A Generational Approach to Female Entrepreneurship in Europe

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Peter Ester
Amelia Román


Female entrepreneurship is still a limited phenomenon in European countries and its promotion ranks high on the EU policy agenda. Various frameworks have been offered to explain the main structural differences in entrepreneurship between men and women, emphasizing a variety of underlying factors. With a novel approach, this paper argues that due to a process of generation renewal the numerical difference between male and female entrepreneurship will diminish. Generation replacement is seen by sociologists and other social scientists as the motor behind cultural renewal. Our core interest in this paper in developing such a dynamic interpretation within the European context is the role of different generations (Silent Generation, Babyboomers, Generation X, Millennials). Younger cohorts of females are hypothesized to be more pro entrepreneurship and pro self-employment both in terms of attitudes, intentions, and behaviors, compared to older cohorts. They are furthermore assumed to converge with their male generation members in this regard. This paper empirically tests these two hypotheses by analyzing multi cross-sectional European data from the Eurobarometer over a span of thirty-five years (1980-2015). Results show that this generational approach sheds new light on explaining trends in female entrepreneurship. We find evidence of an increased growth in female entrepreneurship that can be attributed to generation replacement. This rise in total female entrepreneurship is characterized by diversity among European countries in the study. Positive attitudes toward entrepreneurship are essential to considering future self-employment. Education is a key factor. Female entrepreneurship, it is predicted, will become more prominent in Europe.

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