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Title:The impact of gender differences in social networks on microenterprise performance
Author(s):Kim, Seonmi
Director of Research:Zhan, Min
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Zhan, Min
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Wu, Chi-Fang; Lough, Benjamin; Jeong, Seonhee; Zhang, Saijun
Department / Program:School of Social Work
Discipline:Social Work
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Social Networks
Abstract:This study examined how gender differences in social networks affect microenterprise performance. Microenterprise is defined as small-scale businesses that hire fewer than five employees, including the owner. Microenterprise development programs (MDPs), which provide capital, business training, technical support, and access to social networks, were introduced to the United States as an alternative strategy for providing low-income women with economic opportunities. One of the important strategies for U.S. Microenterprise Development Programs (MDPs) is to improve female participants’ social networks for microenterprise start-up and maintenance by providing mentoring, networking services, and referrals to specialized business professionals. However, from the perspective of evidence-based practice, the social networking intervention programs of U.S. MDPs need to be based on rigorous evidence from empirical research. This study sampled 979 nascent micro-entrepreneur cases from the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamic (PSED) Wave II (2005-2011), which is a longitudinal dataset. This study tested two research models: A) the mediation effect of social networks on the relationship between gender and microenterprise performance, B) the moderation effect of gender on the relationship between social networks and microenterprise performance. This study measured social networks as network size, strength (weak/strong ties), and gained network resources. Microenterprise performance was measured by business profitability and survival. This study found that gender functions as a moderator on the relationship between gained network resources and microenterprise performance (i.e. business profitability and survival). While male micro-entrepreneurs receive significant benefits from their weak ties and gained network resources for improving business performance, female micro-entrepreneurs do not gain enough benefits from their networks to improve their business performance. In addition, this study found that while network structure (i.e. size and strength) is not associated with business performance (i.e. profitability and survival), gained network resources is significantly associated with business performance (i.e. business profitability and survival). However, since there was no association between gender and social network structure and gained network resources, this study did not find a mediation effect of social networks on the relationship between gender and microenterprise performance. The findings of this study mainly imply that a gender-sensitive social networking intervention in a U.S. context should concentrate on creating good-quality social networks that can provide valuable business resources for female participants. In addition, this research also asks government to supply funds for U.S. MDPs to develop gender-sensitive social networking intervention programs for women in order to improve female participants’ microenterprise survival rate.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Seon Mi Kim
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08

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