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Companies created by women represent a substantial part of entrepreneurship. While men outnumber women in entrepreneurship rates, the gender gap decreases in the case of social enterprises. This may be explained by the fact that roles and stereotypes that influence women's behavior will lead to significantly identify with the values promulgated by social enterprises. This greater involvement in social activities leads women to become an essential player for promoting such needed initiatives given the impossibility for public institutions to address all social problems. Therefore in this paper, firstly, we study the gender gap in social and commercial entrepreneurship, distinguishing between enterprises with less than 42 months of activity and those consolidated in the market. Secondly, and aware of the variability of data between countries, a study is conducted using a sample of 48 countries grouped according to their level of development. The results confirm what is stated in the literature, the gender gap is reduced in the case of social entrepreneurship and it is also shown that female participation in social enterprises is influenced by the level of development of the country. These results lead us to highlight the importance of variables such as culture or social norms when explaining female behavior.
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European Journal of Management and Business Economics 25 (2016) 56–62
European Journal of Management
and Business Economics
www.elsevier.es/ejmbe
Article
Social enterprise: Gender gap and economic development
Catalina Nicolás, Alicia Rubio
Departamento de Organización de Empresas y Finanzas, Facultad de Economía y Empresa, Universidad de Murcia, Campus de Espinardo, s/n, 30100 Murcia, Spain
article info
Article history:
Received 18 March 2015
Accepted 30 November 2015
Available online 23 April 2016
JEL classification:
M13 – new firms
startups
Keywords:
Entrepreneurship
Social entrepreneurship
Development of the country
Gender
Gap in rates of entrepreneurship
abstract
Companies created by women represent a substantial part of entrepreneurship. While men outnumber
women in entrepreneurship rates, the gender gap decreases in the case of social enterprises. This may be
explained by the fact that roles and stereotypes that influence women’s behavior will lead to significantly
identify with the values promulgated by social enterprises. This greater involvement in social activities
leads women to become an essential player for promoting such needed initiatives given the impossibility
for public institutions to address all social problems. Therefore in this paper, firstly, we study the gender
gap in social and commercial entrepreneurship, distinguishing between enterprises with less than 42
months of activity and those consolidated in the market. Secondly, and aware of the variability of data
between countries, a study is conducted using a sample of 48 countries grouped according to their level of
development. The results confirm what is stated in the literature, the gender gap is reduced in the case of
social entrepreneurship and it is also shown that female participation in social enterprises is influenced
by the level of development of the country. These results lead us to highlight the importance of variables
such as culture or social norms when explaining female behavior.
© 2016 AEDEM. Published by Elsevier España, S.L.U. This is an open access article under the CC
BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Introduction
The role of enterprises is considered essential in the economic
sphere, as they mobilize resources, create jobs and generate wealth.
Moreover, taking into account their contribution to economic
growth, enterprises are considered essential in the development
of a territory, as they contribute to the rejuvenation of the socio-
productive fabric, re-launching regional areas and boosting the
innovative process (Santos, 2012).
That is why in the economic, political and social fields a wide
range of private and even public policies have been implemented
aimed at entrepreneurship (Álvarez, Noguera, & Urbano, 2012).
Examples include programs offered by institutions like the United
Nations (UN). In particular, the UN has programs to promote
entrepreneurship among which are those targeted at the female
segment, which pursue greater equality between men and women,
reducing gender violence, achieving peace between territories and
in general, promoting social change worldwide (Luchsinger, 2015).
The authors thank the CajaMurcia Foundation for their support in this paper.
This article is part of the Project: “Women and Entrepreneurship from a Compe-
tence Perspective” (CSO2013-43667-R), financed by the Ministry of Economy and
Competitiveness.
Corresponding author.
E-mail address: catalina.nicolas@um.es (C. Nicolás).
The emergence of measures to support female entrepreneurship
is widespread, because the proportion of women who decide to
start a business is lower than that of men (Minniti, 2010), being
this inferiority more significant as the development level of the
country increases (Coduras & Autio, 2013).
These differences have traditionally been attributed to the dif-
ferent motivations that guide men and women. In particular, men
are closer to achieving and obtaining economic benefits, while
women are closer to pursuing social value (Hechevarría, Ingram,
Justo, & Terjesen, 2012; Urbano, Ferri, & Noguera, 2014; Wilson &
Kickul, 2006).
