Author: Onyishi, Ike E; Agbo, Aaron A
Date published: December 1, 2010
The contributions of women to development initiatives have continued to attract the interest of researchers and practitioners. In both developed and developing countries, women participate actively in the production processes as well in general services. In developing countries of Africa, women have participated actively in the informal sectors including agriculture and trade (Freeman, 1991; Mbida, 1995). Specifically, African women have been traditionally involved in food production and sales (Goheen, 1996; Gommans & van Alphen, 1991). Recently, more African women have joined in money-making activities, ranging from agriculture- related activities in the rural areas, paid employment in the public and private organizations to ownership and management of small, medium and large businesses.
Globally, more women are becoming entrepreneurs (Kavitha, Anantharaman & Jayasingam, 2008; Licuanan, 1992), but women entrepreneurs are still remain in the minority everywhere (Chamlou, 2008). Also, majority of women entrepreneurs are in agriculturalrelated businesses or in other small and medium-sized enterprises. It is obvious that women are capable of starting and managing their own businesses but seem reluctant to engage in large scale businesses or grow their businesses to become large. There are many reasons adduced for the inability of women to engage more in entrepreneurship even when they have the capabilities and when their contributions are necessary for accelerated economic growth especially in developing countries.
Women face many challenges both at home and the marketplace when they decide to seek employment or engage in entrepreneurial activities. Studies point to women's reproductive role as affecting female labour force participation (Morrison & Lamana, 2006). Beside reproductive functions, women are also confronted with several domestic tasks that challenge their ability to engage in income- generating activities (Harwell, 1996). Wage gaps and discrimination against women in labor market may also lower motivation to engage in paid or self-employment.
Access to input such as land, credit, capital and technology are serious impediments to women entrepreneurship. In entrepreneurial activities that are dependent on land for example, access to and/or ownership of land is a critical success factor. In most African countries, ownership of land is exclusively men's affair (Doss, 2005; Udry, 1996), and this puts women into permanent disadvantage in venturing into activities that require the use of land. Also access to credit is another major challenge of women's entrepreneur ship. Buvinic, Morrison, Ofosu-Amaah & Sjöblom (2008) maintain that access to credit is an important determinant of productivity and earnings for firms as well as for the self-employed. Although lending to women has been argued as a good credit risk for they are less likely to misuse the loan, and more likely to share the benefits with others in their family (Garikipati, 2008), their ability to access loan from the formal financial sector is highly limited. It is usually more difficult for women to fulfill the requirements for qualification for loans as they do not often have the expected collateral for loan allocation which often include landed properties (Kitukale & Carden, 2004).
Yet, empowerment of women seems to have greater impact on overall growth in developing countries than imagined. For example, it has been found that female education has a larger impact on growth than male education (Abu-Ghaida & Klasen, 2004). Empowering women to become entrepreneurs will not only have impact on the economy of developing nations but will also positively influence quality of family life in these nations. Whether engaged in selfemployment or wage employment, working women contribute to household income and expenditure (World Bank, 2007). Income from women has serious implications for quality of life of household members. Studies have consistently demonstrated that when women have increased income or have greater control over resources, more resources are allocated to children's well-being including food and education (Doss, 1996; Duflo & Udry, 2004; Hoddinott & Haddad, 1995). Thus, the increased interest in women empowerment.
However, the issue of women empowerment, especially in Africa, has been mainly approached from economic and political angles. This approach seems to neglect a seminal factor necessary for successful empowerment. Empowerment initiatives that neglect the human factor variables may not achieve the desired results. It is based on this premise that we look at the impact of psychological empowerment on the development of entrepreneurs hip among women. We therefore argue that economic, social and political empowerment of women will have minimal impact unless such empowerment is accompanied with psychological empowerment.
