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Breaking Barriers in Female Entrepreneurship

A look at the career of Jintong Tang, Ph.D., professor of management in the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business and fellow with the SLU Research Institute, and her work in breaking barriers in entrepreneurship.

The greatest ideas are often born from personal connections. For Jintong Tang, Ph.D., Mary Louise Murray Endowed Professor of Management in the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business, faculty fellow for the Division of Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement and fellow with the SLU Research Institute, her latest research was sparked by judgments made in the media during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when overt anti-Asian rhetoric soared.

As an entrepreneurship scholar and member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, Tang was immediately drawn into how populist rhetoric affected not only the AAPI community but also other communities, such as women in entrepreneurship — a field that has been male-dominant for centuries.

“Women entrepreneurship is misaligned with traditional gender roles, and women entrepreneurs may be categorized as ‘outsiders,’” she said. “This increases women entrepreneurs’ fear of being ‘othered’ and losing privileged protections in the entrepreneurial arena.”

Her curiosity fueled her current research titled, “The Gendered Effect of Populism on Entrepreneurship and Innovation,” which examines the impact of populism on entrepreneurship and innovation among women. Tang and her collaborators at the University of Missouri–St. Louis; Jinan University in Guangzhou, China; and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, proposed that the surge of populist discourse by a nation’s political leaders prevents women’s entry into entrepreneurship and decreases the innovation of new ventures, particularly among women.

“Entrepreneurship today embodies all crucial skills for our personal and professional lives: creativity, innovation, open-mindedness, resilience, perseverance, bootstrapping, and the ability to turn aspirations into actions,” Tang said.

“Researching and teaching these entrepreneurial skills, particularly for underrepresented groups, can help all individuals to cope with the unprecedented challenges and crises in the world,” Tang said.

The project has received strong support from the University, including the 2023 Beaumont Scholarship Research Award from SLU and the 2023 Medart Women in Leadership Grant sponsored by Mike Medart, the dean’s advisory board chair at SLU’s Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business. It is also under review for presentations at two leading entrepreneurship conferences in 2024: the Diana International Research Conference in Stockholm and the Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference in Munich.

A woman sits and smiles while holding a microphone.
Tang speaking at the Be Heard: Women in Leadership Conference.

Tang also puts her research into action by supporting and sponsoring women entrepreneurs. She works with the International Institute of St. Louis to provide entrepreneurship training for immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs; she chaired the Research Symposium on Women Leaders and Entrepreneurs at the 2nd Annual Women in Leadership Conference held at the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business, and she offered mentorship to early career faculty,  particularly those in underrepresented groups.

The research conducted by Tang and her collaborators gives a voice to those in business who are being barred from the narrative by a higher power. Her critical research efforts support women in business amid a culture that has predominantly focused on traditional gender roles and given way to a more supportive era in entrepreneurship.

“Entrepreneurship is not narrowly defined anymore,” Tang said. “It is timely and critical that we provide much-needed support and sponsorship to women entrepreneurs.”

Story by Mary Pogue, senior copywriter, Paradigm.

This piece was written for the 2023 SLU Research Institute Annual Impact Report. The Impact Report is printed each spring to celebrate the successes of our researchers from the previous year and share the story of SLU's rise as a preeminent Jesuit research university. Design, photography, and some writing contributions are made by Paradigm. More information on the Impact Report can be found here.