Although the commercial enterprise generates social value, this
is not in particular its objective, but an indirect consequence of
its activity. In the social enterprise, however, the creation of social
value is intrinsic to its mission (Dees, 2001; Holmen & Mizzi, 2014),
a value which the employer does not want to take ownership for
and intentionally creates for others (Santos, 2012).
This fact makes the social enterprise be considered suitable for
women in order to align their interests with the roles that have
been attributed to them culturally, closely linked to altruism, care
and protection of disadvantaged groups (Dietz, Kalof, & Stern, 2002;
Mckay, Phillimore, & Teasdale, 2010; Urbano et al., 2014).
Due to the importance for the rest of society, social enterprises
are currently being studied by several institutions, such as the Euro-
pean Commission, whose analysis shows that this is a business
phenomenon which is currently proliferating and it is increasingly
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.redeen.2015.11.001
2444-8451/© 2016 AEDEM. Published by Elsevier España, S.L.U. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
C. Nicolás, A. Rubio / European Journal of Management and Business Economics 25 (2016) 56–62 57
easier to find examples of social enterprises worldwide (Holmen &
Mizzi, 2014).
Although the number of social enterprises is growing and the
implementation of female enterprises (Holmen & Mizzi, 2014;
Luchsinger, 2015) is being promoted to a greater extent, the data
in this regard, show that the importance of women in the rates
of social entrepreneurship varies considerably from one country to
another, even from one economic group to another (Bosma & Levie,
2010).
Our two research questions arise from these reflections: (1) Is
the proportion of women who create businesses higher in the social
case? (2) What influence does the level of economic development
of the country have on the proportion of women versus men who
set up social enterprises?
While the differences between men and women have been
widely discussed in the literature on commercial entrepreneurship,
there is little research analyzing them from the social enterprise
point of view (Nicolás Martínez, 2014).
In order to respond to these two questions, firstly, an analy-
sis is carried out on the influence that being male or female has
on the decision to create a company, specifying in the case that the
company created has a social objective. Next, how the level of devel-
opment of the country where the new company is located mediates
in this relationship is studied. The research hypotheses are derived
from this relationship. Then these hypotheses are contrasted by
the study of the gender separation gap. The sample used is made
up of 14,931 entrepreneurs in 48 countries, grouped according to
their level of development, of these entrepreneurs, 2693 are social
entrepreneurs. The sample was obtained from the database of the
Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2009. The paper ends with
a discussion of the results and the analysis of the implications for
research in this area and the applications it has for enterprises at a
practical level.
In general, it should be noted that this work makes impor-
tant contributions to literature. On the one hand, entrepreneurship
according to the gender of the individual who sets up the enterprise
is studied, verifying that proportionately women create more social
than commercial enterprises in all the groups of countries. On the
other hand, gender in social enterprises and the level of economic
development is also analyzed, noting that as the level of devel-
opment decreases, women create a larger number of enterprises,
both social and commercial, so there is a negative relationship
between the level of development of the country and setting up
businesses.
Gender of social entrepreneurship
The literature on gender and entrepreneurship is quite exten-
sive, finding a broad consensus on the fact that men are the ones
who start businesses to a greater extent (Eagly, 1987; Langowitz &
Minniti, 2007; Mckay et al., 2010; Themudo, 2009).
This greater propensity of the male group is explained by the
social role theory or its extended version the gender role theory,
developed by Eagly (1987), in which it is stated that it is not the
biological predisposition, but culture that defines socially accept-
able behaviors for each gender. While the male role is associated
with control or achievement, making them responsible for finan-
cial family support, traditionally women are often associated with
work in the home, performing household chores and taking care
of children and other dependent people. These are the roles and
stereotypes that lead to the conclusion that the ideal gender to start
and run businesses is the male one (Carter & Rosa, 1998).
Meanwhile, Connell (1990) also supports this argument with his
theory of hegemonic masculinity, stating that in the business world
there is a hierarchical order between men and women, by which
men are seen as the standard and women as the exception to the
rule (Godwin, Stevens, & Brenner, 2006).
However, the fact that women have these roles preset and are
conditioned by the principles of hegemonic masculinity can cause
differences in the way in which they run their businesses, since
the objectives that guide their decisions are different from those
of men (Langowitz & Minniti, 2007). In particular, there are stud-
ies that show that women decide to become entrepreneurs guided
primarily by social rather than economic (main motivation of men)
objectives (Fernández-Serrano & Li˜
nán, 2014; Urbano et al., 2014).