The concept of Empowerment
Empowerment is frequently used in human development literature to generally explain increased capacity of individuals to influence events in their lives and environments. Although the use of the term empowerment is relatively new, the history of psychology and other related fields reveals persistent advocacy of empowerment in various forms. Several researchers have in the past (e.g. McGregor, 1960; Likert, 1961; Herzberg, 1966; Hackman & Oldham, 1976) prescribed empowerment in one form or another, as a means of enhancing effectiveness at work. At the root of this advocacy of empowerment, especially in work organizations, is that empowerment will release the motivation, initiative, implicit knowledge, flexibility, involvement, and commitment required from employees to respond to increasingly competitive conditions (Wall, Cordery & Clegg, 2002).
Generally, to empower means to give power (Thomas & Velthouse, 1990). Power also means capacity or energy, so to empower may mean to energize. Empowerment has also been conceptualized as a set of management practices that focus on delegating decision- making authority (Blau & Alba, 1982; Mainiero, 1986). According to Randolph and Sashkin (2002), while increased decision-making authority is clearly part of the change that must occur to move from a command-and-control mindset to empowerment, it falls far short of what empowerment really means. The authors went further to note that even in empowered organizations, top management still define the direction in which the company is going and set objective for organizational performance. Nevertheless, empowerment greatly expands the scope of action of those who are not the top managers. Randolph (2000) had earlier observed that empowerment is recognizing and releasing into the organization the power that people already have in their wealth of useful knowledge, experience, and internal motivation.
Cogner and Kanungo (1988) made a broader attempt to conceptualize empowerment. They defined empowerment as feelings of self-efficacy among organizational members through the identification of conditions that foster powerlessness and through their removal by both organizational practices and informal techniques of providing efficacy information. Building on the work of Conger and Kanungo (1988), Thomas and Velthouse (1990), provided a more psychological definition of empowerment. They defined empowerment as intrinsic motivation manifested in four cognitions, reflecting an individual's orientation to his or her work role. The four cognitions include: meaning, competence, self-determination and impact. Meaning, according to Thomas and Velthouse (1990) is the value of the task goal or purpose, judged in relation to the individual's own ideas or standards. Meaning involves a fit between the requirements of a work role and a person's beliefs, values and behaviours (Brief & Nord, 1990). Competence or self-efficacy is defined as an individual's belief in his or her capability to perform activity with skills (Spreitzer, 1995). Self-determination is an individual's sense of having a choice in initiating and regulating actions (Deci, Connell & Ryan, 1989). Self-determination reflects authority over the initiation and continuation of work behaviours and processes, making decision about work methods, pace and efforts (Spreitzer, 1995). Impact is the degree to which an individual can influence strategic administrative or operating outcomes at work (Ashforth, 1989). The notion of impact has been studied implicitly in research on learned helplessness (Martinko & Gardner, 1982). Psychological empowerment seems to reflect what Rowlands (1997) called personal empowerment. Rowlands defined personal empowerment as something internal that one can develop and strengthen and is not dependent on others. The empowerment process from this perspective focuses on the ability of the individual to initiate change that will influence events in his or her life. We therefore focus now on peculiar nature of women's empowerment.
Women's empowerment has generated a lot of interest in recent times. According to Stromquist (1995), women's empowerment is a socio-political concept that involves cognitive, psychological, economic and political dimensions. The cognitive components involve women's understanding of the causes of their subordination and magnetizations and appreciating the need to make choices that may go against cultural or social expectations. The psychological component refers to women belief and confidence that they can improve their condition through personal and collective efforts. Economic component refers to access to income outside the home through work that provide income independence. Political component involves the ability to imagine one's situation and mobilize for change. It is therefore obvious from the above definitions that the individual's appraisal of the situation and willingness to change the situation is central in empowerment process.
The reasons for empowerment often arise when an individual or group of individuals are unable or prevented from actualizing their potentials due to barriers created by individuals or other people within the environment. In order to understand women empowerment, it may be necessary to look at how women empowerment has been captured in the literature. According to Mosedale (2005), there are four aspects which seem to be generally accepted in women's empowerment literature and would form the basis of discussion in this article. Firstly, in order to be empowered an individual must have been disempowered. In this respect, women empowerment is important because women have been disempowered especially when compared to men. Secondly, empowerment cannot be provided by a third party. Thirdly, definitions of empowerment usually include a sense of people making decision on matters which are important in their lives. Fourthly, empowerment is an ongoing process, in that people are empowered in relative to others or to themselves at a previous time.
