Motherhood and entrepreneurship: Gender role identity as a resource

Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to consider gender role identity as an informal institution shaping female entrepreneurship, and to illuminate the dual effects of institutions as constraining and enabling forces.

Design/methodology/approach
The paper examines the context of female entrepreneurship in Japan, and highlights the importance of “motherhood” for Japanese women. Outlining the institutional context of gender role and female entrepreneurship, and using two case studies of Japanese female entrepreneurs as illustrative examples, the paper explores how gender role identity can be viewed as a core element driving female entrepreneurship. Drawing on institutional theory and the “role as resource” perspective, a set of propositions are advanced on linkages between gender role identity and female entrepreneurship.

Findings
The findings suggest that a strong identification with their family roles, in particular the role as a mother, lead Japanese women onto the entrepreneurial path. A strong gender role identity is also reflected in the identity of the ventures, the products and services provided by these ventures, and their organizational structure and practices.

Research limitations/implications
This study represents an initial attempt to explore how female entrepreneurs can leverage their gender role identity in creating a unique configuration for their ventures that represents a fit to their identity as mothers.

Originality/value
Instead of viewing gender role identity one‐sidedly as a constraint, the case‐study‐based conceptual arguments advanced are employed to develop a more balanced perspective on motherhood as being an enabling factor in female entrepreneurship.

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