This fact may explain why women are not only the goal of
many social actions, but also key players in social entrepreneurship
(Hechevarría et al., 2012). The missions of these types of enterprises
are directly related to altruism, care and protection to others, while
commercial enterprises pursue to create an economic benefit for
the person who started it. This leads to women that create a social
enterprise to find a place more adapted to their roles and emotional
goals than those starting a commercial enterprise (Dietz et al., 2002;
Mckay et al., 2010; Urbano et al., 2014).
Furthermore, while the main objective of the commercial enter-
prise is the creation of economic benefit, the social enterprise
moves away from that goal, focusing explicitly on creating sus-
tainable solutions that create social value through its economic
activity (Mair & Martí, 2006). Precisely, social enterprises realign
more with the female role due to social objectives, as demonstrated
by the work of Themudo (2009) and Hechevarría et al. (2012). Thus
Hechevarría et al. (2012) suggest that women focus more on activ-
ities related to aid. They are the ones who are most likely to get
involved in more volunteer activities, and even the participation of
women in the third sector is higher than that of men in countries
such as the United States.
In this regard, investigations are focused mainly on UK social
enterprises that analyze if women start up social enterprises at
a higher rate than commercial enterprises (Harding & Cowling,
2006). In particular, the authors base their study on the analysis
of what they call ‘gender separation gap’. This tool, also known as
gap measures the difference between the percentage of men and
women who are involved in the business activity. Its results show
that the importance of women increases in the case of social enter-
prises, so that the gap that separates the entrepreneurship figures
between men and women is lower in the social case.
As for Leahy and Villeneuve-Smith (2009), they reached the
same conclusion in their research with a sample of individuals
of legal age belonging to British social enterprises. Precisely, they
claimed that 41.1% of all managers of social enterprises were
women, well above the rate observed in the commercial case. More-
over, this fact was also noted when the percentage of owners was
analyzed, observing that 26% were women in the social case, while
in the commercial case that figure accounted for hardly 14%.
These arguments allow us to affirm that:
Hypothesis 1. The gender separation gap is lower in social enter-
prises than commercial enterprises.
Gender in social enterprises and economic development
The environment is a key variable when an individual decides to
create a company (Hofstede, 1980, 1991, 2003; Shinnar, Giacomin,
& Janssen, 2012; Verheul, Stel, & Thurik, 2006). When the participa-
tion of men and women in entrepreneurship is studied by analyzing
samples from different countries grouped according to their level
of development, it can be stated that as the level of development
decreases the gender gap also decreases (Kobeissi, 2010; Minniti
& Naudé, 2010; Minniti, Allen, & Langowitz, 2006; Van der Zwan,
Verheul, & Thurik, 2012).
58 C. Nicolás, A. Rubio / European Journal of Management and Business Economics 25 (2016) 56–62
This fact is motivated by two factors. Firstly, it is considered that
the fragile economic systems of these countries with high unem-
ployment figures, high job insecurity and low wages cause women
to try to escape poverty, turning to self-employment out of need
(Kobeissi, 2010; Minniti & Naudé, 2010; Van der Zwan et al., 2012).
Secondly, it should be noted that low levels of efficiency reduce
existing entry barriers, which promotes the creation of new com-
panies (Baughn, Chua, & Neupert, 2006; Neupert & Baughn, 2013).
However, the fact is that there are factors that have a negative
influence when an individual decides to create a company in less
developed countries. In particular, it is noted that access to train-
ing is not good, it is difficult to have business relationships with
other people or the fact that commercial infrastructures are usually
deficient (Kobeissi, 2010).
Along these lines, research conducted by Minniti, Arenius, and
Langowitz (2005) states that while it is true that as the level of
development of the country decreases, the number of enterprises
created by women increases, the relationship between the two
variables is non-linear. Specifically, if the highest percentages of
business women are in less developed countries and as develop-
ment increases, female presence decreases, there is a turning point
when the presence increases again in economies with higher stages
of development (Acs, Arenius, Hay, & Minniti, 2005). Therefore, it
is necessary to note that it is possible to find countries with smaller
gaps between men and women, due to the fact that high levels of
development and a greater number of opportunities favor female
entrepreneurship (Baughn et al., 2006; Neupert & Baughn, 2013).
