Economic and socio cultural experiences of female entrepreneurs in Brazil and the United States: an exploratorial and empirical analysis.
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Over the last twenty years female entrepreneurs have been increasing in numbers in economies of developing and developed nations across the world. But although female entrepreneurship participation rates have increased worldwide, it appears that economic and socio cultural patterns still prescribe whether a female can become or want to become an entrepreneur in her society. Some reasons are obvious such as lack of employment and opportunities; other are disguised in patriarchal culture that deters female entrepreneurship. Against this backdrop it appears that in less developed countries necessity and informal entrepreneurship are more prevalent than opportunity entrepreneurship. An explanation from economic nature for this phenomenon is perhaps the fact that with less job opportunities available in developing nations, the ‘need’ to become an entrepreneur seems to be the answer for females to make a living by creating their own jobs. At the socio cultural level, the motivation to become an entrepreneur out of need surfaces because of the socio cultural structure of certain nations that hinder females from finding work that brings them independence, self actualization and flexibility for work-life balance. This qualitative exploratory study investigates the phenomenon of female entrepreneurship comparing female entrepreneurship in two contexts: Brazil and the United States. The economic differences on a macro level between these two countries have been well documented and national socio cultural differences have been discussed. But very little has been focused at the individual level of the female entrepreneur per se, that is, how they perceive and experience the economic and the social cultural macro environment with their businesses. This research attempts to fill this gap. This was done by first reviewing the literature and then by analysing the responses from face to face and telephone interviews with 34 female entrepreneurs in Brazil and 26 in the United States. The findings indicated that female entrepreneurs in Brazil and the United States share similarities in motivation for starting the business in terms of pull factors, such as search for financial independence, want to be one’s own boss, need for autonomy, and self actualization. The women from both groups also identified customer satisfaction and recognition from society as key elements for their business success. But business informality was a phenomenon only found among the Brazilian enterprises (the informais) a factor found to be directly related to economic necessity and the scarcity of waged jobs and opportunities. The perception of gender barriers was shared by both groups of entrepreneurs but other factors such as religion and the importance of faith to succeed in business were emphasized only by the Americans. Higher education was perceived by both groups as an instrument to gain recognition from society, but not important to grow their businesses; vocational training was perceived as more important. Networking was perceived as important, but different patterns of networking emerged among the Brazilians and the Americans. Definitions of success also differ among the women independent from their nationality. Some were more inclined to define success in financial terms, others simply define success in terms of flexibility and the ‘got to be in control’ syndrome. This research contributed to an increased understanding of the processes of female entrepreneurship as it related to how economic and socio cultural forces influence these processes. The findings indicated that the female entrepreneurship process becomes a combination of two processes: a person driven process and a response to environment process. Mentoring and coaching programs that assist women finding their path to entrepreneurship along with their own passions should be emphasized by local agencies. Although policy development was not the specific objective of this study, a number of issues have arisen that have implications both for future research and female entrepreneurship policies. For instance, in Brazil, higher taxes and the high cost of starting a business were perceived by the women as barriers to their businesses. It is suggested that Brazilian authorities and legislators continue with their efforts to streamline the business start process by introducing innovative and cost effective ways to formalize a business.