Women entrepreneurs face dire odds in war-torn Afghanistan. Besides the usual challenges that come with any startup, they must cope with inadequate systems for security, infrastructure, education, health care and gender rights.
Even walking outside without a burqa can be a risk.
Now these professors want to know what drives these women forward.
“It became clear to me that there is something exceptional about the women in Afghanistan who would take such risks to be front-and-center in the economic landscape,” Bullough said. “I wanted to know what makes these ladies so special.”
Bullough and Sully de Luque will present their initial research Aug. 10, 2010, in Montreal, Canada, at the world’s largest annual gathering of management professionals and scholars. Overall, the Academy of Management meeting will draw more than 8,000 participants representing nearly 80 countries.
“This research stemmed from our work with Afghan women entrepreneurs,” said Bullough, who is Thunderbird’s academic director for the Goldman Sachs Business Women’s Training Program in Afghanistan.
The program follows on the success of Project Artemis, an Afghan women’s empowerment program that Sully de Luque helped launch at Thunderbird in 2005.
“As I got to understand the challenges these women face with launching and growing businesses, it became clear that we in academia do not know very much about operating businesses in challenging contexts,” Bullough said. “The more we know, the better we can be at offering the business training that is applicable to such an audience.”
The research coincides with the conference theme, “Dare to Care: Passion and Compassion in Management Practice and Research.”
Bullough said successful Afghan women entrepreneurs can help researchers answer some basic questions: “Do these women have an exceptional ability to be resilient, and do adverse conditions make them stronger? Do these particular women have an exceptional sense of self-efficacy or optimism, compared to entrepreneurs operating in societies without facing the challenges and fears that Afghans face?”
By asking these questions, Bullough and Sully de Luque hope to gain new understanding about the importance of optimism, self-efficacy and resilience on entrepreneurial intentions in adverse contexts.
“While not all emerging economies are war zones, there are different challenges that business people face than in developed and stable societies,” Bullough said. “In the United States, for example, we have access to health care, capital, education, clean water, reliable electricity, safe transportation and efficient distribution systems.”
Entrepreneurs in many emerging economies cannot rely on these things
“Studying the different intricacies of business development in such contexts will allow academicians to contribute to the learning needed to better education and policy efforts,” she said.
Bullough also will present a paper at the conference on women’s political leadership participation around the world. She also will present research Aug. 3, 2010, on the “Danger and Entrepreneurial Intentions” at the Diana International Conference on Women’s Entrepreneurship Research in Banff, Canada.
Videos: Meet three Project Artemis graduates: