ArticlePDF Available

Entrepreneurial Leadership, Patriarchy, Gender, and Identity in the Arab World: Lebanon in Focus: Journal of Small Business Management


Abstract and Figures

In this paper, we apply insights from poststructuralist feminist theory to contribute to entrepreneurial leadership. By drawing on 21 individual narratives with Lebanese women entrepreneurs, we explore how they determine their status as entrepreneurial leaders and establish their entrepreneurial identities. Although the factors of gender, sociocultural values, and agency can be counteractive, it is agency that creates space for entrepreneurship for women and provides them a means to navigate structural inequalities. The entrepreneurs in this study engage in compliance, disregard, and defiance strategies to expand the boundaries of what is socially permissible for women and to strengthen their identities. This research contributes to studies on entrepreneurial leadership and aids in the development of theory by demonstrating how Arab women construct entrepreneurial leadership, agency, and identity at the juncture of patriarchy, sociocultural values, and gender ideologies.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Entrepreneurial Leadership, Patriarchy, Gender,
and Identity in the Arab World: Lebanon in Focus
by Hayfaa A. Tlaiss and Saleema Kauser
In this paper, we apply insights from poststructuralist feminist theory to contribute to entrepre-
neurial leadership. By drawing on 21 individual narratives with Lebanese women entrepreneurs,
we explore how they determine their status as entrepreneurial leaders and establish their entrepre-
neurial identities. Although the factors of gender, sociocultural values, and agency can be coun-
teractive, it is agency that creates space for entrepreneurship for women and provides them a
means to navigate structural inequalities. The entrepreneurs in this study engage in compliance,
disregard, and defiance strategies to expand the boundaries of what is socially permissible for
women and to strengthen their identities. This research contributes to studies on entrepreneurial
leadership and aids in the development of theory by demonstrating how Arab women construct
entrepreneurial leadership, agency, and identity at the juncture of patriarchy, sociocultural val-
ues, and gender ideologies.
Entrepreneurial leadership research is often
gendered as male to describe the dominant influ-
ence of men in leadership roles (Galloway,
Kapasi, and Sang 2015; Hamilton 2013; Harrison,
Leitch, and McAdam 2015; Henry et al. 2015).
This view treats gender as a variable in isolation
from its relationships with other dynamic social
categories, such as culture (Crenshaw 1997;
Essers and Tedmanson 2014; Mirchandani 1999).
It also limits our implicit understanding of the
unique entrepreneurial experiences and contri-
butions of women and other minority groups
(Brush, de Bruin, and Welter 2009; Cal
Smircich, and Bourne 2009; Welter 2011) and
results in conflicted identities for female
entrepreneurs in leadership (Chasserio, Pailot,
and Poroli 2014; de Bruin, Brush, and Welter
2007; Diaz-Garcia and Welter 2013).
In response, entrepreneurship scholars pro-
mote a contextually embedded approach to
entrepreneurial leadership to advance our
understanding of the complex process by which
women entrepreneurs ascribe meaning to their
working lives (Al Dajani and Marlow 2010;
Galloway, Kapasi, and Sang 2015; Henry et al.
2015; Lewis 2016; Santos, Roomi, and Li~
2016; Yousafzai, Saeed, and Muffatto 2015). The
notion of an embedded context provides a
richer sense of how sociocultural forces con-
struct the subjectivities underlying individuals’
capacity to think and act as prescribed by their
Hayfaa A. Tlaiss is the chairperson of and an associate professor in the Department of Management at the Col-
lege of Business, Alfaisal University.
Saleema Kauser is a lecturer at the Organizational Behavior Group at the Alliance Manchester Business School,
University of Manchester.
The authors thank the associate editor and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. They
also thank the research ethics committees at their institutions of employment for approving the applications to
conduct this research. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2015 ISBE Annual Conference in
Glasgow, Scotland.
