Women’s View of Trust and its Influence on Entrepreneurship and Career Development

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Abstract

Trust is highly important in human interactions and research on it is a growing cross-disciplinary field. Some findings in the network literature indicate that men’s trust depends more on group membership and women’s on relationships, and also that the leader or initiator is important for the development of trust. The aim of this study is to examine women’s view of trust. The role of leaders, general conditions that support or impede trust as well as formal settings that encourage or discourage trust and whether trust is due to personal or collective attributes is examined. The empirical results stem from qualitative interviews with 24 women, members of a female business network. Leadership styles and especially the trustworthiness of the initiator of the network were important for the development of trust. Conditions that promoted trust were how one is treated by the group, commitment and presence during group meetings and time spent together. Facts that also played a role were that they all were women and businesswomen, especially, and that they were living in the same region. The project design, including an agreement on confidentiality and a narrative form of presenting one self to the group was a setting that encouraged trust. Other important findings were that the creation of personal relationships and trust were closely connected, and that the relationship between the women usually involved support and commitment rather than hope for economic gain. This focus on personal rather than economic gain is seen as an explanation to why women led enterprises remain small and why women’s careers end at middle management.

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