Most research examining the relationship between gender and
social entrepreneurship has been conducted with samples from
developing countries, showing a smaller gender gap in the social
case than in the commercial case (Harding & Cowling, 2006; Leahy
& Villeneuve-Smith, 2009). The fact that there is no research on the
gap, the social enterprise and levels of development leads to the
need to know whether the behavior of the gap depending on gender
for the social enterprise is similar to that obtained by the commer-
cial enterprise in the different groups of countries. Therefore, in this
study it is stated that:
Hypothesis 2. There is a positive relationship between the gender
separation gap in the social enterprise and the level of economic
development of the country.
Methodology
Sample and data collection
In this work, the unit of analysis is the individual and for that
purpose, data collected by the GEM project were used. The data
were collected in 2009, by telephone or face-to-face interviews
with a standardized questionnaire. A representative sample of
adults (18–64) was used, resulting in a total of about 160,000 people
surveyed in 48 countries (Table 1).
Since 1999, annually, researchers conducting the GEM project
have contributed to knowledge on entrepreneurship, by studying
the attitudes and aspirations of individuals and the types of activity
and environmental characteristics that affect them when starting
up enterprises in the 80 countries that make up the GEM project.
Their findings help governments, enterprises and researchers when
designing and implementing policies and programs aimed at stim-
ulating business start-ups worldwide (Terjesen, Lepoutre, Justo, &
Bosma, 2011).
Method
Formally, the hypotheses are tested by studying the gender sep-
aration gap or the gap. This method, used by Bosma and Levie
Table 1
Characteristics of the sample.
Level of development Countries Sample size
Underdeveloped
countries (stage 1)
Algeria, Guatemala,
Lebanon, Jamaica,
Morocco, Saudi Arabia,
Syria, Uganda,
Venezuela and the
West Bank and Gaza
Strip.
19,203
Developing countries
(stage 2)
Argentina, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Brazil,
Chile, China, Colombia,
Croacia, Dominican
Republic, Ecuador, Iran,
Jordan, Letonia,
Malaysia, Panama,
Peru, Rumania, Russia,
Serbia, South Africa
and Uruguay.
48,405
Developed countries
(stage 3)
Belgium, Finland,
France, Germany,
Greece, Iceland, Israel,
Italy, Republic of Korea,
Netherlands, Norway,
Slovenia, Spain,
Switzerland, United
Kingdom, United Arab
Emirates and United
States.
89,747
Source: Compiled by the authors, based on Bosma and Levie (2010).
(2010), measures the difference between the proportion of men
and women who have created or run a business in a given terri-
tory. To perform this analysis, a cross-tabulation of data through
contingency tables between the rates of male and female enter-
prises according to the different types of enterprises and groups
of countries was carried out. The 2test was also applied, which
has given us significant differences between the rates of male and
female enterprises for each development level. To do this, the SPSS
program was used. With the results of the contingency tables, the
gender separation gap was calculated by variation between the
rates of male and female enterprises, according to the types of
enterprises and economic zones. Specifically, the formula for the
variation rate used was as follows:Gap =Female rateMale rate
Male rate ×100
Measurement of variables
In order to obtain a variable that classifies the enterprise accord-
ing to whether it was social or not, the methodology used by
Lepoutre, Justo, Terjesen, and Bosma (2013) was followed. In
particular, to identify the individuals that were involved in the
entrepreneurship process, the respondents were asked whether at
present they were trying to start a new business, alone or with
others, also including being self-employed, as well as the fact of
selling any good or service to others. As a result, a dichotomous
variable was established, which was classified into (1) for those
individuals who responded positively and into (0) for those who
answered negatively. To identify individuals in the process of social
entrepreneurship, they were then asked if their activity, organiza-
tion or initiative had social, environmental objectives or sought
the benefit of the community. With the results of this question
a new dichotomous variable was developed, which was classified
with a (0) for the respondents who replied no and one (1) for the
respondents who answered yes.
This information also enables to develop the indicator of
entrepreneurial activity in a territory, namely the GEM defines it as
the total early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA). This rate shows
the percentage of people between 18 and 64 who started a business
C. Nicolás, A. Rubio / European Journal of Management and Business Economics 25 (2016) 56–62 59
in the last 42 months. In the case of the social enterprise, the indi-
cator is defined as the rate of Social Entrepreneurial Activity (SEA),
which shows the percentage of population between 18 and 64 who,
in this case, created a social enterprise in the last 42 months.
In addition to these two rates, the GEM also provides two other
rates with similar information. Specifically, what differentiates
these rates from the ones defined in the previous paragraph is that,
in this case, enterprises need to have at least 42 months of activity.
As GEM distinguishes between initiatives of less than 42 months
(TEA and SEA) and those organizations that were constituted over
42 months ago, it is possible to carry out a study differentiating
between enterprises constituted less than 42 months ago and those
constituted over 42 months ago. This enables to provide informa-
tion in order to go beyond what has been analyzed so far in the
literature.
Furthermore, to classify the gender of the individuals, a dichoto-
mous variable was used, where men were identified with a (0) and
women with a (1).
Regarding the classification of countries according to their level
of development, it was carried out following the methodology of
the GEM project, through a categorical variable that divides the
countries according to their level of development (Table 1). In that
sense, the countries that see innovation as the main element that
can improve productivity and competitiveness are in stage 3. They
are therefore developed countries. In stage 2 are the countries that
are in transition between the implementation of efficiency (which
is the criterion immediately preceding innovation) and innovation
to achieve this objective. Finally, the countries in stage 1 are those
with a lower level of development and which still consider the
production factors (especially human capital) as the elements that
are able to improve productivity and competitiveness. Countries
that are in a transition period between the later stage and the one
that considers efficiency as the drive to improve productivity and
competitiveness are also included in this group.
Results
The results are presented in two tables and three graphic
representations. The first table, number 2, shows the rates of
entrepreneurship based on the level of development of the coun-
try and for the total of countries. The next two tables show a
Table 2
Entrepreneurship rates according to the level of development of the country (%).
Rate of
entrepreneurial
activity (TEA)
Rate of social
entrepreneurial
activity (SEA)
Developed countries 5.7*** 1.6***
Developing countries 12.3*** 2.1***
Underdeveloped countries 16.4*** 1.5***
Total 9.0*** 1.7***
Source: Compiled by the authors.
*** Statistically significant difference p< 0.01.
comparison of the gender separation gap both for commercial
and social enterprises and again distinguishing between economic
groupings and the total.
Table 2 gives an overview of entrepreneurship rates of com-
mercial and social enterprises. Regarding commercial rates, it can
be observed that they decrease as the economic development of
the country increases. This can respond to that when develop-
ment decreases, there is the need for the population to start a
business because the lack of alternative work increases. Less devel-
oped countries have worse civil service structures and fewer large
companies than developed countries and therefore have a higher
proportion of people who choose to start a business as a career. On
the other hand, Table 2 shows a high variability in the commer-
cial entrepreneurship rates among the three economic groupings,
variability which does not occur in the social case. Although the
differences remain statistically significant, they are close to the
average of the total countries (1.7). This stability suggests that social
entrepreneurship is not affected by the existence of a greater need
for the population to start a business in the absence of alternative
work in developed countries.
Table 3 and its graphic representation, Fig. 1, provide informa-
tion on business rates by gender, as well as the gap in rates of
male and female entrepreneurship for social and commercial enter-
prises of between 0 and 42 months of activity. The results support
Hypothesis 1. The gender separation gap is lower in social enter-
prises than commercial enterprises. This is shown by the fact that
in developed countries the gap is 40% for the social case and 48% for
the commercial case, in developing countries these data decrease
Table 3
Comparison of the gender separation gap according to the type of enterprises and the level of economic development. Enterprise with 0–42 months of activity (%).
Activity rate for the commercial
enterprise (0–42 months)
Activity rate for the social
enterprise (0–42 months)
Commercial gap Social gap
Male Female Male Female
Developed countries 7.5*** 3.9*** 2.0*** 1.2*** 48.00 40.00
Developing countries 14.7*** 9.9*** 2.5*** 1.7*** 32.70 32.00
Underdeveloped countries 19.8*** 13.1*** 1.7*** 1.3*** 33.80 23.50
Total 11.1 6.9 2.1 1.4 37.80 33.30
Source: Compiled by the authors.
*** Statistically significant difference p< 0.01.
G= [(FR MR)/MR] ×100.