Address correspondence to: H. Tlaiss, Department of Management, College of Business, Alfaisal Univer-
sity, P.O. Box 50927, Almaathar, 11533 Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. E-mail:
Journal of Small Business Management 2019 57(2), pp. 517–537
: 10.1111/jsbm.12397
social environment. Gender then is best under-
stood and explored as socially constructed and
as subjective, created, produced, and constituted
differently across time, place, and culture (Ahl
2006; Essers and Benschop 2009; Harrison,
Leitch, and McAdam 2015; Holvino 2010;
Metcalfe and Woodhams 2012).
Despite the compelling evidence for adopting
the perspective of contextual embeddedness in
entrepreneurship studies, minimal attention has
been paid to the experiences of women entre-
preneurs in different geographical and cultural
contexts, as well as to the use of feminist theo-
ries in entrepreneurship studies (de Bruin,
Brush, and Welter 2007; Welter 2011; Zahra and
Wright 2011). This gap is especially evident in
the context of the Arab world, where sociocul-
tural values are consistently reported to play an
important role in Arab women’s entrepreneurial
experiences and hinder their advancement (Al
Dajani and Marlow 2010; Tlaiss 2015a). We
therefore aim to explore how Lebanese women
entrepreneurs identify with the concept of entre-
preneurial leadership and perceive themselves
in relation to this concept. Accordingly, our
main research questions are: How do Lebanese
women entrepreneurs experience entrepreneur-
ial leadership and the factors underlying their
experiences? What strategies and mechanisms
do Lebanese women use to develop their leader-
ship identities? Adopting a social constructionist
approach to entrepreneurial leadership, we per-
form poststructural feminist theorizing to
uncover and deconstruct Arab women entrepre-
neurs’ stories of navigating gender assumptions
to construct their identities as entrepreneurial
leaders within a patriarchal society. The frame
of intersectionality enables better understanding
how various axes of differences intersect and
interlock in the construction of women’s entre-
preneurial identities and how multiple work
identities connect to the societal phenomenon
of entrepreneurship (Crenshaw 1997).
This study takes an important step to address
the complexity and uniqueness of Arab wom-
en’s experiences as entrepreneurial leaders.
Based on the findings, we argue that Lebanese
women entrepreneurs use different strategies;
adopting, utilizing, and rejecting gender and
sociocultural norms to establish their entrepre-
neurial identities. We demonstrate how the fac-
tors of gender, sociocultural values, and agency
pull women entrepreneurs in Lebanon in differ-
ent directions, demanding that they learn to
navigate structural inequalities to negotiate their
leadership identities.
To set the stage for this investigation, we first
establish the conceptual framing of entrepreneurial
leadership as a gendered, socially constructed pro-
cess (Harrison, Leitch, and McAdam 2015) from a
contextually embedded perspective (Ahl 2006;
Brush, de Bruin, and Welter 2009; Welter, 2011).
Second, we discuss feminist theories and explain
our reasoning for adopting a poststructuralist femi-
nist lens to understand and theorize the gendered
constructions of entrepreneurial leadership. Third,
we explain the relevance of the poststructuralist
feminist perspective to exploring entrepreneurial
identities and the processes of identity construc-
tion. Fourth, we ground our investigation in the
local context of gender ideology and sociocultural
norms in Lebanon. Next, we explain the methodo-
logical approach and discuss the results. Finally,
we present our concluding remarks, followed by
the limitations of the current study and suggestions
for future research.
