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female entrepreneur

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Ladge, J., Eddleston, K., & Sugiyama, K. (2019). am i an entrepreneur? how imposter fears hinder women entrepreneurs’ business growth. business Horizons, 62(5), 615-624.




About the Recipe

The Paradox of the Reluctant Female Entrepreneur
Across the globe, a quiet revolution is brewing: Women are launching businesses at an unprecedented clip, seizing the reins of their careers and economic destinies. Yet a curious paradox lurks beneath this triumphant tale. Even as women stride into entrepreneurship in record numbers, research reveals a self-limiting tendency that may be keeping this burgeoning female business boom from reaching its full world-changing potential.
The root of this contradiction lies in how many women see themselves - or rather, don't see themselves - as entrepreneurs. A study by Verheul, Uhlaner, and Thurik found that women are less likely to claim the swashbuckling title of "entrepreneur" itself, perceiving it as a masculine moniker. This reticence to don the swagger of an entrepreneurial identity may explain the most perplexing trend in female entrepreneurship: the conscious capping of growth.
Study after study has shown that women business owners deliberately restrict the size and scale of their ventures. They are every bit as satisfied as their male counterparts - but often with a smaller slice of the market and a more modest definition of success. The question is, why?
The differential values perspective offers one compelling answer: Women may prize socioemotional rewards - relationships, work-life harmony, making a difference - over raw revenue and expansion. For these entrepreneurs, success isn't just about the bottom line, but about the richness of their impact and the meaning they derive from more than just profit.
But there's another, thornier factor at play: a persistent association of entrepreneurship with stereotypically masculine traits like bold risk-taking and aggressive ambition. In a world where entrepreneurs are still lauded as "lonely heroes" and "captains of industry," many women struggle to see themselves in these outsized archetypes. Internalizing these norms, they may feel like impostors poised for unmasking if they take up too much space.
This is where the notion of entrepreneurial identity comes in. Research suggests that the more a woman sees herself as an entrepreneur, the greater her appetite for growth. Yet for many, that self-concept feels like an ill-fitting mask, not a true reflection of their strengths and values.
The result is a self-fulfilling cycle, where women limit their own trajectories and are in turn taken less seriously by investors who view their businesses as glorified hobbies. It's a pattern that threatens to make female entrepreneurship a half-realized revolution, with women starting plenty of ventures but seldom scaling the commanding heights of industry.
Breaking this paradox will require a two-pronged shift. At the societal level, we need a radical expansion of what we laud as entrepreneurial virtues, making room for more collaborative, empathetic and purpose-driven definitions of success. This isn't about lowering the bar, but about recognizing that there's more than one way to change the game.
But change must also come from within. Women can up the volume on their own entrepreneurial identities through intentional exercises like the Reflected Best Self, which marshals personal triumphs to craft a more assured self-narrative. By actively reminding themselves of their boldest accomplishments, women can quiet the chorus of imposter anxiety and step more confidently into their ambitions.
Ultimately, releasing the untapped potential of female entrepreneurship will require rewriting both our collective understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur and women's individual conceptions of how they fit that script. When women business owners fully embrace an entrepreneurial identity that aligns with their values and harnesses their strengths, there will be no limit to how far their ventures can soar - or how much they can transform our economies and our world.



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