The influence of proactive personality and stereotype threat on women's entrepreneurial intentions
This experiment examined the impact of proactive personality the tendency to take action to change one's circumstances and stereotype threat on women's aspirations in entrepreneurial fields. Given that characteristics stereotypically assumed to produce entrepreneurial success are masculine in nature, it was hypothesized that exposing women to these stereotypes might reduce their expressed interest in pursuing a career in business. To test this hypothesis, women enrolled in a university business program read an article about entrepreneurship. For half of the women, the article emphasized the importance of masculine attributes in producing business success (e.g., aggressive, autonomous, risk-taking) (stereotype threat), and the other half read an article emphasizing gender-neutral characteristics (e.g., creative, well-informed, steady) (control). After reading the article, all women completed a measure designed to assess their interest in pursuing an entrepreneurial career. Results showed that for women high in proactive personality, stereotype threat reduced their intentions to enter the business field. For women low in proactive personality, stereotype threat also appeared somewhat to reduce intentions to enter business, but not to a statistically significant degree. These results show that stereotype threat can reduce engagement and can lower the intention to pursue a career in a threatened domain, particularly (and perhaps ironically) for women who are most likely to act in response to their circumstances.