Theoretical Framework
Gender, Entrepreneurship, and
Entrepreneurial leadership is viewed as a
fusion of entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship
orientation, and entrepreneurship management
and is positioned at the nexus of entrepre-
neurship and leadership (Harrison, Leitch, and
McAdam 2015). Notions of entrepreneurial lead-
ership, recognizing the fluidity of the concept,
have evolved from a predominantly essentialist
approach focusing on traits and behaviors
depicting the male entrepreneur as the exem-
plar of success (Ahl 2006; Ahl and Marlow 2012;
Davis and Shaver 2012; de Bruin, Brush, and
Welter 2007; Hamilton 2013; Mirchandani 1999;
West and Zimmerman 1987). This notion, how-
ever, has developed and taken on a more con-
textually embedded approach (Yousafzai,
Saeed, and Muffatto 2015), which perceives
entrepreneurial leadership as a social process
of becoming an entrepreneur and a leader
(Kempster and Cope 2010). The latter approach
underscores the socially constructed nature of
entrepreneurial leadership and focuses on the
complex, dynamic interactions between entre-
preneurs and their social environments (Cope
2005) and the processes that unfold amidst
these interactions (Diaz-Garcia and Welter 2013;
Greenberg, McKone-Sweet, and Wilson 2011;
Kuratko 2007; Vecchio 2003; Zahra and Wright
2011). We therefore assume that entrepreneurial
leadership is a complex, dynamic, and highly
context-dependent activity in which individuals’
cognizance of themselves and their surrounding
social context guides their behavior and identity
construction. The definition of entrepreneurial
leaders provided by Greenberg, McKone-Sweet,
and Wilson (2011, p. 2) captures this view:
“individuals who, through an understanding of
themselves and the contexts in which they
work, act on and shape opportunities that create
value for their organizations, their stakeholders
and the wider society.”
Consequently, there has been a marked
movement among entrepreneurship scholars
toward greater engagement with gender theory,
recognizing gender as socially constructed
rather than biologically determined (Bamiatzi
et al. 2015; Galloway, Kapasi, and Sang 2015;
Hamilton 2013; Harrison, Leitch, and McAdam
2015; Javadian and Singh 2012; Yousafzai,
Saeed, and Muffatto 2015). Javadian and Singh
(2012) and Al Dajani and Marlow (2010), along
with others, argue that women do not merely
passively adopt highly gendered constructions
of their leadership identities. To the contrary,
they actively work, participate in, and resist the
structures that simultaneously impede and facili-
tate their entrepreneurship and influence their
status as women entrepreneurial leaders. Studies
conducted in different sociocultural contexts
demonstrate that social, cultural, and political
institutions influence the values and norms in
women’s experience of entrepreneurship
(Bamiatzi et al. 2015; Yousafzai, Saeed, and
Muffatto 2015). These studies promote a more
informed debate on the nexus of gender and
entrepreneurship in the discourse on entrepre-
neurial leadership (Harrison, Leitch, and
McAdam 2015). Moreover, they suggest that
context matters in the study of entrepreneurial
leadership and that entrepreneurial leadership
concepts and frameworks that are appropriate
in one territory might not be in another
(Harrison, Leitch, and McAdam 2015).
Despite recent scholarly efforts, research con-
ceptualizing the experiences of women entre-
preneur leaders in geographical contexts and
cultures outside the west remains insufficient
(Yousafzai, Saeed, and Muffatto 2015). In meet-
ing our overall objective to examine how Leba-
nese women entrepreneurs perceive and
identify themselves as entrepreneurial leaders,
we hope to delineate both the process and cir-
cumstances of their experiences. We also aim to
demonstrate how these circumstances are not
only tied to economics but are also contextually
embedded in the sociocultural values surround-
ing women. Recognizing entrepreneurial leader-
ship as a gendered, socially constructed process
involving both individuals and their context or
circumstances and acknowledging the signifi-
cance of gender in both entrepreneurship and
leadership, we move to examine the feminist
perspectives on entrepreneurship.