Furthermore, Garba (1999) highlighted two distinct dimensions of women empowerment that are relevant for our discussion here - the static and dynamic dimensions. The static dimension of women empowerment focuses on the capacities of women to participate in making decisions that directly or indirectly affect their lives. According to Garba (1999) this view refers to the notion of women having an effective voice suggesting that an effective voice could be given to women who do not have one or that disempowered women could be exogenously empowered.
On the other hand, the dynamic dimension regards empowerment as a process of developing the capacity of individuals to participate effectively in making and implementing decisions that directly or indirectly affect them. As a process, empowerment is viewed as something an individual acquires over time. Garba (1999) maintains that the distinction between static and dynamic concepts of empowerment is significant in understanding empowerment for it leads to different empowerment strategies. The static view will lead to exogenous empowerment, while the dynamic orientation will lead to endogenous empowerment. While exogenous empowerment is built on the premise that disempowered individuals can be empowered by others, endogenous strategies focus on provision of enabling environment for disempowered individuals to empower themselves. This later view is consistent with our position in this paper that psychological empowerment is critical in the development of entrepreneurship by unlocking the individual's personal impediments to the development of entrepreneurship
The static perspective has informed the activities of most advocates of women empowerment. Hence, the focus on those external barriers and circumstances that have hindered women from attaining their full potentials. Most discussions on empowerment have therefore focused on the economic, political and social hindrances that prevent women from achieving their goals. The reasons for focusing on these barriers are obvious. It is expected that when women are provided with the necessary resources or are encouraged to participate in economic, political and social activities, they are empowered.
Economic empowerment of women mostly targets increase in income of women. Women's economic empowerment has been defined as "having access to and control over the means to make a living on a sustainable and long term basis, and receiving the material benefits of this access and control." (Carr 2000, p. 2). Although many women have benefited from programmes targeted towards economic empowerment, especially using their enhanced income for improving their overall well-being (Mayoux, 2001), economic empowerment has not fully liberated women from the burden of dis empowerment. According to Mayoux (2001) improved income though reinforces women's responsibilities for household expenditure but fails to help them challenge unequal rights. They therefore require an additional form of empowerment. Political empowerment on the other hand, focuses on increasing women's participation in the administration of the state at all levels of government. Women's political empowerment programmes are targeted toward providing them the skills and opportunities to win and/or occupy positions of authority in the society.
The psychological component involves women believing that they can act at personal and social levels to improve their conditions (Mosedale, 2005). It is an individual's subjective feelings that he or she can determine his/her own life's course (Pollack, 2000). This highlights the importance of psychological empowerment in women's empowerment process. Women cannot be empowered unless they have the belief that they can change the situation on their own and will be willing to engage in activities that are geared toward changing their situation. It is clear that lack of psychological empowerment will render all other forms of empowerment ineffective. Psychologically empowered women will have the necessary motivation to pursue things on their own and this may be critical in entrepreneurship development.
The concept of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship as a concept was derived from a French word "entrepreneur" meaning someone who undertakes tasks in a production process. Several authors have variously defined entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has been simply captured as the use of human courage to seek investment opportunities and establish a profit-oriented enterprise (Ikeme & Onu, 2007). Entrepreneurship is generally viewed as a process of creating something new. In doing this, a lot of time and effort are devoted to the tasks at hand and the resultant effects include monetary and personal satisfaction as well as independence. In other words, entrepreneurship involves creation process, conscious devotion of time and effort, involves risk and has some rewards. Other researchers have also provided somewhat similar definitions of entrepreneurship. Gana (2001) defined it as willingness and ability of an individual to seek out investment opportunities in an environment and be able to establish and run an enterprise successfully based on identified opportunities. It has also be defined as the process of planning and organizing a small business venture, the marshalling of people and resources to create, develop and implement solutions to problems in order to meet peoples needs (Timmons, 1987). Hisrich and Peters (2002) simply captured the term as the dynamic process of creating incremental wealth. They went further to explain that entrepreneurship is the personalized version of actualizing one's desire, ambition, and expectation.
