Gender, age and self-employment: some things change, some stay the same

Elizabeth A. Walker, Beverley J. Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - This paper aims to investigate age and gender differences in initial motivations for starting a business. What is not known, however, is whether the initial motivations for starting the business are different for older people and whether any gender differences exist. Historically, women were "pushed" rather than "pulled" into business ownership, but more recent studies have indicated that, overall, many women now actively choose self-employment. However, age may be a new barrier for women and men. Design/methodology/approach - The study combined a self-administered questionnaire which was used to collect data relating to general information about the respondent and their business, in addition to their start-up motivations. In total 270 questionnaires were returned. About 15 in-depth interviews were also conducted to verify the empirical findings. Findings - The results showed that self-employment is a reactive rather than proactive decision for both older women and men; however, women were less inclined to actively seek self-employment as their employment option of choice. In addition, the findings also show that a significant motivation for many younger women is still because of the double domestic shift, indicating therefore that some things change but some things stay the same for women. Originality/value - Whereas the majority of previous research has looked at start-up motivation, few have considered age and gender as independent variables. Given the increasing number of "baby boomers" starting their own businesses, this research can have practical policy implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-135
Number of pages14
JournalWomen in Management Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Age groups
  • Gender
  • Motivation (psychology)
  • Self employed workers
  • Small enterprises

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