate studies. Their goal was to examine the differences in entrepreneurial self-efficacy (ESE) among women and men.
“We [were] skeptical of how a widely reported fact was being interpreted and portrayed. The widely reported fact is the tendency for women to confess a lower level of confidence in their entrepreneurial ability than men,” Jennings said.
Jennings discovered that the stereotype of women having low confidence in their entrepreneurial abilities is not necessarily true. She said that “women are as likely as men to possess accurate [ESE].”
“ESE is the degree to which an individual believes that they’re suited to an entrepreneurial career, and that they’re going to be successful as an entrepreneur,” Jennings said.
The first study examined varying confidence levels
For the first study, participants at a U of A lab had to complete entrepreneurship-related tasks.
“They had to sort the criteria that they thought expert entrepreneurs would use to evaluate a business opportunity,” Jennings said.
The researchers attempted to evaluate the accuracy of the participants’ assessments of their own entrepreneurial confidence. They did this by looking at the participants’ self-assessments in comparison to the performed tasks. They then investigated if men and women had different levels of ESE.
“The results gave us an indicator of whether they had an accurate level of confidence, under-confidence, or over-confidence in their entrepreneurial ability.”
The second study showed risky tendencies associated with levels of over-confidence
For the second study, the researchers sent out a survey to adults in the United States and the United Kingdom. In this study, participants generated new ideas for a business. They were similarly evaluated for ESE. However, in this study, they gave participants scenarios that could affect their hypothetical business.
Jennings and her team found that in the second study, both over-confident men and women tended to exhibit risky tendencies.
“They were ready to start an adventure in an industry that they have very little knowledge about, and very little experience in,” Jennifer explained. “That’s a pretty high-risk thing to do.”
Jennings explained that over-confidence might be beneficial in starting a business, but in the long-run it could pose a problem. Additionally, they found that the over-confident individuals were less likely to learn about their abilities and how they could improve.
In terms of the significance of the study, Jennings wants women to be aware of how this stereotype misportrays women’s ESE.
“Our studies suggest that women are just as likely as men to possess an accurate level of confidence and entrepreneurial ability.”