Gender and entrepreneurial self-efficacy: a learning perspective

Dianna Dempsey (Strategic Management and Organization, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)
Jennifer Jennings (Strategic Management and Organization, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada)

International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship

ISSN: 1756-6266

Publication date: 4 March 2014



The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the four major factors known to contribute to self-efficacy in general (enactive mastery, vicarious experience, physiological arousal and verbal persuasion) can help account for observed differences in the entrepreneurial self-efficacy (ESE) of young women and men, in particular.


The authors adopted a two-stage design, which included collecting data from 222 university students via an online survey followed by a quasi-experiment involving an opportunity evaluation task.


The findings demonstrate that the significantly lower ESE of the young women in the sample was attributable to their lower level of prior entrepreneurial experience, their lower level of positive and negative affect towards entrepreneurship and their higher likelihood of receiving failure feedback due to their actual performance on an opportunity evaluation task.

Research limitations/implications

Given the importance of understanding why females continue to be under-represented in entrepreneurial activity the world over, these findings provide additional insight into why young women tend to feel less efficacious than young men about their ability to successfully undertake an entrepreneurial career.


This paper offers a comprehensive and unified theoretical framework, derived from social learning theory, for furthering the understanding of the factors that contribute to gender differences in ESE. The authors also offer a novel quasi-experimental design involving an opportunity evaluation task that others might find useful, particularly for empirical research adopting a cognitive and/or affective lens on entrepreneurship.



The authors would like to thank Neil Brigden for his programming assistance and to express the gratitude for the financial support provided by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and a University of Alberta McCalla professorship awarded to the second author. The authors are also appreciative of the feedback received at the 2012 ACERE-DIANA Conference in Perth, Australia. The authors contributed equally to the preparation of this manuscript and are listed in alphabetical order.


Dempsey, D. and Jennings, J. (2014), "Gender and entrepreneurial self-efficacy: a learning perspective", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 28-49.

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