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Whoever she wants to be: A Qualitative Study of the Identity of Women Social Entrepreneurs Open Access

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Women are increasingly contributing to the field of social entrepreneurship, however research has not kept up to pace with this development. At the same time, scholars have argued that issues related to identity are underexplored in social entrepreneurship research (Dacin, Dacin & Tracey, 2011). Identity influences personal interactions with others (Sanchez-Hucles & Davis, 2010). Social entrepreneurs' desire to create change often relates to their identity (Dees, 2001). Thus it is important to study the role of identity in the lives of women social entrepreneurs, and recognize that both professional and gender identities are often intertwined in their social entrepreneurial activities. This study was designed to incorporate women's personal perspectives with regards to their identity as a) a woman and, b) a social entrepreneur; and explore how women social entrepreneurs interpret and make meaning of their identity. The research question was as follows: How do women social entrepreneurs interpret their experiences, create their worlds and give meaning to their identity as women and as social entrepreneurs? By incorporating the perspectives of women as they relate to their identities, the study expands the current social entrepreneurship literature. More specifically, it enhances our knowledge of women social entrepreneurs and has the potential to contribute to their training and development. The sample included 11 women social entrepreneurs who worked in education, civil/human rights and environmental organizations in the United States of America (USA). A basic qualitative study was conducted with interviews serving as the primary method of data collection. Data was analyzed with coding in order to understand and interpret the meanings discussed by women social entrepreneurs. Based on these findings, conclusions about women social entrepreneurs and their identity, along with implications, are presented.

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