The Yin and Yang of entrepreneurship: Gender differences in the importance of communal and agentic characteristics for entrepreneurs' subjective well-being and performance.

Hmieleski, K. M., & Sheppard, L. D. (2018). Journal of Business Venturing.

Topics: Entrepreneurship, Gender Differences, Performance

Year: 2018

Country: United-States


The authors of this article examine the relationship between gender differences in characteristics with well-being and performance.

Key takeaway: Masculine (agentic) characteristics (creativity) are more beneficial for women, and feminine (or communal) characteristics (teamwork) are more helpful for men, in terms of subjective well-being and performance. 


Male entrepreneurs are presumed to have abilities that better match entrepreneurship. But taking into account “the importance of both masculine and feminine characteristics” provides a more accurate perspective on entrepreneurship. This study examines gender differences in agentic (masculine) and communal (feminine) personality characteristics and their relationship with measures of subjective well-being and new venture performance. The authors suggest “that women entrepreneurs who are high in creativity (i.e., a masculine agentic characteristic) and men entrepreneurs who are high in teamwork (i.e., a feminine or communal characteristic) will perceive themselves as matched for their work” and achieve higher levels of subjective well-being (work-family conflict, work satisfaction) and firm performance (sales per-employee). 


They test their model using a stratified (based on gender) national (USA) random sample of founding CEOs amounting to 303 founder CEOs that included 165 men and 138 women. They use OLS regression models for person-work fit, work satisfaction, work-family conflict, and firm performance. 


In a ‘Yin and Yang’ perspective, the results show that a masculine “agentic characteristic (creativity)” is advantageous for women, and a feminine “communal characteristic (teamwork)” is beneficial for men, in terms of achieving high levels of subjective well-being and venture performance. 

These results have consequences on the gender dialogue as they show that “both women and men can uniquely thrive as entrepreneurs”, and also demonstrate “how gender incongruence can have positive, as opposed to negative, effects, in an entrepreneurial context”. In terms of implications from the investors’ perspective when selecting entrepreneurs, the findings suggest that allowing women to show their creativity by asking them promotion-focused questions is more valuable than focusing only on the masculine agentic side. 

A concern with the present research is that the data comes from a single source, which would be associated with method bias. Future research could examine whether the relationship demonstrated would be confirmed in the different stages of the venture development process. 

Retour en haut de page