48
40
32.7
32
33.8
23.5
37.8
33.3
Commercial
Social
Developed countries Developing countries Underdeveloped countries Total
Fig. 1. Graphic representation of the gender separation gap according to the type of enterprise and the level of economic development. Enterprises with 0–42 months of
activity (%).
Source: Compiled by the authors.
60 C. Nicolás, A. Rubio / European Journal of Management and Business Economics 25 (2016) 56–62
Table 4
Comparison of the gender separation gap according to the type of enterprise and the level of economic development. Enterprise with more than 42 months of activity (%).
Activity rate for the commercial
enterprise (more than 42 months)
Activity rate for the social
enterprise (more than 42 months)
Commercial gap Social gap
Male Female Male Female
Developed countries 8.5*** 4.0*** 1.3*** 0.9*** 52.94 30.77
Developing countries 10.8*** 5.7*** 0.8*** 0.6*** 47.22 25.00
Underdeveloped countries 13.9*** 6.6*** 0.8*** 0.4*** 52.52 50.00
Total 5.2 3.2 1.1 0.7 38.50 36.50
Source: Compiled by the authors.
*** Statistically significant difference p< 0.01.
G= [(FR MR)/MR] ×100.
52.9
30.8
47.2
25.0
52.5
50.0
38.5
36.5
Commercial
Social
Developed countries Developing countries Underdeveloped countries Total
Fig. 2. Graphic representation of the gender separation gap according to the type of enterprise and the level of economic development. Enterprises with more than 42 months
of activity (%).
Source: Compiled by the authors.
to 32% and 32.7% respectively, while in underdeveloped countries
the gaps decrease to 23.5% for social enterprises and 33.8% for com-
mercial enterprises. Hence, it is observed that in all the countries
the gap for the social case is lower by about 5 percentage points
(pp) than for commercial enterprises.
Table 4 and Fig. 2 offer similar information to that discussed
in the previous paragraph, but in this case, for organizations with
more than 42 months of activity. Firstly, it is observed that from
developed to developing countries the involvement of women
in social enterprises increases significantly. This is reflected in
the gap between men and women which decreases from 52.94%
(commercial enterprise) to 30.77% (social enterprise) in the case
of developed countries and 47.2–25% respectively in the case of
developing countries. As can be seen, the social gap is lower than
the commercial one around 22 pp in both groups. In developing
countries, although the social gap is less than the commercial one,
the difference is only 2 pp. Therefore it should be noted that, despite
the minor difference in this group of countries for companies with
more than 42 months of activity, the data in Tables 3 and 4 allow
to accept Hypothesis 1.
The information will be analyzed below to see if Hypothesis 2
can be accepted or rejected. In Table 3 for social enterprises of less
than 42 months of activity, it is observed that as the level of devel-
opment of the country increases, the value of the social gap also
increases. In particular, the gap in developed countries is 40%, a fig-
ure which drops to 8 pp in developing countries (32%), reaching the
figure of 23.5% in the group of underdeveloped countries. That is, in
total, from developed countries to underdeveloped countries, the
gap in the social case drops about 16 pp.
Meanwhile, it is necessary to analyze Table 4 more closely,
that collects information on organizations with more than 42
months of activity. Firstly, it is verified that the gap decreases from
developed to developing countries by almost 6 pp, from 30.77% to
25.00%, respectively. In contrast, in the group of underdeveloped
countries, the gap exceeds almost 20 pp to that obtained in devel-
oped countries. In particular, the gap of social enterprises with
more than 42 months of activity is 50%, the highest gap for social
enterprises of the two tables analyzed.
This fall in the rate of enterprises with more than 42 months
of activity also occurs in commercial organizations, where the
gap is 52.52% in underdeveloped countries compared to 47.22% of
developing countries. This would prove that although the female
population starts up a higher proportion of enterprises in under-
developed countries, the initiatives created by women in such
countries have greater fragility. Or what is the same, these results
show the greater weakness of female activity when it comes to
securing their enterprises, one out of two women who started a
social enterprise was not able to survive more than 42 months.
Therefore, the results in Table 3 corroborate the second hypoth-
esis, while those in Table 4 can only do so partially. In general, it
has been observed that there is a positive relationship between
the gender separation gap and the level of development of the
country in social enterprises. In other words, as the level of devel-
opment decreases, the gap that separates both sexes also decreases
with the exception found in Table 4 for underdeveloped countries,
something that happens both in social and commercial enterprises.
