Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Finding a level playing field: The experiences of women-owned Disadvantaged Business Enterprises in transportation construction
by Slattery, Dianne Kay, Ph.D., Saint Louis University, 2008, 201; 3351880
Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences of women who have used the U.S. Department of Transportation's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program as a means of entering the male-dominated field of publicly funded transportation construction. This research targeted women who own certified DBE construction or construction-related businesses in a Midwestern state. The results of this research provide a description of the experiences of women DBEs and how they view their current position on the level playing field the DBE program was intended to create. The goal of this research was to yield insights into how the DBE program has met the needs and expectations of women.

The research was conducted using qualitative research methods to gather and analyze the data. A written questionnaire was used to obtain demographic, financial, and detailed project data, as well as qualitative data on women DBEs' perceptions, motivations, and experiences. The results of the questionnaire were used primarily to guide the questions used in a series of ten in-depth interviews with women whose firms provide a variety of construction and related consulting services, and which ranged in age from four to more than 25 years. Participant observation of women DBEs in public settings, and archival information including transcripts of hearings and litigation were used to validate the observations and aid in the interpretation of data.

The results of this research indicate that the personality of the individual rather than the presence of the DBE program has significant impact on a woman's choice to start a construction-related business, and her ability to persist and grow that business. The women DBEs interviewed for this research all expressed entrepreneurial ambitions, a desire to be in control, extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to change and emotional stability that may have allowed them to better succeed in the chaotic, conflict-driven culture of the construction industry. The women expressed contradictory meaning in the policy of racial and gender preferences, using the policy to their firm's advantage while rejecting its implications of unmerited favor. The DBE program itself was found to provide needed education and training, networking opportunities and exposure for the new firm, but also was an administrative burden that hampered a small firm's ability to be price-competitive with non-DBE firms. The presence of the DBE program was not credited with a firm's ability to persist, and seems to discourage firm growth and graduation to non-DBE status.

The findings of this research are generally in concert with the existing literature, and provide new information on the motivations and experiences of women entrepreneurs who work in construction and construction-related fields.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Domahidy, Mary R.
School: Saint Louis University
School Location: United States -- Missouri
Source: DAI-A 70/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Management, Organizational behavior, Transportation planning
Keywords: Business, Construction industry, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Disadvantaged business enterprises, Transportation, Women, Women-owned enterprises
Publication Number: 3351880
ISBN: 978-1-109-08613-3
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