Research Article: 2022 Vol: 27 Issue: 4S
Mohammad Imdadul Haque, Aligarh Muslim University
Mohammad Rumzi Tausif, Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz University
Sana Naseem, Al Yamamah UniversityCitation Information: Haque, M.I., Tausif, M.R., & Naseem, S. (2022). Probing gender influence on entrepreneurial intentions in Saudi Arabia. Academy of Entrepreneurship Journal, 28(S4), 1-13.
Entrepreneurship, Gender Differences, Social Norms, Economic Reforms, TPB, SEM
Females have an unfavourable position when it comes to being actively involved in the business. This unequal situation is no different for Saudi Arabia. The purpose of this study is to probe gender differences in entrepreneurial intention in Saudi Arabia. This study employs a primary survey based on the Theory of Planned Behavior to study the entrepreneurial intentions of female university students and see how it is different from their male counterparts. The study reports that there is no difference between the entrepreneurial intentions of female and male students. The study further reports that females have higher perceived behavioural control and lower attitude towards entrepreneurial intentions. Social norms do not significantly affect the formation of entrepreneurial intention for both males and females. An oil dominant country, Saudi Arabia is aggressively pushing for economic reforms to move away from oil and diversify it. It has also announced empowerment strategies for the women of the country. Improving the overall social acceptability of entrepreneurship may give females an advantage over males to contribute to the country's economic reform and growth process. The few existing studies on Saudi Arabia have not studied the differences in gender in terms of entrepreneurial intentions and their determinants. The study uses the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to explore the differences between male and female entrepreneurial intentions.
The socialization process leads to differences among gender in work preferences. Traditionally, the cultural and institutional environment of Saudi Arabia and its conservative approach on social roles, patriarchal traditions, and strict gender segregation constrained the economic participation of females (Almobaireek & Manolova, 2012; lsubaie & Jone, 2017; Abou-Moghli & Al-Abdallah, 2019). Although Saudi Arabia is a conservative society, things have changed tremendously, particularly after announcing Saudization and Vision 2030 in 2016 (Kumar et al. 2019). Saudization is employing local labour force instead of expatriates, and Vision 2030 plans to diversify and move away from oil to improve the quality of life. Recently, Saudi Arabia applied historic reforms to further the economic participation of females. To state some of them: freedom of travel and movement; pension quality and prohibition of gender-based discrimination in employment; and access to credit (World Bank, 2020).
The country ambitiously plans to move away from its dependence on oil. Promoting entrepreneurship is a critical component of it. Subsequent reforms have indeed changed many things. The ease of doing business score (0 = lowest to 100 = best performance) increased from 59.44 in 2016 to 71.55 in 2019. The cost of business start-up procedures (as a % of GNI) decreased from 6 to 5.4. New business density increased from 0.45 in 2006 to 0.50 in 2018. Since the announcement of Vision 2030, Start-up procedures to register a business for females decreased from 15 in 2016 to 4 in 2019, while for males, it decreased from 13 in 2016 in 3 in 2019. The time required to start a business in days for females decreased from 20.5 in 2016 to 11 in 2019, it decreased from 18.5 in 2016 to 10 in 2019 (WDI, 2020).
Entrepreneurship creates jobs, manages discrimination, and resolves environmental issues (Boutillier & Uzunidis, 2016). Entrepreneurship can be the key to women's empowerment. Entrepreneurship will allow young women to take responsibility for their future and grow into self-actualized individuals who are not job seekers but job creators (Al-Dajani and Marlow, 2013). Women have confidence in their talent to hold entrepreneurial traits and perform managerial duties (Lee-Gosslin & Grisé, 1990). Women's entrepreneurship increases in the developing world and can further boost economic growth (Mehtap et al. 2017). Still, for decades, entrepreneurship has been considered a dominantly male field, and even after so much modernization and development, this trend is yet to change (Cardella et al., 2020).
Women face cultural and institutional barriers (Metcalfe, 2008). It is well known that women conduct fewer businesses than men (Furdas & Kohn, 2010). Conventionally males show greater inclinations towards entrepreneurial actions (Gupta et al., 2008). Women have lower intentions to start a business (Joensuu et al., 2013; Santos, et al. 2014; Wang, et al. 2017). Gender influences attitude and perceived behavioural control because men perceive entrepreneurial behaviour as more captivating than women (Linan & Chen, 2009; Maes et al., 2014). The gender gap in entrepreneurship is still visible in almost all countries (Asmae & Salva, 2019). Moreover, cultural dimensions are an essential antecedent of the investment behaviour of female entrepreneurs (Ansa et al., 2020). Entrepreneurship is stereotypically related to male characteristics (Bird & Brush, 2002). Contrarily, Kepler & Shane (2007) found no evidence of disparities in gender self-confidence in the ability to pursue the task of organizing the business. Santos, et al., (2014) found that the formation of entrepreneurial intention is similar for men and women.
Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in women's education, and a non-participation of women in economic activities would render this investment useless (Al-Asfour et al., 2017). Saudization and Vision 2030 have changed things for Saudi Arabia. Females in the country are now opting for entrepreneurship in unprecedented amounts (Basaffar et al., 2018). Changes have taken place when a new generation of women has gone away from traditional ideologies and embraced the world. Saudi Arabia has taken a step forward in empowering women. Still, according to the GEM (2019) survey, 8.5 per cent of women in Saudi Arabia compared with 14.5 per cent of men described themselves as entrepreneurs in 2018. The study aims to study the reasons for differences between male and female entrepreneurial intentions. Towards this, the analysis proceeds with the rese’arch question of whether there is any difference between males and females regarding entrepreneurial intentions for Saudi Arabia.
In their study, Abou-Moghli & Al-Abdallah (2019) did a comprehensive review of past studies on female entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. They found females’ contribution to entrepreneurship is insufficient as compared to males. The main challenges faced by female entrepreneurs are social, cultural, and financial constraints. The study identified several challenges, including related to family, related to work, and political issues. However, the study reported that many females have come into ownership of business and self-employment due to the recent technological, political, and economic transformations. The study also acknowledges that female entrepreneurship is needed to further economic growth. In another survey of Saudi Arabia, Ilyas (2020) found that entrepreneurial self-efficacy, culture, education, and stereotyping significantly impacted the entrepreneurial intentions of females in Saudi Arabia.
Another study conducted on the undergraduate students of King Saud University of Saudi Arabia by Almobaireek & Manolova (2012) emphasized Saudization of the labour force and diversification of the country's economic base as the two essential factors for the stable economic growth of the country. Towards achieving both of these policies, female entrepreneurship is crucial as it would increase the financial participation of females in the country. The study results found that gender has a substantial moderating impact on the relationship of Theory of Planned Behavior elements on entrepreneurial intentions. The results further indicated that while perceived desirability was more robust for males, social norms and behavioural control were more decisive for females.
For countries with a similar culture to Saudi Arabia, like Jordan, (Jarrar et al., 2019) found that although the intent was higher in males, overall, both genders valued entrepreneurship as the desired path. One interesting finding of the study is that females were more confident and were expected to be better than males. However, the finding also shows that the environment and culture in Jordan may not be very positive for female entrepreneurs. The study reported that social norms were insignificant towards the formation of entrepreneurial intentions. For UAE, Bahrami (2014), there is no statistically significant relationship between entrepreneurial intent and taking an entrepreneurial risk.
Karimi, et al., (2013) found no gender difference between entrepreneurial intention and perceived behavioural control for Iran. However, females had a weaker attitude towards entrepreneurship, and subjectivity norms were a stronger predictor of entrepreneurial intentions in females than male students. In another study in Spain, Robledo, et al., (2015) found that role of gender does not have a significant effect on foreseeing entrepreneurial intentions when controlling Total Planned Behavior dimensions. Ward, et al., (2109) found that in Spain, perceived behaviour control and subjective norm are higher in males.
Wang, et al., (2017) in their study on Taiwan University found that the entrepreneurial intentions of male students were stronger than female students. The study further suggests that gender stereotype plays a significant role in reduced entrepreneurial intentions of female students. For Indonesia, Suryawirawan (2019) found that female students showed higher senses to choose entrepreneurship as a career option. In a similar study conducted in Hong Kong by Lo, et al., (2012), the study found that attitudes of male and female students were different, and the entrepreneurial intention of male students was more potent compared to females.
For Spain, Gonzalez, et al., (2014) conducted a study on communication professionals to understand the gender differences in forming entrepreneurial intentions. The study's findings concluded that this sector has always been a male dominant and there is a need to reinforce charm with the support of their environment. In addition, in their study of Spain, Entrialgo & Igilesias (2017) found that external factors, such as the parental role, have a more significant favourable influence on attitude towards entrepreneurship in females than males. Similarly, entrepreneurial education also had a more significant effect on perceived entrepreneurial behaviour control in females over males. For Turkey, (Sen et al., (2018) found that female entrepreneur aspirants with high perceived behaviour control are likely to become entrepreneurs.
