The influence of culture on female entrepreneurs in Indonesia

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This paper explores the influence of culture on female entrepreneurs in Indonesia. Informed by discursive approaches, the research explores cultural influences by way of in-depth analysis of fifteen life stories of female entrepreneurs in Indonesia. The thesis also exploits current literature on the topic to categorize and compare types of female entrepreneurship in Indonesia; a distinction was made between micro-level (Darwinian/commercial entrepreneurs), meso-level (Communitarian/creative entrepreneurs), and macro-level (Missionary/social entrepreneurs). This categorization is based on the cultural factors perceived to be as the most influential and therefore relevant to each respondent entrepreneur. Darwinian/commercial entrepreneurs are affected by factors found at the micro-, meso-, and macro-levels. However, because the motivating factor behind their entrepreneurship can be deemed based on ‘personal interest’ and thus that their activities follow a traditional business logic; Darwinian/commercial entrepreneurs face more challenges at micro-level. Similarly, entrepreneurs in the Communitarian/creative category were found to experience challenges related to cultural factors associated with all levels. However, the most influential factors appear to occur at meso-level; owing to the strong connection between their entrepreneurial activity and a community-driven logic, also referred to in this thesis as a ‘personal We’. Lastly, it has been found that most Missionary/social entrepreneurs operate at the broadest level (the macro-level). The research suggests that this is because their motivations to take up business are orientated towards making a positive impact for women on society at large. Notwithstanding, the thesis also details the fewer challenges faced by Missionary/social entrepreneurs at the micro- and meso- levels. Throughout the research it was discovered that there are two cultural themes that are particularly relevant and significantly affect the business behaviors of the entrepreneurs at each level. At micro-level, these are the themes of multiple identities and individual capital. At meso-level, stereotype and legitimacy and organizational values and priorities are key factors affecting entrepreneurship in Indonesia. Lastly, at macro-level, deep-rooted cultural factors in Indonesia are the significant themes. Namely, the country retains a culture of high power distance and restraint (pessimistic). These factors were found to incite certain levels of cynicism and pessimism amongst the entrepreneurs that affected their business activities. However, this research concludes that the respondent entrepreneurs are able to handle the opportunities and challenges found at each level well. Women in Indonesia who become entrepreneurs can be said to possess a ‘high’ entrepreneurial spirit and passion as demonstrated by their willingness to take risks and create job opportunities. The research suggests however that the strength of these qualities varies depending on where the women interviewed lived, their level of education, age, and other factors. The patriarchal society in Indonesia was also found to have an effect on how the entrepreneurs behave, resulting in certain behaviors on constraints on their business activities. Further, the female entrepreneurs in Indonesia seemed to be able to navigate the patriarchy-imposed cultural factors at micro-level. Firstly, within the theme of multiple identities, the respondents expressed that they can improve their autonomy by balancing the ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ roles they occupy within their businesses; therefore straying from a more traditional business type and the local cultural values (religion, family, marital status). Secondly, within the second theme of individual capital found at micro-level, results of the research show that female entrepreneurs in Indonesia tend to be financially independent. At the meso-level, Creative female entrepreneurs in Indonesia were found to navigate patriarchal structure using innovation. They can innovate new products that are still adapted to appeal to the local market; even going so far as leading projects to raise awareness and understanding amongst local society with the aim of countering prejudice. Thereby, they are beginning to combat the challenges they face within the meso-level cultural themes of stereotype and legitimacy and organizational values and priority. Again, factors such as age, level of education, life experience (‘jam terbang’), and business location (remote area/big city) were also aspects necessary to consider in the macro-level analysis. 
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