This may be because in these countries, women, described as
unstable in the labor markets of these countries, decide to over-
come certain cultural and social barriers helped by government
policies and programs to promote the empowerment of women in
these territories (Bosma & Levie, 2010; Terjesen et al., 2011). But
despite creating a greater number of enterprises, both social and
commercial, in this group of countries, it is a fact that it is much
harder to get their organization to survive over time. This may be
due to the difficulty that women can have when it comes to inter-
acting with other entrepreneurs, potential suppliers or clients, poor
infrastructure or lower financing which prevents their company
from growing and consolidating over time (Kobeissi, 2010).
Therefore, the data provided in Tables 3 and 4 and their graphic
representations, Figs. 1 and 2, allow us to accept Hypothesis 1, but
Hypothesis 2 only partially.
Discussion and conclusions
The important role of women in entrepreneurship has been
highlighted by numerous investigations, as they are considered a
key factor in promoting gender equality, reducing gender-based
violence, promoting peace between territories and developing the
country (Luchsinger, 2015).
C. Nicolás, A. Rubio / European Journal of Management and Business Economics 25 (2016) 56–62 61
This research was prompted by observing that despite the
importance women had, they created fewer companies than men
(Minniti, 2010). The literature found justification in the more altru-
istic nature of women and the roles attributed by a patriarchal
society, separating them from the more economic nature that a
business organization can have (Baughn et al., 2006; Carter & Rosa,
1998; Eagly, 1987; Eddleston & Powell, 2012; Gupta, Turban, Wasti,
& Sikdar, 2009; Minniti & Nardone, 2007; Shinnar et al., 2012;
Urbano et al., 2014; Wilson & Kickul, 2006).
Based on this idea, there was the need to further the knowledge
on the gender of the individual who creates a social enterprise,
as this type of organization is more consistent with the roles and
characteristics attributed to women. However, some investigations
have found that men are to a large extent, the ones that create social
enterprises, so this hypothesis could not be accepted (Harding &
Cowling, 2006; Leahy & Villeneuve-Smith, 2009).
Therefore, the issue was approached from the hypothesis that
at present is being considered. Specifically, the gender separation
gap is studied, which shows the differences between men and
women who set up an enterprise in a particular territory (Harding
& Cowling, 2006; Leahy & Villeneuve-Smith, 2009). Research on
this subject showed that the gaps in the case of the social enter-
prise were smaller than in the commercial enterprise, but it has
only been proven with a sample of English companies (Leahy &
Villeneuve-Smith, 2009). It was also possible to find research that
claimed that a lower level of development favored a smaller gender
gap in entrepreneurship. However, the sample of these works was
composed exclusively of commercial organizations (Minniti et al.,
2005, 2006), so for the social case no studies have been found.
In order to gain more knowledge about social enterprises, in this
research two questions were raised: Is the proportion of women
who create enterprises higher in the social case? And what influ-
ence does the level of development of a country have on the
proportion of women versus men, that set up social enterprises?
In this work, responding to the first question, it has been found
that, as indicated by the literature on entrepreneurship, it is mainly
men who create both social and commercial enterprises. However,
what has been observed is that, despite this, the gender gap is
smaller in the social case in all groups of the countries studied.
It was also proven that the level of development of the countries
determines starting-up businesses by women. Specifically, a
positive relationship was observed between lower levels of devel-
opment and female entrepreneurship (Leahy & Villeneuve-Smith,
2009; Minniti et al., 2005, 2006). In other words, women create pro-
portionally more enterprises in underdeveloped countries and that
percentage decreases as the development of the territory in which
they live increases. So, the second question posed in this study has
also been resolved.
That is why this research contributes to the literature on
both commercial and social entrepreneurship, as it has exam-
ined the gender of the people who start-up social and commercial
enterprises, comparing both types and distinguishing between
companies with less than and more than 42 months of activity;
furthermore, this study has differentiated according to the level
of development of the country in which the enterprise is created,
which are all analyzes which so far have not been carried out.
