Not for the faint of heart? A gendered perspective on psychological distress in entrepreneurship

Our research was motivated by the goal of better understanding how male and female first-time entrepreneurs psychologically appraise key stressors during the business start-up process, and how these stress appraisals are related to psychological distress after business launch. Informed by role congruity theory (Eagly & Karau, 2002), we argue that financial and social stressors during business launch are appraised as particularly stressful by women. Both starting a business due to financial needs motivation (i.e., high agency) and failing to receive social support during business launch (i.e., low communion) are incongruent with the female gender role. We further argue that these negative stress appraisals early in the business launch process will be associated with higher psychological distress during the later stages of running their business. We investigated these relationships in a field study of nascent entrepreneurs surveyed at three time points over a 1-year period during which they developed and launched their first business. The results of this investigation support our hypotheses, such that female entrepreneurs had higher stress appraisals when faced with gender role incongruent stressors of high financial need and low social support. These higher stress appraisals among women were in turn related to higher psychological distress several months later during business operation compared with their male counterparts. We discuss these findings in light of their implications for psychological stress and strain among nascent entrepreneurs, as well as the unique challenges faced by women as they enter entrepreneurship. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

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