Equality in Business: How Support from Loved Ones Can Reduce the Gender Gap
Galina Shirokova, Professor at the Department of Management at HSE University-St Petersburg, has worked alongside international researchers to identify the role of social circles and cultural values in the success of young businesswomen. They found that support within a group increases the chances of women engaging in entrepreneurship.
Students’ involvement in entrepreneurship increases every year, and this trend has been observed throughout the world. On the one hand, this interest is generated by an increase in the level of education and technical skills of the young generation, and on the other hand, by the level of unemployment in several countries, which forces people to create workplaces for themselves.
With student interest in business increasing, the gender issue becomes more pressing. Statistics show that young women engage in entrepreneurship less frequently than men. What influences women's business activities and what can be done to quantitatively increase women's representation in the commercial sphere?
These questions were answered by Galina Shirokova, Professor at the Department of Management, Director of the Centre for Strategic Entrepreneurship at HSE University-St Petersburg, during a joint research seminar of the strategic project 'Success and Independence of the Individual in a Changing World'. Together with colleagues from France, Sweden and Estonia, Prof. Shirokova conducted research revealing the role of close interpersonal circles and national culture in the success of young women in business.
The scientists based their research on the theory of a high degree of connection between an individual and the environment. Using the method of multilevel probit-regressions, they tested the theory on data obtained during a study into the entrepreneurial spirit of young people in 2018. The research group singled out the answers of 124,545 students from 33 countries aged 16–34. All of the respondents were emerging entrepreneurs—women and men taking their first steps to start a business. The researchers looked at how intra-group support, family approval, and cultural values influenced people's decision to start a business.
The scientists had previously speculated that businesswomen tended to have a greater fear of failure, which is why they more often relied on strong connections (family, friends and colleagues) than weaker ones (people they do not know as well). For the strategic project 'Success and Independence of the Individual in a Changing World', the group of scientists proved this hypothesis on a massive data set.
'Intra-group support has a positive effect on the gender gap and increases the chances of young women engaging in entrepreneurship,' explains Galina Shirokova.
Approval from those in their close interpersonal circle gives women the instrumental and emotional resources to start a business. This highlights the importance of entrepreneurial role models for women students. In particular, intra-group support is of great importance to women in traditional cultures due to the unequal access to opportunities and resources for starting their businesses. The approval of close people is a more valuable factor to active businesswomen who have already founded a business than to those just starting out.
The results obtained illustrate the vital role played by social circles in creating and enhancing local entrepreneurial ecosystems and providing strong support to emerging and more experienced entrepreneurs. The reduction of the gender gap can be influenced by the development of a business culture which takes women's interests into account and focused training in this field at university.