Entrepreneurship Unrestrained: Challenging Stereotypes and Social Norms 

Stereotypes are generalizations about the characteristics or personal attributes of a social group. There are numerous societal stereotypes about a broad range of social groups and can vary by context or situation. Several stereotypes have a long history and were formed as a result of specific economic, political, or social conditions. Stereotyping is a cognitive process that involves associating a characteristic with a group, but it can also involve, lead to, or serve to justify an emotional reaction toward people from other groups 

The most commonly studied stereotype targets have been ethnic-racial-national groups and, more recently, women and men. Although definitions vary, there is agreement that a stereotype is a generalization about, or an impression of a group; it is a set of beliefs about the personal attributes of the members of a particular social category. 


Stereotypes and structures of power 

Stereotypes are different from everyday cognitive processes because they are used to support existing relations and structures of power. Stereotypes often define and place people from marginalised groups as inferior, which legitimises the power and status of those who stereotype. This is why stereotypes are often generated and perpetuated by people in positions of power. For example, anti-Semitic stereotypes have been used to justify the persecution and genocide of Jewish people for centuries. Similarly, stereotypes about Black people have been used to justify slavery, segregation, and other forms of racial discrimination. At the same time, stereotypes have been used to exclude women from entrepreneurship – i.e., ‘women are too emotional’, ‘women are not good at math and accounting’, ‘women should stay at home’, etc. 


Stereotypes and social norms 

Stereotypes and prejudices are closely linked to the social norms that exist in our environment. We are more likely to hold and express stereotypes and prejudices if we perceive that it is considered appropriate to do so, and if the people we care about hold them too. This is because we want to fit in and be accepted by our social group. Social norms are the unwritten rules of behaviour that are considered acceptable in a group or society. They can influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. For example, if the social norm in our group is to be prejudiced against female or immigrant entrepreneurs, we are more likely to develop prejudices against them ourselves. 

Social norms can change over time. This is because they are shaped by the social and cultural context in which we live. For example, in the United States, the social norm of racism has changed significantly over time. In the past, it was considered acceptable to be prejudiced against people of colour. However, today, racism is widely condemned as wrong. To make a real impact on reducing prejudices, we need to influence and change social norms. This can be done by identifying the mechanisms and actors involved in the propagation of these ideas. For example, we can look at the media, educational institutions, political discourse and religious organizations to see how they are perpetuating stereotypes. Once we have identified the mechanisms and actors involved, we can develop strategies to challenge them and promote more inclusive and accepting social norms. 

Here are some things we can do to influence and change social norms: 

  • Educate ourselves and others about the harmful effects of stereotypes and prejudices. 
  • Speak out against stereotypes and prejudices when we see or hear them. 
  • Support organizations that are working to promote diversity and inclusion. 
  • Be role models by demonstrating inclusive and accepting behaviour. 

It is important to remember that changing social norms takes time and effort. However, it is possible to create a more just and equitable world by challenging stereotypes and prejudices and promoting inclusive social norms. 



As entrepreneurship becomes more diverse and inclusive, following suit the diversification and attempts to inclusivity of our modern societies, it is imperative to acknowledge the existence of stereotypes that restrain the access of certain groups – women, immigrants, LGBTQ+, persons with disabilities – from the entrepreneurial field. These stereotypical beliefs are deeply rooted in the social norms that exist in our social environment.  

Social are shaped by the cultural and social context of each period, and thus may change over time. This change can be achieved by recognising the actors and mechanisms that play a role in the formulation and circulation of these ideas, and developing strategies to challenge them and endorse more inclusive social norms. This mental shift would open up and make the entrepreneurial field more accessible to groups other than the traditional, toxic, gendered stereotyped model that usually comes to mind when we think of an ‘entrepreneur’.    



Allport, G. W. (1954) The nature of prejudice. Addison-Wesley.  

Brigham, J. C. (1971). Ethnic stereotypes. Psychological Bulletin, 76(1), https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/h0031446 

Verkuyten, M., & Thijs, J. (2013). Multicultural Education and Inter-Ethnic Attitudes: An Intergroup Perspective, European Psychologist, 18(3), 179-190, DOI: 10.1027/1016-9040/a000152 

Westra, E. (2019) Stereotypes, theory of mind, and the action–prediction hierarchy. Synthese, 196, 2821–2846. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-017-1575-9 

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