In a comprehensive study on 29 European countries and the USA, (Verheul et al., 2012) found that females' lower preference for choosing self-employment has an important role in explaining females' less involvement in entrepreneurship intent. And that gender is still a significant obstacle in entrepreneurial development. In studies comparing two regions, (Santos et al., 2014) found that females feel that entrepreneurship is not an acceptable carrier option in Britain and Spain. Barreto, et al., (2017) studied Chile and Columbian universities and found that gender moderately impacted perceived control behaviour. In a study by Cera, et al., (2018) conducted in Czech and Slovak universities, male students have a significantly higher interest in entrepreneurial careers than female counterparts.
In Germany, females' start-up rate is just one-third of males' start-up rate (Furdas & Kohn, 2010). Although female entrepreneurs are fewer than males in Greece, percentages of female entrepreneurs have increased (Zampetakis et al., 2017). In addition, for Greece, Vamvaka (et. al. 2020) found that chances of females' converting their entrepreneurial intention into start-up are very less compared to males. In Belgium, (Maes et al., 2014) found that females appreciate entrepreneurship for reasons not found in a career path, like work-life balance. However, it also indicates that there are still more potent negative factors for females not to choose entrepreneurship as a career option. The study reported that while attitude and PBC were significant, social norms were insignificant towards forming entrepreneurial intentions. For Italy, Molino, et al., (2018) found that differences between men and women concerning the entrepreneur role still exist.
There is a lack of studies on women entrepreneurship in the overall Middle East and North African (MENA) region (Manzoor, 2017), especially on Saudi Arabia (Abou-Moghli & Al-Abdallah, 2019). A review of the existing studies indicates that though there are studies on gender disparities the worlds over, such studies are very few for Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the current studies on Saudi Arabia have not studied the differences in gender in terms of entrepreneurial intentions and their determinants. The study plans to use the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to explore the differences between male and female entrepreneurial intentions.
One of the most commonly used frameworks to study entrepreneurial intentions is the Theory of Planned Behavior (Engle et al., 2010; Kautonen et al., 2015). Ajzen proposed it in 1985. According to Ajzen & Fishbein (2000), attitude accounts for about half of the overall variance in intentions and almost one third in overall behaviour. Attitude towards behaviour refers to the general outlook, positive or negative, towards developing conduct, which results from the individuals' beliefs concerning the behaviour and its consequences (Crespo & Bosque, 2010). Attitude refers to the extent to which a person holds a favourable or unfavourable personal judgment about being an entrepreneur (Sanchez & Garcia, 2020).
Subjective norms are based on normative belief and impetus to conform to these beliefs (Ajzen & Fishbein, 2000). It refers to the apparent social pressure to engage or not to engage in an activity (Gelderen et al., 2008). It reflects upon the social pressure to perform a specific behaviour or not to perform the behaviour. It includes the pressure of friends, family, and other role models. The individual's perception of the current values in its environment is reflected by subjective norms (Liñán & Chen, 2009). Depending upon negativity or positivity of motivation received and normative belief, the subjective norms may be negative or positive (Karimi et al., 2016).
Perceived behavioural control refers to the public's opinion of their capability to do a given behaviour. It refers to the simplicity or complexity of performing specific behaviours (Ajzen, 1991). It is concerned with the sense of capability to achieve a particular behaviour. It is based on the concept that people try to perform that behaviour they feel they can control (Moriano et al., 2012). Perceived Behavior Control is defined as self-efficacy - a condition in which people think the behaviour is natural or delicate (Ajzen, 2002).
A questionnaire-based on TPB is designed on a Likert scale. The sampling design is a convenience type and on a non-random basis. There are seven points in the scale, where 1 indicates strongly disagree, 2 indicates disagree, 3 indicates somewhat disagree, 4 indicates neutral, 5 indicates somewhat agree, 6 indicates agree, and 7 indicates strongly agree. The data is gathered through a questionnaire designed and executed through the Google Doc service. This omitted the issue of missing responses. The respondents were from the College of Business Administration of Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia. University students have been used to study entrepreneurial intentions as they decide about it in the coming future. Hence, they are conscious of their intentions and form a prospective entrepreneurial cluster (Liñán & Santos, 2007; Arias et al., 2016; Caro González et al., 2017).
Finally, the data is analyzed through hypothesis testing and Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) using Stata12. For hypothesis testing, the t-test is used to see for significant differences between males and females. The level of significance is kept at 10 per cent. This implies that a statement will be seen as having a significant gender difference if the associated p-value is less than 0.10. The study will use both values when equal variances are assumed and when equal variances are not assumed. For the statements where there is a significant difference, higher mean values will indicate a higher degree of positive response.
