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Social Entrepreneurship: Opportunity or Altruism?

Séverine Le Loarne, esiegnant chercheur à Grenoble Ecole de Management
Published on
14 December 2017

Why does an entrepreneur decide to launch a social entrepreneurship project that is sustainable and responsible? While research literature tends to suggest that social entrepreneurs are women or seniors (both male and female), research carried out by Séverine Le Loarne-Lemaire, a professor and researcher at Grenoble Ecole de Management, contradicts several accepted points of view.

What are some general facts concerning men and women in social entrepreneurship?

Women are more engaged in social entrepreneurship than men. It's a fact that has been confirmed over the past 20 years. However, major institutions for social entrepreneurship are generally created and developed by men. This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that women, by choice or not, tend to have more difficulty managing the growth of their company.

Your research surprisingly demonstrated that the engagement in social entrepreneurship by senior men, in particular, was motivated by altruism whereas female entrepreneurs are less focused on their social impact. You also note the specificities of French society…

I consider this to be a particularly interesting point in our research. When I questioned male and female entrepreneurs (in social and non-social entrepreneurial projects), it was clear that in France, social and environmental responsibility is equally present in men and women. Some interesting points drawn from our research:

  • Men of more than 50 years of age (seniors) were an exception as they tended to be preoccupied with what they could leave behind for future generations and were therefore motivated by altruism
  • For senior women, it’s more complicated. We did not observe this strong desire to leaving something for future generations. But there was a desire for recognition in terms of success and a desire to leave something behind for children.
  • Younger women demonstrated equal desires for social and environmental responsibility as men.

Finally, are women more present as social entrepreneurs because of education, opportunity or altruism? What are the differences between stereotypes and real motivations? Why is there such a difference in our perceptions?

You can take into account several explanations:

We general attribute "caring" to women. But you have to distinguish between working in a field related to service or caring for people AND having a highly developed sense of "caring".

In this field like many others, we have to be suspicious of stereotypes. Stereotypical “female” and “male” characteristics tend to attribute socially and environmentally responsible actions to women. But that’s not necessarily the case. This belief developed historically because of factors such as the fact women were engaged in charity work, the image of the female in the Bible, a woman’s “maternal” role, etc. These perceptions developed to their strongest point in the 17th century and the 19th century didn’t change them.

France is a unique situation because in contrast with what we might think, the French woman’s place in the economy is in fact better than in most places. And Italy is in fact not far behind us…

There are also career choices that are very gender oriented due to our perceptions of roles that are attributed to each gender.

Finally, we have to take into consideration the various economic crises that have happened recently. They are changing our economic values. What were considered “masculine” norms such as aggressive growth for companies, are no longer seen as magic recipes that will work naturally.

Social entrepreneurship, age and gender: toward a model of social involvement in entrepreneurship
Séverine Le Loarne-Lemaire, Adnan Maalaoui, Léo-Paul Dana https://doi.org/10.1504/IJESB.2017.084844

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    Innovation has become a crucial factor for companies looking to maintain their competitive advantage. Yet creating innovative ideas requires a certain level of risk-taking. While research on this subject has focused primarily on risk-taking at one...

  • Published on 03 July 2015

    Making a success of your business transfer: new tools developed for a European project

    Every year, approximately 150,000 business transfers fail in Europe threatening some 600,000 jobs. BTAR's European project, launched in early 2015, aims to target the vulnerabilities in business transfer systems and draw on best practices in order...

  • Published on 22 June 2015

    Research: Microeconomic Degrowth, Community Supported Agriculture

    Economic growth is the cornerstone of mainstream macroeconomics. In the face of economic crises and unemployment, growth has long been the only acceptable solution. Yet many issues have started to challenge this dominant economic model. As a result...

  • Recherche : nutrition des sportifs et plaisir
    Published on 16 June 2015

    Is It Fun or Exercise ? The Framing of Physical Activity Biases Subsequent Snacking

    While the benefits of exercising are widely accepted by consumers and healthcare providers, people who begin an exercise program don't necessarily lose weight. A fact that can be frustrating not only for practitioners, but their coaches and...

  • Mark Olsthoorn, professor and researcher at Grenoble Ecole de Mangement
    Published on 07 April 2015

    Barriers to Electricity Load Shift in Companies, a Survey-Based Exploration of the End-User Perspective

    Overcoming the barriers to renewable energy systems is a key challenge. In shifting from centralized fossil-fuel energy production to decentralized solar and wind energy production, countries are being forced to act on multiple fronts : flexible...

  • Vincent Mangematin, Associate Dean for Corporate Relations and Research at Grenoble Ecole de Management
    Published on 17 March 2015

    Orchestrating Innovation with User Communities in the Creative Industries

    In search of continuous innovation, the digital creative industries have expanded their interactions with user communities to develop their products. This study highlights the evolution of these company-user relationships that allow for fluid...

  • Published on 16 January 2015

    Nostalgia makes consumers more likely to spend or donate money

    The use of nostalgia has been a top trend in marketing in the last few years, in commercials, product lines and even TV shows. The present study demonstrates that feeling nostalgic weakens the desire to hold on to money, and makes it easier to part...

  • Joachim Schleich, professor and energy markets experts at Grenoble Ecole de Management
    Published on 01 December 2014

    Research: Switching to energy efficient lighting : a bright idea!

    Energy efficiency policies such as the EU ban on incandescent light bulbs (and on halogen ones in the near future) have been the subject of much discussion in the last few years. The majority of the academic community predicted that new emerging...

  • Published on 07 November 2014

    Research : Digitization, Changing How We Work and Coordinate Projects

    All of us use digital tools and objects that can now be shared and combined in a variety of ways. This change has profoundly influenced the organization of work with projects being divided according to specialization and geographical location.

  • Erno TORNIKOSKI is a Professor in Entrepreneurship at Grenoble Ecole de Management.
    Published on 16 September 2014

    Research: How can the start-up process be accelerated?

    Success or failure of new businesses is what most studies related to the start-up process focus on. However, in today's dynamic market, time is a highly critical issue for nascent entrepreneurs.