Purpose – To investigate the relationship between biological sex (male or female) and stereotypical sex-roles (masculinity and femininity) and to determine which might be more appropriate to use when examining small to medium-size (SME) owner characteristics such as: locus of control (internal, powerful others and chance); need for achievement; risk-taking propensity; and preference for innovation. Design/methodology/approach – Data for this study came from 673 usable responses (517 males, 156 females) to a survey of the attitudes and expectations of a random sample of SME owner-operators in Western Australia. Findings – It was found that femininity was significantly higher for women compared with men, but that there was no significant difference for masculinity. Results also indicate that, unlike femininity, masculinity is highly correlated with all of the “traditional” psychological traits. As a result, only one significant difference between men and women (based on their biological sex) was found; men had a higher risk-taking propensity. Originality/value – The results presented in this study confirm the belief that biological sex may not be an appropriate discriminator when examining differences in the psychological attributes of SME owners. Results suggest that the use of masculine and feminine traits might prove more useful in future research on this issue. Further, given the masculinity bias inherent in most of the psychological attributes typically found in the SME literature, it is suggested that Norman's Big Five (being more gender-neutral) might be more appropriate in examining differences in SME owner characteristics.
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