These varying definitions mean that the word entrepreneurship means different things to different people (Igbo, 2006, Hisrich & Peters, 2002). Igbo (2006) attempted to capture some of the differing meanings of entrepreneurship. To an economist, an entrepreneur is one who brings labour, material and other resources into combinations that make their value greater than before and also introduces changes, innovations and a new order. A psychologist may view an entrepreneur as a person typically driven by certain forces to obtain or attain something to experiment, to accomplish or perhaps escape authority of others. A businessman could see an entrepreneur as an ally, a source of supply, a customer or someone who creates wealth for others. An entrepreneur could also been seen as one who owns and runs a business he or she can call his or her own (Igbo, 2006). Entrepreneurship is just about what we do and what we believe in (Kapur, Rao, Bikhchandani, & Ravichandran, 2007). According to the authors, when we think of the term entrepreneurship, what comes into most peoples' mind are dreams and risks and it is the fulfillment of the dreams and understanding the risks that makes true entrepreneurs.
From the foregoing, one may be tempted to conclude that entrepreneurship is just about making money, but entrepreneurs hip goes beyond money making. According to Kapur et al (2007), entrepreneurship is not about money but is about following a dream and having focused on it with passion. They maintained that if you have a dream that you could focus on and have passion behind it, that it is more likely that one will be successful.
Generally, entrepreneurs have certain qualities or characteristics that distinguish them from others. Entrepreneurs are usually people with high level of self-confidence. The entrepreneur believes in him/ herself and not on fate and rather sees obstacles or difficulties to achieving his/her goals as challenges, which must be faced squarely and conquered (Onu, 2006). Kapur et al (2007) maintains that an entrepreneur must be courageous. The person must feel spirited, bold enough to think and decide what he/she can do because others have done it. The courage to think and to do something and add value is one of the crucial aspects of person who start and run successful organizations. Kapur et al (2007) adds that just being courageous is not enough, that entrepreneurs must lead with passion, must believe and have conviction that their plans are going to succeed. Taking a psychological approach, Ehigie and Umoren (2003) maintained that entrepreneurs are driven by needs, and these needs include need to obtain or attain something, need to experiment, need to accomplish or need to escape authority of others. Other qualities of an entrepreneur include risk taking attitude (Gana, 2001, Igbo, 2006), task-orientation, drive and energy. They are also known to be creative and innovative (Igbo, 2006; Ikeme & Onu, 2007). Having x-rayed what empowerment and entrepreneurship mean, in the next section we leveraged on existing literature to discuss the impact of psychological empowerment on women's entrepreneurship and highlight the implications for wealth creation and sustainable development.
Women empowerment, entrepreneurship and sustainable development
Renewed interest in employee empowerment has been necessitated by global competition and change which has forced a search for alternative forms of management that encourages commitment, risk taking, creativity and innovation among employees (Druker, 1988). Researchers have continued to explore the possible role of psychological empowerment on several positive job outcomes (Bowen & Lawler, 1992). Several forms of empowerment have been linked to some positive j ob outcomes such as innovative and proactive behaviours (Anderson, & Williams, 1996; Bandura, 1997; Deci & Ryan, 1989, Kirkman & Rosen, 1999; Spritzer, 1995; Spritzer, DeJanasz & Quinn, 1999), and job commitment (Kanter, 1983; Manz & Sims, 1993). It is therefore reasoned here that psychological empowerment would have positive impact on the development of entrepreneurship behaviours, especially among women.