Feminist Theory and Entrepreneurship
Feminist theorizing challenges the highly
gendered nature of entrepreneurship studies
(Ahl 2006; Galloway, Kapasi, and Sang 2015;
Harrison, Leitch, and McAdam 2015; Henry
et al. 2015) by promoting a shift from an exclu-
sive focus on the masculine experience toward
a more interpretive methodology that better
understands and advances women’s experiences
as, Smircich, and Bourne 2009). Feminist
theory and research falls into three categories
based on specific conceptualizations of gender
in relation to entrepreneurship studies (Ahl
2006; Cal
as, Smircich, and Bourne 2009;
Harding 1987). First, studies adopt liberal feminist
theory positing that equality and equal opportuni-
ties exist for both genders, but the structural
barriers subordinating women create differences
Welter 2013; Lewis 2013). This view promotes a
clear, though unstated, masculine norm and
pushes women to adapt to social inequalities
by abandoning their perceived femininity and
adopting the normalized masculine discourse of
entrepreneurship (Lewis 2013, 2016). Second,
studies including social and radical feminist theo-
ries characterize men and women as different
but equal (Ahl 2006). Within women’s entrepre-
neurship, both categories of feminist studies
are criticized for essentializing gender, which
increases the risk of oversimplification and
blaming the victim, in this case, blaming women
entrepreneurs and their actions, or lack thereof,
for their own subordination (Ahl and Marlow
The third category of feminist theories, social
constructional and poststructural feminism,
shifts from perceiving gender as a variable to
perceiving gender as an influence (Cal
Smircich, and Bourne 2009). In particular, post-
structural feminism is concerned with “how gen-
der power relations are constituted, reproduced
women tolerate social relations that subordinate
their interests to those of masculinist culture
(Weedon 1987, pp. vii, 40). Poststructural femi-
nism rejects assumptions of masculine domi-
nance and establishes meanings by using the
strategies of opposition, resistance, and decon-
struction to reveal and delegitimize patriarchy
within societies. Scholars apply a poststructural
feminism lens to highlight the social construc-
tion of gender through series of individual acts
and daily interactions with others (Diaz-Garcia
and Welter 2013; Lewis 2013). This lens also
reveals the diversity of how women do entre-
preneurship (Ahl 2006). For instance, Galloway,
Kapasi, and Sang (2015) emphasize women
entrepreneurs’ pluralistic tendencies as multiple
subjectivities that both influence and shape their
interpretations of entrepreneurship.
Galloway, Kapasi, and Sang (2015) propose
that the social construction of femininity and
masculinity permits the development of cultur-
ally produced multiple identities, including
entrepreneurial leadership (Cal
as, Smircich, and
Bourne 2009). In constructing identities, men
and women can draw on masculine and femi-
nine characteristics (Lewis 2013, 2016) and
redefine the social markers of identity, including
gender, to create new and multiple identities
(Essers and Benschop 2009). This feminist per-
spective offers a coherent approach to the athe-
oretical nature of knowledge of women’s
entrepreneurship and enables better under-
standing of entrepreneurship through women’s
experiences. This feminist theory also grants
women’s experiences and behaviors credibility
and legitimacy (Ahl and Marlow 2012, p. 550).
Diaz-Garcia and Welter (2013) accordingly
describe gender identity as a dynamic process
in which women entrepreneurs apply complex
strategies in their working lives, shift between
identities, and adopt various leadership prac-
tices depending on the situation.
Responding to frequent scholarly calls for a
more explicit use of feminist theory in entrepre-
neurship studies (Hamilton 2013; Galloway,
Kapasi, and Sang 2015), we adopt a poststruc-
tural approach to examine how Lebanese
women construct leadership identities within
the prevailing sociocultural values and gender
ideology. Drawing on feminist poststructural
theory allows us to highlight the alternative dis-
courses of entrepreneurial leadership that can
aid Lebanese women entrepreneurs in recon-
ceptualizing their leadership roles and perform-
ance as both valued and respected. This framing
also enables the uncovering and delegitimizing
of the discourse of patriarchy that underpins
how Lebanese women experience and under-
stand entrepreneurial leadership.
Construction of Identities and
Social constructionist and poststructuralist
feminist theories adopt a broad perspective of
the process of identity construction and pro-
mote the notion of multiple identities. Individu-
als have inter-related, evolving, and multiple
selves (Sardar 2005), and their identities are his-
torically, contextually, and discursively con-
structed at the intersections of various identity
categories (Essers and Benschop 2009; Essers
and Tedmanson 2014). Thus, individuals can
have multiple fluid identities that are socially
created in a process that depends on time,
place, and context (Crenshaw 1997; Essers and
Benschop 2009; Holvino 2010; Metcalfe and
Woodhams 2012). Furthermore, while construct-
ing identities, individuals incorporate symbolic
elements such as gender, nationality, language,
and cultural practices (Sardar 2005).
Women entrepreneurs construct their identi-
ties in a similar process. Entrepreneurial identi-
ties are usually built in relation to the archetype
of a heroic, male, white entrepreneur (Essers
and Tedmanson 2014, p. 355). Although individ-
uals can exercise agency in identity construction,
they are also inhibited by certain discourses and
by the intersection of often inseparable social
structures, such as gender, ethnicity, and socio-
cultural values (Crenshaw 1997; Metcalfe and
Woodhams 2012). Studies conducted in specific
national contexts show that there is no mono-
lithic archetype of the women entrepreneur;
instead, specific contextual differences shape the
formation of the different identities and the ways
that women entrepreneurs “do gender” and “redo
gender” in identity management (Chasserio,
2013; Essers and Benschop 2009). This research
suggests that women entrepreneurs build their
professional identities within the dominant gen-
dered discourse of entrepreneurship. By doing
entrepreneurship, though, women redo gender
and act in ways that challenge not only the nor-
mative concepts of what is male and female, but
also the hierarchical power structures that often
sanction the women for their doing of gender
as, Smircich, and Bourne 2009; West and
Zimmerman 1987).
As women entrepreneurial leaders invest in
identity construction, they resist the
marginalization of their work as entrepreneurial
leaders. Many face an ongoing struggle to find
their voices and space to position themselves
and their work within an unequal masculine
domain. Relatively few studies on how women
entrepreneurial leaders construct their identities
take into account the impacts and roles of con-
text and process. Accordingly, we frame our
poststructural analysis of Lebanese women
entrepreneurs within intersectionality to add to
the traditional debate on entrepreneurship,
given that identities are intersectionally con-
structed (Essers and Benschop 2009) and insep-
arable from other inequalities, such as gender,
class, and sociocultural institutional contexts
(Crenshaw 1997; Holvino 2010; Metcalfe and
Woodhams 2012). We propose that Lebanese
women socially construct their identities as
entrepreneurial leaders through their own
unique narratives, social processes, and social
interactions within their society’s normative con-
cepts, delimiting what it means to be male and
Sociocultural Values and Gender Roles in
Women represent a large pool of untapped
talent in Lebanon and the Arab world. In the
dominant academic discourse on entrepreneur-
ship, patriarchal sociocultural values and associ-
ated gender ideologies are negatively related to
Arab women’s entrepreneurial activities (Al
Dajani and Marlow 2010; Itani, Sidani, and
Baalbaki 2011; Tlaiss 2014, 2015b). Although
context can be experienced as either a liability
or an asset (Welter 2011), the literature on Leba-
nese and Arab women’s entrepreneurial experi-
ences generally portrays local sociocultural
values and gender ideologies as liabilities that
hinder women’s career choices. Lebanon is
described as a patriarchal, masculine country
that favors a traditional division of labor and
promotes highly distinct, strictly defined gender
roles (Tlaiss 2014). From childhood, Arabs learn
how to enact and behave according to gender
and are expected to adhere to ascribed gender
roles and prescribed behaviors stereotyped as
male or female (Karam, Afiouni, and Nasr 2013;
Tlaiss 2015a). Most segments of Lebanese soci-
ety continue to define women by their domestic
responsibilities as homemakers, mothers, and
wives, and these expectations govern women’s
socially acceptable career choices (Tlaiss 2014).
The centrality of the family and the framing
of domestic responsibilities and childcare as
female are frequently reported to hinder Arab
women’s careers (Karam, Afiouni, and Nasr
2013; Tlaiss 2014). Women who choose to pur-
sue careers outside home generally do so in
sectors considered to be socially acceptable,
such as education and healthcare, and occupy
lower-level roles and positions (Tlaiss 2015a).