Structural equation models are modelling techniques commonly used in behavioural and social sciences. It combines factor analysis and regression. The theoretical constructs represent latent factors that are related to path coefficients. Path diagrams visualize structural equation models. Path diagrams have rectangular boxes and ellipses connected by arrows. Boxes symbolize measured variables and circles unmeasured variables. One headed arrow indicates causal relationships through regression coefficients. The variable at the arrowhead is supposed to be caused by the variable at the tail. Regression coefficients determine the factor loading for each factor when latent factors explain the observed variation. The unmeasured variation is the error that is depicted through circles.
The sixteen items of the four factors of TPB are subjected to a t-test to test for significant differences between males and females. Descriptive statistics and subsequent t-test show there are no significant gender differences for the statements related to attitude towards entrepreneurship “I wish to be an entrepreneur in the future (S1); Being an entrepreneur would be a matter of satisfaction (S2); Entrepreneurship is an attractive career option for me (S3); Entrepreneurship has more advantages than disadvantages to me (S4)”.
|Variable||Gender||N||Mean||Std. Deviation||t||Sig. (2-tailed)||Remarks|
|Note: EVA- Equal variances assumes; EVNA-Equal variances not assumed|
There are significant gender differences for the statements related to social norms except for one. The statement “My friends and family will approve of my decision to an entrepreneur (S5)” has significantly different scores for males and females; with females having a higher mean value (5.88) than males (5.55). The statement “Those who know me are confident that I will succeed as an entrepreneur (S7)" has significantly different scores for males and females, with females having a higher mean value (5.19) than males (4.81). The statement “Entrepreneurship has social approval (S8)" has significantly different scores for males and females, with females having a higher mean value (5.77) than males (5.51). In addition, for the statement "Those who know me are confident that I will succeed as an entrepreneur (S6)" there is no significant gender difference.
In terms of the statements related to PBC, for three statements there is no gender differences. These statements are "I will be able to manage the risks involved in establishing a new firm; I can control the processes in a new firm, myself; I am aware of the practical details needed to establish a firm". But there is a significant difference between males and females in terms of "If I start a new firm, I will definitely succeed", with males having a lower mean score (4.66) than females (4.94).
The graphical presentation of the items under entrepreneurial intentions are more agreeable (strongly agree, agree and somewhat agree). The hypothesis testing results show no significant gender differences for the statements related to entrepreneurial intentions, except for one. The statements are "I will make every effort to start a new firm (S14); I would be more than happy to be an entrepreneur in the future (S15); I will rather be an entrepreneur than an employee in a company (S16)". However, there is a significant difference between males and females in terms of "I have a firm intention to start a new firm (S13)", with males having a higher mean score (5.33) than females (4.98).
Finally, the relationship of the three factors, attitude, social norms, and PBC, with entrepreneurial intentions is estimated through Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). Figure 2 below shows the path diagram. Two different structural equation models are run. The left-hand side diagram is for females, and the right-hand side is for males. Each factor, namely attitude towards entrepreneurship (L1), social norms (L2) and Perceived behavioural control (L3) and entrepreneurial intentions (L4), constitute four statements or items each. The path diagram is then modelled with single-headed arrows to indicate that attitude towards entrepreneurship (L1), social norms (L2) and Perceived behavioural control (L3) lead to the formation of entrepreneurial intentions (L4). Chi-square values indicate that both the models are fit as the probability value for females is 0.122 and for males is 0.151.
The variable attitude towards entrepreneurship is significant both for males as it has a p-value of 0.00, making the variable significant. This variable is significant for females also as it has a p-value of less than 0.00. Nevertheless, the coefficient for females (0.71) is lower than for males (0.91). The variable social norms are not significant for both males and females, as the p-value for females is 0.785, and the p-value for males is 0.603. The variable PBC is significant for males as it has a p-value of 0.00, making the variable significant. This variable is significant for females also as it has a p-value of 0.00. Nevertheless, the coefficient for females (0.47) is higher than for males (0.47).
Path analysis scores
|Variable||Coef.||Std. Err||z||P>|z|||[95% Conf. Interval]|
|Social Norms||-0. 0265194||.0971445||-0.27||0.785||-0.2169191||0.1638804|
|Perceived Behavioral Control||0.4762379||.0863983||5.51||0.000||0.3069005||0.6455754|
|Perceived Behavioral Control||0.2688479||0.0535499||5.02||0.000||0.1638921||0.3738037|
Source: Author’s calculation
This research draws on Ajzen’s (1991) Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to analyze the disparity in entrepreneurial intentions between men and women. TPB’s structure is based on the individual's intention, resulting from three components: behavioural attitude (personal attitude), subjective norm, and Perceived Behavioural Control (PBC). Attitude towards behaviour refers to "the extent to which a person has a favourable or unfavourable assessment or evaluation of the behaviour concerned". Social norms refer to "the perception of an individual's opinion that others who are important to him/her have as to whether the person should practice or avoid performing a particular action". Subjective norms measure the perceived social pressure from family, friends, or significant others. PBC refers to a "person's understanding of the ease or difficulty of performing the behaviour of interest" (Ajzen, 1991).
