RIT Study Examines Motivating Influences for Women in Business

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"Those motivators are more closely aligned with the need to balance work and family responsibilities."

Women entrepreneurs remain a growing influence on the American economy. According to the Small Business Administration, women now own nearly 40 percent of all private businesses, and they are starting business at twice the rate of men.

What’s motivating women to become entrepreneurs, and how do those reasons differ from their male counterparts? Research conducted by a pair of faculty members at Rochester Institute of Technology is shedding new light on that question. Richard DeMartino, assistant professor of management, and Robert Barbato, associate professor of management, are the authors of "Differences among women and men MBA entrepreneurs: Exploring family flexibility and wealth creation as career motivators."

Unlike past studies on the topic, this report focused exclusively on MBA graduates at similar stages in their career. It also sought to understand how marital/partner and dependent status impact these differences. Among the study’s findings:

  • Women are motivated to a higher degree than equally qualified men to become entrepreneurs for family-related lifestyle reasons, confirming earlier research. Women are less motivated by wealth creation and advancement reasons.
  • These differences become even larger when comparing married women entrepreneurs with dependent children to married men entrepreneurs with dependent children.
  • The flexibility of an entrepreneurial career is important to women who have not yet married, and it becomes even more important once they marry and have children.
  • Male entrepreneurs are primarily motivated by wealth creation and career advancement.
  • For the most part, married men entrepreneurs with dependent children do not differ from unmarried men entrepreneurs in terms of their career motivations.

    DeMartino and Barbato emphasize the importance of comparing men and women with similar education levels because it helps to reinforce the findings of past studies:

    "Some researchers had suggested that previously reported differences could be a result of women having less business knowledge and education, and lower potential for advancement. This study, however, concludes that these differences are more likely the result of women having different career motivators, and that those motivators are more closely aligned with the need to balance work and family responsibilities."

    To arrange an interview with Richard DeMartino and Robert Barbato about the differences between men and women MBA entrepreneurs, call Paul Stella at RIT University News Services, (716) 475-4950, or email at pbscom@rit.edu.