Arab women are rarely given decision-making,
managerial, or leadership roles simply due to
the associations of femininity with caregiving
and support (Al Dajani and Marlow 2010) and
of masculinity with leadership and entrepre-
neurship (Itani, Sidani, and Baalbaki 2011;
Tlaiss 2015b). Lebanese women occupy less
than five percent of senior management posi-
tions, are clustered in the lower levels of man-
agement (Tlaiss 2014), and are discouraged
from pursuing entrepreneurial careers or defy-
ing socially accepted gender roles. Those who
do so, challenge gender conformity and are
often subjected to unfavorable social attitudes
(Itani, Sidani, and Baalbaki 2011). Entrepre-
neurship studies (de Bruin, Brush, and Welter
2007) argue that women entrepreneurs’ self-
perceptions are closely linked to the environ-
ment in which entrepreneurship occurs. We
therefore explore whether and how societal
values that discourage women’s work and view
it as less desirable than men’s influence
Lebanese women’s construction of their entre-
preneurial leadership identities and their self-
perceptions as entrepreneurial leaders.
Following our poststructuralist feminist per-
spective and the recommendations of previous
studies (e.g., Ahl and Marlow 2012), we draw
from the interpretive epistemological tradition.
The interpretivist approach arises from a life-
world ontology which holds that all observations
are value- and theory-laden and that the investi-
gation of the social world cannot uncover objec-
tive truth (Leitch, Hill, and Harrison 2010, p.
690). This approach allows us to explore, under-
stand, and analyze how the production and
reproduction of gender in the daily lives of
Lebanese women intersects with patriarchal soci-
ocultural norms and influences their conceptuali-
zations of entrepreneurial leadership and their
construction of entrepreneurial leadership iden-
tity. Like other small-scale entrepreneurship
studies in the interpretivist tradition (e.g., Essers
and Benschop 2009; Essers and Tedmanson
2014), our objective is not to generalize, and we
do not claim that our analysis is representative.
The strength of this study lies in its ability to pro-
vide insights, rich descriptions, and a detailed
understanding of the situational nuances influ-
encing the interviewees’ experiences with entre-
preneurial leadership (Leitch, McMullan, and
Harrison 2013). We also aim to generate new,
useful, engaging insights into Lebanese women
To investigate Lebanese women’s experiences
as both entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial lead-
ers, an explorative career-narrative approach
using in-depth, semi-structured interviews is
employed. As Ahl and Marlow (2012) argue, nar-
ratives are ideal tools for making sense of the
human experience, and the analysis of narratives
offers rich insights into entrepreneurs’ world-
views and thinking. Narratives also allow us to
better comprehend how women entrepreneurs’
identities are co-instituted and located in the rep-
ertoires of their culturally situated experiences
(Henry et al. 2015). To understand how
Lebanese women entrepreneurs relate to socio-
cultural values and gender roles in identity con-
struction, we contextualize their stories with an
analysis of the public discourses on culture and
gender in Lebanon and the Arab Middle East
(AME) region.
Sample and Procedures
In-depth, semi-structured, face-to-face inter-
views were conducted with 21 Lebanese women
entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur was operation-
alized as an individual who owned and man-
aged a business and thus was self-employed
(Tlaiss 2015a, 2015b). As shown in Table 1, five
of the 21 interviewees were 30–40 years old,
nine were 40–50 years old, and seven were
more than 50 years old. Regarding educational
attainment, nine had master’s degrees, and
seven had bachelor’s degrees. Considering mari-
tal status, one interviewee was single, four were
divorced, and 16 were married, while nine had
two children, and seven had three children.
Table 1 shows that all the women entrepreneurs
had been in business for longer than eight
years, and more than 50 percent in business for
10 years, except for two who had been in busi-
ness for seven years. All the interviewees had at
least eight employees and operated businesses
in the services sector.
