Entrepreneurial career aspirations of educated women in Bangladesh
This thesis explores the factors affecting the aspirations for, and the perceptions of acceptability and feasibility of business-ownership as an economic/career option by middle-income, educated urban women in Bangladesh. In response to the world-wide growth of women's entrepreneurship, there has been increased attention given to women's businesses, both from a practical development perspective and a research point of view. The group of women who has attracted researchers attention in the developed economies is educated, with access to resources and contact networks and therefore in principle, capable of starting up more significant businesses. The corresponding category of women in the developing countries, however, has received little attention either from the development planners or from the academic researchers. In Bangladesh, since the existence of middle-income, educated urban women in business appear to be small compared to that of un/less educated, poor, rural women in income-generating type of enterprises, the women business-owners have not only been unrecognised in statistics and policy documents, but also in academic research. In order to fill this research gap, and to identify some of the possible reasons for the relative paucity of women business-owners in Bangladesh, this thesis addresses the research question, "Is Entrepreneurship/Business-Ownership an Attractive/Desirable, Acceptable and Feasible Option for Middle-Income Educated Urban Women in Bangladesh". To address the research issues about business-ownership by middle-income, educated urban women in Bangladesh, a conceptual framework was developed incorporating the major factors affecting the aspirations, the acceptability and the feasibility of business-ownership as well as those influencing the process of business start-up. This study has examined the research issues based on the data collected through interviews with 154 potential and 75 actual women business-owners, and 10 CEOs of support agencies in the Dhaka city, which has the highest concentration of middle-income, educated urban population, and is the heart of all commercial activities. Overall, the findings of the study indicate that it is the "family roles" or the "gender roles" and not family entrepreneurial role models that influence the aspirations of women to set-up their own businesses in Bangladesh. The study also indicates that 'gender', demographics of the women concerned, and the type of business are the key explanatory factors determining the acceptability of business-ownership. It further shows that years of formal education, work experience, socio-economic class, network and supporters, and the type of business influence the feasibility of business ownership as an economic option for women in the context of Bangladesh. The findings highlight negative social attitude towards women in business, lack of security and freedom of mobility, and exposure of role models by media and promotional agencies as some of the major hindrances to women's business-ownership. This thesis demonstrates that women entrepreneurs in developing countries are not a homogenous group, that the aspirations, the acceptability and the feasibility of business-ownership by women are highly interactive, and that business-ownership by women is a combination of motivation, personal characteristics as well as environmental factors. In particular, it highlights that 'gender' definitely plays a role not only in enabling or hindering women in starting own business, but also in women's choice of business in the developing country context, as opposed to studies on women entrepreneurs in Western countries, which present conflicting results about the extent to which gender is an issue in women's business-ownership. This study emphasises the importance ofpolicy and legislative initiatives for bringing about the needed change in the environment in order to augment women's business-ownership. In doing so, the implications of the research are that efforts should be made to encourage wide spread media exposure of role models, ideas for product and market development, and gender sensitivity training for the personnel of agencies working for the promotion of entrepreneurship.