One reoccurring issue in psychological empowerment is the role of self-concept and self esteem in the overall feeling of empowerment. Self-concept is viewed as those ideas the individual has of himself or herself. Self-concept could therefore be negative or positive. Rogers (1980) maintained that the perception an individual holds about himself/ herself to a large extent influences the behaviour of the individual. Thus, if one's self-concept is positive the individual tends to react to events in his or her environment positively. Most of women's empowerment interventions therefore include training on self-awareness (Paterson, 2008), justifying the importance of psychological empowerment in the empowerment process.
With regards to entrepreneurship, women who perceive themselves positively are likely to engage in positive job behaviours including venturing in business, which is the hallmark of entrepreneurship. Although some cultural practices may hinder women from becoming successful entrepreneurs, research evidence has demonstrated that women's self-concept is positively related to commitment and perceived entrepreneurial success. Ehigie and Umoren (2003) in their study demonstrated that when other predictor variables were controlled, self-concept predicted significantly perceived entrepreneurial success of Nigerian women in small-scale enterprises. The authors also found significant relationship between self-concept and business commitment, which was also found to be critical in entrepreneurial success (Ehigie & Umoren, 2003).
Women's self-efficacy (consistent with competence dimension of psychological empowerment) has often been linked with positive job behaviours that are relevant in the development of entrepreneurship. Self-efficacy refers to an individual's belief about her or his ability to perform in a certain manner or specific behaviour to attain desired goals. Self-efficacy determines when an individual will undertake new behaviours (Handy & Kassan, 2007). Bandura (1997) maintains that self-efficacy influences how people feel, think and act. Self-efficacy is therefore implicated in entrepreneurship behaviour such as risk taking (Bandura, 1986; Pajares, 1996). Individuals with low self-efficacy limit their participation when making difficult behaviour change and are more likely to give up when faced with obstacles (Handy & Kassan, 2007). The individuals' efficacy beliefs about themselves in this case serve as barriers to change therefore reducing their own empowerment. This kind of attitude diminishes entrepreneurship behaviour.
Positive perception or mind-set of possibilities seems to be an underlying factor in most entrepreneurial activities. Most women seem to have low self-image and often underrate their individual capabilities (Paterson, 2008). Women's low rating of their capabilities may be partly because of our socio-cultural environment that most often hinders women from exhibiting their full potentials. Our traditional social norms only permitted women to focus on family needs while allowing men to give primary attention to work (Ehigie & Umoren, 2003). The negative impact of some of our traditional norms and practices on psychological empowerment of women is therefore obvious. Although women are increasingly getting involved in entrepreneurship, the hindrances created by our socio-cultural milieu need to be tackled if women are to venture and excel in businesses as their men counterparts. The starting point would be to create a sense of empowerment in them - an empowerment that is directed towards liberating women's perception of their abilities to become successful in business, and the change in perception is expected to make the women become creative and innovative.
Women who are self-empowered have successfully accessed internal and external resources to achieve personal as well as environmental change (Johnson, Worell & Chandler, 2005). Empowerment according to the authors enables women to access skills and resources to cope more effectively with challenges. Entrepreneurship requires individuals to be proactive in terms of seeking opportunities to harness available resources to create wealth for themselves and others. At the root of all entrepreneurial activities is the willingness of the entrepreneur to do something new and willingness to accept uncertainties and cope with challenges as they arise. Creativity and innovation are therefore implicated in most entrepreneurial endeavours.
