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Co-evolution of Contextual Structure and Personal Variables in Decisions to Stay or Go: A qualitative study of women entrepreneurs' meaning making Open Access

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Abstract of DissertationCo-evolution of Contextual Structure and Personal Variables in Decisions to Stay or Go: A Qualitative study of women entrepreneurs' meaning making This dissertation examines how women entrepreneurs experience the coevolution of the meaning of the formation of their enterprise and the meaning of their orientation to their enterprise and how that meaning influences their decision to maintain, grow or leave their enterprise over time. Understanding how they make meaning from the nature of their enterprise and how that meaning is comingled with their own sense of self can better inform researchers about the experience of women with entrepreneurship. The researcher, in the context of this comparative case study, uses several theoretical lenses to examine the meaning making of the women entrepreneurs including social exchange theory, attribution theory, and social cognitive theory. Three major findings of this research study were (a) development of personal meaning is a coevolving process of constructing self-image from habitus (self-schema) and field (relational capital), (b) attribution of success is primarily through self-efficacy but includes socially constructed attribution to employees and clients through relational cohesion, and (c) successful role transition from entrepreneur to CEO is required for growth but also requires structural changes that may not be compatible with the founder entrepreneur's desires. Expressing professional goals in plans and strategy and self-awareness of personal goals and aspirations can help women entrepreneurs navigate this key decision point in the life of their businesses.

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