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Gendered Language, Gendered Choices? Student responses to entrepreneurship education course descriptions

Warhuus, J and Jones, S (2018) Gendered Language, Gendered Choices? Student responses to entrepreneurship education course descriptions. In: ECSB Entrepreneurship Education Conference (3E 2018), 16 May 2018 - 18 April 2018, Enschede, The Netherlands. (In Press)

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Questions we care about (Objectives) This paper examines how students select entrepreneurship education classes. Our prior work (Jones and Warhuss, 2017) finds that entrepreneurship course descriptions use predominantly masculinised language. We therefore ask the following questions: i) what impact does gendered language have on student perceptions of an entrepreneurship course? ii) What clues from course descriptions do students use in their selection of entrepreneurship courses? iii) What do students prefer when given a choice between a masculine-framed and a feminine-framed entrepreneurship course description? iv) Does the national-level cultural context affect student choices? v) Is there an alternative to the highly masculinised action-oriented entrepreneurship course description? Approach The research is based on our prior research, which analyzed 86 different course descriptions from 25 countries and found that the gendering of language became more masculine as analysis moved from course descriptions for ‘about’ courses, to ‘for’ and ‘through’ type courses. Historically, entrepreneurship has been constructed as a masculinised activity. It is therefore argued that there is a need to critically engage with the westernised, masculine typified behaviours upon which entrepreneurship is based, given an increasingly ethnically diverse and female dominated HE environment. However, in constructing entrepreneurship courses educators arguably have an ‘ideal’ student in mind. We therefore argue that course descriptions offer insights into educator constructions of the 'Fictive student', the student to which the curriculum is addressed. Despite the importance of course description to both educators and students, no prior research has focused students’ use of course descriptions to select the ‘right’ courses for them. Results To investigate the potential impact of gendered language on student course choices, we deploy a three-phase data-collection approach based around a set of fictitious masculine and feminine-framed course descriptions for each of these three types of courses, developed using the gendered language identified in our previous research. First, we recruited 25 American and 25 Danish business students and used a survey tool to capture their demographic data and assess their entrepreneurial experiences. Second, the students were asked to choose between a masculine and a feminine (and for the ‘about’ course also a neutral) framed course description, as part of a think-aloud protocol exercise. Third, after making their course selections, students participated in focus group discussions (two focus groups, each with 6-9 students, for each regional data segment.) The analysis of the data is guided by the Gioia methodology for qualitative research and aided by the use of the Nvivo software tool. Implications and Value/Originality Our research raises significant questions, and challenges previous assumptions, about the gendered implications of different types of entrepreneurship education and the influence of course descriptions on students’ choices. Yet, we find no other studies like this in terms of focus, scope or comparison.

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