Gender gap in entrepreneurial growth ambition: The role of culturally contingent perceptions of the institutional environment in China

Since the limited growth of enterprises has been identified as a deliberate choice of women entrepreneurs, the purpose of this paper is to illustrate how the institutional environment of an entrepreneurial ecosystem (EE) fosters the gender gap in entrepreneurial growth intention. The mediating role of the perceived institutional environment in the gender effect on entrepreneurial growth intention is tested in the Chinese context. As individuals’ cognitions are usually influenced by their cultural orientations, the gender difference in perceptions of the institutional environment is considered to be contingent on entrepreneurs’ self-construal.

Using a multiregional sample of 206 Chinese entrepreneurs who completed the questionnaire, the study obtained results by adopting a structural equation modelling analysis with a partial least squares approach.

There are significant gender gaps in perceptions of the institutional environment and growth intention among Chinese entrepreneurs. Due to their limited political ties and lower legitimacy in economic activities in the country, Chinese women entrepreneurs have more negative perceptions of the regulative and cognitive institutional environment than their male counterparts, which accounts for the lack of growth ambition among Chinese women entrepreneurs. Independent self-construal enlarges the difference in environmental perceptions between male and female entrepreneurs.

This research enriches the discussion in the emerging area of EEs by adequately responding to the highlighted target to advance ambitious entrepreneurship and offering an interpretation of its evolutionary thinking. Given the increasing calls for a focus on high-growth women’s entrepreneurship, this study provides an explanation for how the institutional environment engenders the absence of women in growth-oriented entrepreneurial activities. It also uncovers the overlooked deficiency in institutional practice by highlighting the gender inequality in the implementation process of entrepreneurial support policies and the distribution of entrepreneurial capabilities in society.

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