Obtaining cooperative access to information
for analysis (e.g., data collection) continues to
be among the most difficult aspects of conduct-
ing research in both Lebanon and the AME.
Databases on women entrepreneurs in Lebanon
are nonexistent. This challenge is intensified by
women’s reluctance to participate in a research
study. Together, these factors prevent recruiting
a conventional sample (Al Dajani and Marlow
2010; Itani, Sidani, and Baalbaki 2011). Conse-
quently, researchers must use their personal
contacts and social networks to gain access to
the needed information. A mixed sampling strat-
egy, therefore, was employed in this study. The
participants were recruited using purposive
approaches that capitalized on the researchers
personal networks of potential leads, chain
referrals, and snowballing (Cohen 2006; Patton
2002). This approach generated a non-probability
sample that was neither fully representative nor
random but, rather, a varied sample of interview-
ees willing to share information concerning the
topic studied (Cohen 2006). Using the first
author’s personal connections, the researchers
contacted women who were entrepreneurs them-
selves and individuals who knew Lebanese
women entrepreneurs and were willing to make
referrals. Initial contact with the prospective inter-
viewees was made by telephone to explain the
objectives of the study, assure the participants of
absolute anonymity for both themselves and their
responses, and elaborate on the dissemination
channels for the collected data.
The first author conducted all the interviews.
To facilitate trust and elicit candid responses,
the researcher established rapport with the
interviewees. The researcher began each inter-
view by thanking the interviewees for their par-
ticipation and then discussed confidentiality and
informed them of how the data collected would
be disseminated. These assurances were crucial
to convincing the interviewees to share their
experiences. After soliciting personal and organ-
izational demographic information, the inter-
viewer encouraged the interviewees to share
their stories regarding their careers and experi-
ences as entrepreneurs. Guided by the research
objectives and responding to the interviewees’
narrative and dialogue, the following questions
were asked: Do you perceive yourself as an
entrepreneurial leader? Why or why not (what
are the reasons underlying your perceptions)?
Depending on the interviewees’ answers, the
researcher asked further questions to elicit com-
ments on the interviewees’ entrepreneurial iden-
tities and the role of sociocultural factors and
gender ideologies. The women were encour-
aged to talk about their experiences, the
challenges they faced as women in a male-
Table 1
Demographic Characteristics of the Interviewees and Their Businesses
Code Age Education
Number of
Children Type of Organization
Number of
Years in
LWE 1 47 College degree Married 4 Beauty and Esthetics 9 8
LWE 2 30 Master’s degree Married 2 Marketing Research/Consultancy 8 7
LWE 3 47 College degree Married 2 Real Estate/Imports and Export 11 14
LWE 4 52 Master’s degree Divorced 3 Hair Salon 15 19
LWE 5 37 Master’s degree Married 2 Furniture Gallery/Interior Design 9 8
LWE 6 36 Master’s degree Married 3 Hair Salon 11 8
LWE 7 41 PhD Married 3 Pharmacy 8 11
LWE 8 54 Bachelor’s degree Divorced 3 Drug Distribution 15 10
LWE 9 44 Master’s degree Married 2 Nursery 13 12
LWE 10 50 Bachelor’s degree Married 3 Clothes Boutique 10 11
LWE 11 53 Master’s degree Married 2 Travel Agency 12 15
LWE 12 50 College degree Married 2 Custom-Made Chocolate 10 8
LWE 13 38 Bachelor’s Degree Married 2 Imports/Exports 8 9
LWE 14 50 Master’s degree Single 0 Nursery 12 13
LWE 15 60 Master’s degree Married 3 Event Planning 11 8
LWE 16 43 Bachelor’s degree Married 2 Furniture Gallery/Interior Design 9 9
LWE 17 37 Bachelor’s degree Divorced 0 Public Relations/Event Planning 9 7
LWE 18 42 Master’s degree Married 1 Travel Agency 10 15
LWE 19 45 College degree Divorced 1 Clothes Boutique 10 13
LWE 20 53 Bachelor’s degree Married 2 Nursery 12 17
LWE 21 47 Bachelor’s degree Married 0 Hair Salon/Beauty and Aesthetics 15 17
dominated Arab environment, and the coping
strategies/mechanisms they used to meet the
challenges unique to their identity as entrepre-
neurial leaders.