While it is true that a large number of researches have stud-
ied the gender of the person who creates an enterprise, most of
these have focused on justifying why the man is the one who
creates the largest number of enterprises and the role played by
economic development in all this (Minniti et al., 2005, 2006). How-
ever, it has been more difficult to find research on gender and social
entrepreneurship and if we look at the level of development of the
country, the fact is that nothing has been found. This work goes
beyond what has been done so far, by trying to see if the gender
gap decreases as the level of development of the country decreases
and if it is smaller in the social case. To do so, a sample of 160,000
individuals from 48 countries in different stages of development
was analyzed. The sample was obtained thanks to the database of
the GEM project in 2009.
On the one hand, it shows that the gap is smaller in the social case
and that the level of development conditions women when setting
up businesses (Baughn et al., 2006; Eddleston & Powell, 2012; Gupta
et al., 2009; Minniti & Nardone, 2007; Shinnar et al., 2012; Urbano
et al., 2014; Wilson & Kickul, 2006). On the other hand, the anal-
ysis of companies with more than 42 months of activity provides
additional information. It was observed that the gap of these enter-
prises was smaller than the gap of enterprises with fewer months of
activity, but only for developed and developing countries, indicat-
ing that there was greater gender equality in the case of enterprises
with longer activity for those two groups of countries.
Therefore, on the hypotheses raised in this paper, the first one
may be accepted and the second one only partially, due to the
exception found in the female social enterprise with more than
42 months of activity in underdeveloped countries. These results
can be explained with the arguments found in the literature, which
pointed to the fragile economic systems of these countries, high
unemployment, high job insecurity and low wages that encourage
women to start-up enterprises (Kobeissi, 2010; Minniti & Naudé,
2010; Van der Zwan et al., 2012) but perhaps to survive over
time is not so simple after starting-up the enterprise. Specifically,
the discussion by Hofstede (1980, 1991, 2003) could show evi-
dence for this fact, who is an author that says that the differences
between countries can be explained not only with cognitive and
behavioral variables, but it is also necessary to analyze cultural
factors in certain territories, which can also clarify the high lev-
els of variation between regions. So, following Hofstede, the rates
of female social enterprises with more than 42 months of activity
indicate that other variables condition even more than the level
of development in some underdeveloped areas, such as culture or
norms of the country in which they live. This fact coincides with
results found in the literature, which stated that social and cultural
norms of an existing country encouraged or discouraged the indi-
vidual at the time of starting a business activity (Álvarez, Amorós, &
Urbano, 2014; Bosma & Levie, 2010). This is also consistent with the
study by Verheul et al. (2006). Specifically, these authors analyze
entrepreneurship figures by geographical areas, showing that there
are wide variations in the factors that facilitate or hinder men and
women to decide to start-up a business depending on the territory.
For researchers there are a multitude of rich lines for future stud-
ies on the gender of the person who sets up social enterprises. For
an in-depth analysis of this business figure, it would be interesting
to analyze other individual variables such as level of education, age,
perceived self-efficacy, fear of failure, perceived opportunities, lev-
els of creativity, leadership or social relationships, among others.
Furthermore, as the influence of the level of development on the gap
is observed, it would also be necessary to analyze the institutional
factors that influence social entrepreneurship in different territo-
ries, study the gender separation gap in the different countries that
make up the sample, but individually according to Hofstede, or
perform a cluster analysis that allows to observe another group
of countries different to that proposed by the GEM project in terms
of level of development.
Like any research, it is not without limitations. Mainly, it is
noted that within the various groupings used, there is great vari-
ability among the rates of the countries that form them, which
could distort the average having worked with. In addition, the study
is cross-sectional, analyzing data from 2009, so investigating the
evolution of the gap longitudinally has not been possible.
Finally, it should be noted that the findings of this study con-
tribute not only to the literature on entrepreneurship, but also to
the scarce literature on the social enterprise, through the gender
62 C. Nicolás, A. Rubio / European Journal of Management and Business Economics 25 (2016) 56–62
analysis of the individual who starts up the enterprise, through an
empirical study with which it is possible to generalize the results.
Therefore, this research is expected to promote the creation of
knowledge about social enterprises both in the scientific field, stim-
ulating work on the issues that condition them, as in the business
world, where this kind of business can be seen as an extra job
opportunity for any individual, including the female population
that is less represented in the entrepreneurial phenomenon. Fur-
thermore, these results have potentially important implications for
public policies, because with appropriate measures, such as aids,
training, funding, etc., social enterprises can be considered to a
large extent the main means for women to participate more in
entrepreneurship.
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