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The potential of online coaching to develop female entrepreneurial self-efficacy

Hunt, Carianne M and Fielden, Sandra and Woolnough, Helen M (2019) The potential of online coaching to develop female entrepreneurial self-efficacy. Gender in Management: An International Journal. ISSN 1754-2413

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this study is to explore the potential of coaching to develop female entrepreneurship by overcoming potential barriers. It sought to understand how entrepreneurial self-efficacy can be applied to development relationships, through on-line coaching, examining changes in the four key elements of entrepreneurial self-efficacy enactive mastery, vicarious experiences, social persuasion and psychological arousal. The study examines the impact of coaching relationships on female entrepreneurial self-efficacy compared to a control group. The participant group was matched with coaches and undertook a structured six months’ coaching programme. Design/methodology/approach – This was a longitudinal study using a mixed methods approach. Questionnaires investigating entrepreneurial self-efficacy were collected at two time points for both the coaching and control group. After the first time point, the coaching group was supported through a six months coaching development programme. At the second time point, questionnaires were again completed by both groups and qualitative data gather via interviews with the coaching group. Findings – The findings from this study showed that coaching relationships had a positive impact on coachees’ entrepreneurial self-efficacy, compared to the control group in terms of enactive mastery, vicarious experience, social persuasion and psychological arousal. This suggests that coaching is a development intervention which can be used to enhance self-efficacy beliefs of female entrepreneurs, thereby increasing their chances of engaging in successful business creation and operation. Research limitations/implications – The group size was a problem, with four of the coaching group and ten of the control group dropping out. The coaching participants left the intervention due to personal reasons but no reason could be established for the control group participants leaving the study. The problem of ‘Type II’ was considered and in an attempt to overcome this problem, data were shown at below 10% (p <0.10). It would also have been useful to collect more qualitative data from the control group. Practical implications – An online coaching programme provided by women for women, which is tailored to the individual, can support female entrepreneurs through the difficult stages of start-up and development phases of business development. Creating more successful women owned businesses will not only provide financial benefits, but should help provide additional entrepreneurial networks for women, as well as more positive female role models. Exposure to positive role models has been found to have a direct effect on entrepreneurial self-efficacy. This circular affect should in theory keep on increasing, if female entrepreneurs have access to the tailored support provided by coaching programmes such as the one used here. Social implications – Considering the current global economic climate, it is increasingly important for women to be supported in small business ownership (Denis, 2012). Countries which actively promote women entering into business ownership will ultimately share the gains in terms of wider issues, i.e. improving education and health, and economic growth (Harding, 2007). If female entrepreneurship is to be encouraged and supported, provision needs to be designed and developed based on female entrepreneurs’ needs and requirements, rather than simply conforming to traditional business support models. Originality/value – This study contributes to learning and theoretical debates by providing an understanding of female entrepreneurs’ needs with regard to business support and how this can be related to and supported by coaching. It also adds to the literature on entrepreneurial self-efficacy, coaching and learning by providing empirical evidence to illustrate how coaching interventions, including the use of online methods, can have a positive impact on female entrepreneurial self-efficacy.

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