Psychological empowerment has been linked to creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Research has shown that each of the four dimensions of psychological empowerment (meaning, selfdetermination, impact and competence) can facilitate creativity and innovation, that are very critical in entrepreneurship. It has been demonstrated that individuals with high intrinsic task motivation (consistent with the meaning dimension of empowerment) were more creative (Redmond, Mumford & Teach, 1993). Amabile (1988) also maintained that self-efficacy (consistent with competence dimension of empowerment) leads to creativity and innovation due to positive expectations of success. Also Bass (1985) maintained that personal control (consistent with self-determination dimension) is positively related with innovative and creative behaviour. Spritzer, De Janasz and Quinn ( 1 999) found that psychological empowerment is positively related to innovative leadership. Since creativity and innovation have been found to be vital in entrepreneurship (Ikeme & Onu, 2007; Kirchoff, 1991; Marvel, Griffin, Hebda & Vojak, 2007), it could also be deduced that psychological empowerment is therefore relevant in the development of entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurship has also been seen as a catalyst for developing small-scale businesses and overall wealth creation in developing economies. Entrepreneurs strive at all times to harness the innate adaptive capacity of an economy or society in order to create wealth (Harding, 2006). Harding maintained that entrepreneurship is simply about how entrepreneurs create wealth, in a social, an economic, corporate or, environmental setting. Women's entrepreneurship can as well be a valuable tool for empowering women and engendering economic growth. Entrepreneurship will give women opportunities of owning businesses, thereby increasing their personal wealth. Women's entrepreneurship will of course generate the needed employment in developing economies in Africa and bring in the long excluded population of women into the labour force thereby empowering women. The role of psychological empowerment in entrepreneurship development, wealth creation and sustainable development is depicted in the diagram below.
In our proposed model of women's empowerment (see Fig 1), we recognized the issues of socio-cultural, political and economic factors in the empowerment process. Entrepreneurship will mostly thrive where there is enabling environment for business growth. It has been amply documented that lack of institutional support hinders entrepreneurs hip (Djankov, Quinn, Ronland & Zhuravskaya, 2006; Yang, 2002). Policy formulation and changes, and governance structures have also been linked to entrepreneurs hip (Boswell & Baker, 2006; Kshetri, 2007; Segal, 2004; Schramm, 2004). For women to be empowered to become successful entrepreneurs, governments at all levels in developing countries of Africa are required to seriously provide the enabling environment and support for entrepreneurship. These measures would include among other things, policy formulation, provision of necessary infrastructure, enthroning good governance, affirmative actions and other gender related interventions that would enable women venture and succeed in business. These though presented, as peripheral factors in our proposed model, are necessary for empowered women to become entrepreneurs and would provide the platform for sustainable economic development in Africa. We therefore view these factors as hygiene factors. Although they may not necessarily lead to the development of entrepreneur ship, their exclusion may threaten efforts made in empowering women psychologically. They are therefore needed for the empowerment process to progress from psychological empowerment through entrepreneurship, wealth creation, to sustainable economic development.
The development of the economies of African countries will remain a top priority for governments in Africa as well as other stakeholders including international development institutions. In striving to achieve sustainable development in growing economies of Africa attention has shifted towards wealth creation and management at all levels. Entrepreneurship therefore seems to hold a central position in our attempt to ensure wealth creation and economic breakthrough in our economies. Women also represent a significant percent of the population of African states and their contributions to economic development can no longer be ignored. Efforts should be geared toward empowering women to become successful entrepreneurs and economic self-reliant people. Since we have abundant human (women significantly represented) and natural resources in Africa, what we require at this stage of our development is psychological empowerment, that will provide the necessary inner motivation to enable us strive at all times to excel in what we do.
It is however important to note that most of the characteristics of entrepreneurs can be acquired through learning and development (Kapur, Rao, Bikhchandani, & Ravichandran, 2007). We can all develop our skills and become successful entrepreneurs. We can also become psychologically empowered through learning and development. All the stakeholders - individuals, governments, and communities can all join hands in this campaign to make women develop the zeal and the willingness to create wealth through entrepreneurship. There should be definite gender policies and programmes that would enable women develop entrepreneurial skills. These programmes should also involve psychological empowerment mechanisms that will make the intervention work. Entrepreneurs hip can indeed be learned and we can empower women to become successful entrepreneurs and we will then have more women running successful businesses and contributing to development effort in Africa.
* Part of this article was earlier presented at the International Conference of the Women in Africa and Diaspora (WAAD). August 2009, at Abuja, Nigeria.
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Ike E. Onyishit & Aaron A. Agbo
Department of Psychology
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
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