Abstract

The concept of identity has been widely researched in the social sciences. More recent focus in the entrepreneurship field is driven by the fact that entrepreneurial identities impact subsequent behavior and decisions (Alsos et al. 2016; Fauchart & Grueber, 2011). Identity construction can be viewed as a combination of self-determination (agency) and determination imposed by others (structure) (Garcia & Welter, 2013), with the “entrepreneur” identity reflecting societal expectations (Brush & Gale, 2015). However, the construction of the “entrepreneur” identity mainly as a masculine identity (Ahl, 2007; Smith, 2010), adds to the complexities that arise for women developing an entrepreneurial identity (Bjursell & Mellin, 2011). Women entrepreneurs are expected to conform to masculine norms in their roles as entrepreneurs and to feminine norms in their social roles as mothers, wives, daughters etc. (Chasserio et al. 2014). A society’s gender role ideologies will therefore determine the level of normative support women entrepreneurs receive (Baughn et al. 2006). Nevertheless, few studies view identity as a problematic concept, and those analyzing the importance of the socio-cultural context for the identity construction process are equally scarce (Ashe & Treanor, 2011; Leitch & Harrison, 2016). Drawing on identity theories and the concept of identity work, our study contributes to this limited knowledge by analyzing how the identity construction of women entrepreneurs in Sweden and Tanzania is influenced by the socio-cultural context.

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