Traditional and Non-Traditional Female Entrepreneurs : An exploration into what influences thier selection of industry sector

Elaine Aylward

Research output: Types of ThesisMaster's Thesis

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The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of the factors that influence a woman to start a business in a traditionally female industry sector or in a more male orientated high technology industry sector. This involves examining the antecedent influences, motivations and attitudes which may impinge on the female entrepreneur’s choice of industry sector. This study is unique as it is the first of its kind to investigate this topic in the South East region and in Ireland. The research methodology utilised in the current study was qualitative in nature with the phenomenological philosophy underpinning the research. The primary data for this research was then gathered through the use of in-depth semi-structured interviews. Qualitative interviews allowed this researcher to gain a comprehensive insight into each female entrepreneur’s situation and the influences that impacted her choice of selecting a traditionally female industry sector or a more male orientated high technology industry sector. There are a number of important findings which have emerged from the current research. The most noteworthy, of which, is that differences do exist between women who own and operate businesses in traditional industry sectors compared to those in high technology sectors. It was established that not only were the high technology entrepreneurs more likely to be older and single at start-up, but that they had also attained a higher formal level of education and a more extensive, relevant occupational experience than their traditional counterparts. This research also indicates that education and the educational system has a key role to play in developing technology based entrepreneurs. There is a need for teachers and counsellors, at post primary level, to encourage girls to choose non-traditionally female subjects and thus be more prepared for a high technological career. This confirms research by Richardson and Hynes (2006) who suggested that the low numbers of technology based female entrepreneurs is, in part, attributable to the post primary education system. Previous research has suggested that parental influences are more strongly seen in the choice of non-traditional careers. The current study has also identified that parental influence appears to have a greater influence on the entrepreneurs in high technology sectors than their traditional counterparts. Interestingly, the parents of the high technology females were also more highly educated and were more encouraging of their daughters’ career choices than the parents of the traditional females. Finally, this research has also identified that females in traditional industry sectors are likely to associate themselves with feminine traits such as flexible, quality orientated, customer focused and sympathetic, while their high technology counterparts associated with more masculine traits such as technical, innovative and confident. However, as recent research by Gupta, Turban, Wasti and Sikdar (2005) has suggested, and which is confirmed by the current study, entrepreneurs with high entrepreneurial intentions tend to associate more with masculine traits and thus, all entrepreneurs in the current study did display some masculine characteristics. From the outset the current research has set out to determine what influences a female entrepreneur in her choice of industry sector. The current research will add, therefore, to the growing body of literature on female entrepreneurship in general but, most importantly, it contributes to the emergent field of study that is specifically focused on understanding the female entrepreneur. The current research has highlighted the fact that differences exist between high technology female entrepreneurs and their traditional counterparts. Thus, the outputs from this research have implications for researchers and teachers of entrepreneurship, educators in general, enterprise support agencies, policy makers and female entrepreneurs.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • O'Gorman, William J., Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007


  • Entrepreneurship


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