The study had 16 items related to entrepreneurship. For eleven of these items, there is no significant difference between males and females. However, there is a significant difference between males and females in terms of specific dimensions of entrepreneurship. The study reports that females have lower intentions to start a new firm. However, friends and family approve the decision to be an entrepreneur is higher for females. Others are more confident of success in entrepreneurship for females. In addition, females feel more than males that entrepreneurship is socially acceptable. In addition, females are more confident of success in entrepreneurship than males. The study also finds that social norms do not significantly affect the formation of entrepreneurial intention for both males and females. Females have higher perceived behavioural control but a lower attitude towards entrepreneurial intentions.
The result of this study is similar to Karimi, et al., (2019) for reporting weaker attitudes in females than males. However, the two studies differed in terms of perceived behavioural control and social norms. PBC was more decisive for females as in the current study compared to insignificant PBC, and social norms were insignificant in the present study while they are significant in (Karimi et al., 2013). This study's finding is similar to Lo, et al., (2012), which reported that attitudes of male and female students were different. The results of this study contradict the finding of Ward, et al., (2019), which found that perceived behaviour control and subjective norm are higher in males as in the current research PBC is higher for females and social norms are not significant. In addition, the results of this study are similar to Almobaireek & Manolova (2012), as both the studies report higher PBC for females.
The current study finds no significant difference between the entrepreneurial intention of males and females. The results of this study are similar to Karimi, et al., (2013); Robledo, et al., (2015), as both studies find no gender difference in terms of entrepreneurial intentions. The results of this study contradict the findings of Wang, et al., (2017); Lo, et al., (2012), which reported that male students' entrepreneurial intentions were more potent than female students. The current study also contradicts the findings of Suryawirawan (2019) that female students showed higher intentions to choose entrepreneurship as a career option. Regarding social norm, the results of this study are similar to Maes, et al., (2014); Jarrar, et al., (2019), as all these studies indicates an insignificant role of social norms in the formation of entrepreneurial intentions.
Despite a history of conservationism in Saudi Arabia, the results of this study indicate that, at present, the females of Saudi Arabia are not in a disadvantageous position when it comes to entrepreneurial intentions. The entrepreneurship characteristics in Saudi Arabia, particularly for females, are similar to Spain and Belgium that is culturally vary from Saudi Arabia. In addition, the entrepreneurship characteristics are different between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are culturally similar. This implies that cultural and social norms are not adversely influencing entrepreneurial intention uniquely, although it has been a conservative society. This can be attributed to the current social and economic transformations going on in the country.
Overall, the results of SEM imply that the social norms are not supportive of choosing entrepreneurship as a career option. This applies both for males and females. Entrepreneurship may be seen as an inferior option to regular jobs, particularly in the government sector. Interestingly if social norms are moulded appropriately, it can be used to nurture females into budding entrepreneurs. However, the results of hypothesis testing indicate that out of four statements related to social norms, for three statements there are significant differences between the females and male respondents, with female respondents having a higher score. This leads to the recommendation that improving upon the social acceptance of entrepreneurship can be more helpful in nurturing entrepreneurship in the country, particularly for females.
Saudi Arabia, a predominantly oil-dependent country is having of vision of diversifying itself away from oil. Gender equality has always been essential to the progress of one country. Women and men by the business establishment have equal opportunities for financial freedom; enjoy equal employment opportunities, and develop career interests in entrepreneurship in this mechanism. Women are not acknowledged as often as men are because they have distinctive features. Therefore, to prove themselves, women shift to entrepreneurship to pursue their careers and attain their passion. Entrepreneurship can make women monetarily emboldened and autonomous and can be an instrument to help them achieve work-family balance. This can make entrepreneurship a driving force for growth in Saudi Arabia.
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Received: 30-Dec-2021, Manuscript No. AEJ-21-10107; Editor assigned: 02-Jan-2022, PreQC No. AEJ-21-10107 (PQ); Reviewed: 15-Jan-2022, QC No. AEJ-21-10107; Revised: 23-Jan-2022, Manuscript No. AEJ-21-10107 (R); Published: 30-Jan-2022