When entrepreneurial identity meets multiple social identities: Interplays and identity work of women entrepreneurs

This paper aims at exploring the dynamics of multiple identities of women entrepreneurs (WE). The paper analyse how WE do identity work in relation to specific identity regulations in the particular French cultural context. The objective is to understand how the entrepreneurial identity process of women is built through both confrontation and synergy with other social identities. Design/methodology/approach – The paper opted for a qualitative and abductive methodological design. In total, 41 French WE from diverse business activities were interviewed. The empirical material was subject to thematic analysis. Findings – The findings reveal the ability of these WE to deal with numerous and various identities. Their daily strategies to accommodate different roles depict how their entrepreneurial activity is intertwined with their personal and social life. The paper are far away from the picture of a monolithic entrepreneur without social dimensions. Given that, the findings broaden the too simplistic vision of WE as an homogeneous whole. Within this group of French WE, the analysis reveals that forms of identity work are along a continuum from accepting conventional norms and social expectations and integrating them in self-identity, or challenging them by accommodation or transformation, or, in turn, by redefining and proposing new norms. It also brings a nuanced understanding of complexity and multidimensionality of their daily life. Originality/value – Finally by studying French WE, the paper identify new practices, new interactions between social roles which could be also relevant for men. In fact, the study challenges the traditional framework on entrepreneurship, which produces an incomplete view of entrepreneurs, by omitting historical and social variables. This disembodied vision of entrepreneur could not be applied to women and probably could not be applied to contemporaneous men either.

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