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Prone to “care”? Relating motivations to economic and social performance among women social entrepreneurs in Europe

Anne Laure Humbert (Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK)
Muhammad Azam Roomi (Prince Mohammad Bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship, King Abdullak Economic City, Saudi Arabia)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Article publication date: 10 August 2018

Issue publication date: 31 August 2018




Little attention has been given specifically to the experience of women social entrepreneurs despite the assumption they are prone to “care”, and even less to their motivations or their self-perception of success. This paper aims to provide an insight into the relationship between motivations and social and economic performance among women social entrepreneurs in ten European Union countries.


This paper classifies the motivations of women social entrepreneurs, drawing on the results of a survey conducted (n = 380) by the European Women’s Lobby. The paper then examines how these motivations relate to self-perceptions of social and economic performance.


In addition to being driven by self-interest and prosocial motivations, women social entrepreneurs also seek to develop alternative business models. Where a social mission is central, women are likely to feel successful in meeting their social aim; however, there is a strong negative relationship between self-interested motivations and revenue.

Research limitations/implications

This analysis relies on perceptual and self-reported data; therefore, more objective measures should be considered for further research, possibly combined with a longitudinal design. Another limitation of this paper lies in the non-random sampling strategy used to identify a hard-to-reach population such as women social entrepreneurs.

Practical implications

The findings provide a better understanding of the motivations of women social entrepreneurs. This may be useful in assisting funding or support organisations, as well as social investors, evaluate where to best invest resources. In addition, a more nuanced understanding of motivations among women social entrepreneurs can inform policies aimed at supporting women social entrepreneurs, without necessarily being bound by the expectation to maximise economic and/or social outcomes.


This paper demonstrates the centrality of the social mission for women social entrepreneurs. The results also identify “seeking an alternative business model” as a key motivation among women social entrepreneurs, thereby breaking existing conceptualisations of entrepreneurial motivations on a binary spectrum as either “self-interested” or “prosocial”. The paper also shows that having other than prosocial motivations for becoming a social entrepreneur does not necessarily lead to higher economic revenue.



The author’s would like to thank Emily Shrair Usher (European Women’s Lobby) for her insights. The author’s also thank Alison Collins for her support with the editing of this paper.


Humbert, A.L. and Roomi, M.A. (2018), "Prone to “care”? Relating motivations to economic and social performance among women social entrepreneurs in Europe", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 312-327.



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