Understanding IT entrepreneurial intentions of women in Saudi Arabia : technological and institutional perspectives

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Over the past decades, the revolution of information technology (IT) began to transform the society, economy, and industries world-wide. This transformation has involved waves of technological innovations that have been utilized by IT entrepreneurs who take advantage of the associated new opportunities. As a result, IT entrepreneurs have been contributing significantly to socio-economic growth, job creation and providing innovative products/services. Despite this contemporary significance, however, evidence indicates that women engagement in technology entrepreneurship is scant, which has received limited attention in both technological innovation and female entrepreneurship literature. Recently, a high priority on transforming the traditional oil-based economy to a knowledge-based economy (KBE) has been placed by the government of Saudi Arabia. In this regard, entrepreneurship and technological innovation are known to significantly elevate a country’s development, enhance productivity and promote the KBE. In particular, the Kingdom has witnessed significant attention to female entrepreneurship as well as technology entrepreneurship, which derives from the paradox of a highly advanced innovation environment and decreasing rates of IT entrepreneurial activity at the same time. As a result, a broad array of initiatives and services have been introduced and developed in the Kingdom to provide a better infrastructure for startups and to encourage entrepreneurs to incubate technological innovation. The purpose of this study is to fill the gaps in the research by investigating different factors that influence women’s behavioural intentions and subsequent decisions, actions, and outcomes to become tech-entrepreneurs. This study builds on an established theory; the theory of planned behaviour (TPB), which can be used to explain and predict IT entrepreneurial behaviour. The role of entrepreneurial intentions in explaining behaviours is well-established on a theoretical basis, however, there is still a need to examine the diverse and interrelated factors that collectively form women’s behavioural intentions at the IT level. Therefore, the study began with a comprehensive review of the literature, the outcome being the development of a tentative research model as a reference base. The literature revealed that no prior academic or professional research was found dedicated for addressing what factors affect intention and planning activities of women tech-entrepreneurs in the developing country context such as a country like Saudi Arabia. A sequential mixed method has been adopted in this research (qualitative and quantitative approaches) targeting female participants at Saudi universities, technology incubators, and entrepreneurship programs. In the first phase, the exploratory qualitative interviews were undertaken to fine-tune the tentative research model that could be appropriate and important in the Saudi Arabia environment. Fifteen interviews with IT nascent entrepreneurs have been conducted using a semi-structured interview protocol. The results of this stage have revealed that factors influencing women’s IT entrepreneurial intentions are the pillars of the theory of planned behaviour, formal and informal institutions, as well as technological factors. These factors were further confirmed by the literature review as being critical and important drivers for the formation of entrepreneurial behavioural intention at the IT level. Accordingly, the research hypotheses and associated questionnaire have been developed based on the literature review and the qualitative findings to be tested through the subsequent survey phase extensively. In the second phase, the survey questionnaire has been distributed to empirically test the final research model. Using data from four hundred and seventy-five valid responses, the validity and reliability of the women’s IT entrepreneurial intention model has been achieved through confirmatory factor analysis (CFA.) In addition, the survey data have been analysed by using the partial least squares (PLS) based structural equation modelling technique (SEM) to evaluate and measure the research model by assessing the relationships and test the hypotheses between the constructs. The current study contributes to the existing body of knowledge in two main ways. Firstly, it develops a women’s IT entrepreneurial intention model that is reliable and valid. Secondly, it measures the impact of various sources of factors that have been integrated from different disciplines and collectively forms women’s intentions at the IT level. The findings from this research, therefore, have significant practical implications for educators and policy-makers inside and outside universities.
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