The interviews lasted 60–120 minutes, were
tape recorded, and were conducted at locations
selected by the interviewees. Additionally, the
interviewees could choose to be interviewed in
Arabic, French, or English. The interviews con-
ducted in French and Arabic were translated
into English by one of the researchers and then
back-translated and cross-validated by an aca-
demic fluent in all three languages. The
researchers and an independent researcher tran-
scribed the interviews. To ensure respondent
validation, the interviewees reviewed their
respective transcripts for accuracy.
The interviews were subjected to thematic
analysis. As suggested by Gherardi and Poggio
(2007), we first analyzed “how” the interviewees
perceived themselves (as entrepreneurial leaders
or not), then the “why” underlying these self-
perceptions, and, finally, “what” processes the
women used to build their entrepreneurial iden-
tities. An initial code book (Leitch, Hill, and
Harrison 2010) with a number of broad themes
was created based on the literature review
(Glaser and Strauss 1967; Strauss and Corbin
1990). The interview manuscripts were read and
scrutinized by the researchers, who independ-
ently coded them. The coding process focused
on highlighting the unique statements the inter-
viewees used to discuss their experiences and
answer the questions. Then, the codes created
by the researchers were compared to the pre-
liminary list of codes (Miles and Huberman
1994) and among the researchers to identify the
convergence and divergence of themes. Axial
coding was conducted for any divergence or
new theme. The initial code book was modified
to account for the new themes and the relation-
ships between them (Al Dajani and Marlow
2010; Strauss and Corbin 1990) until the final
coding template was created. If and when a
theme recurred frequently, content analysis was
utilized, as suggested by Ahl (2006). Content
analysis also helped achieve a quantifiable per-
spective that, as de Bruin, Brush, and Welter
(2007) argued, could broaden the understanding
of entrepreneurship.
To ensure the integrity and reliability of the
data, the researchers followed Lincoln and
Guba’s (1985) suggestions. First, they recruited
peer researchers with expertise in qualitative
research from their own departments and insti-
tutions and from other universities to conduct
an audit of the empirical process. Second, to
obtain outsiders’ perspective and to review the
researchers’ ideas (Corley and Gioia 2004), the
researchers invited peers to crosscheck and
pose critical questions about the analysis pro-
cess. Third, peer researchers not involved in the
study reviewed the data for emerging patterns.
Finally, to assess whether the conclusions were
reasonable, the expert peers reviewed the inter-
view protocol, coding structures, and a random
sample of the transcribed interviews (Corley
and Gioia 2004).
Moreover, following the iterative function
outlined by Pratt, Rockmann, and Kaufmann
(2009), the data concerning the interviewees’
construction of entrepreneurial leadership
identities were analyzed by going back and
forth through the transcripts (Locke 2001;
Miles and Huberman 1994; Strauss and Corbin
1990). This process lead to the emergence of
three major strategies. As suggested by Pratt,
Rockmann, and Kaufmann (2009), this process
involved three major steps. Step 1 entailed the
creation of first-order codes. The researchers
first examined the informants’ statements
through open coding (Locke 2001) and then
aggregated common statements to form first-
order codes (Pratt, Rockmann, and Kaufmann
2009). After construction of the codes, the
data were reviewed again to see whether they
fit into the categories, and the codes were
2, axial coding was conducted (Locke 2001;
Pratt, Rockmann, and Kaufmann 2009; Strauss
and Corbin 1990). The interviewees’ responses
were compared, and the data were compiled
into different themes/courses of action/provi-
sional identity-building strategies. For exam-
ple, some Lebanese women entrepreneurs’
statements about their reactions to sociocul-
tural barriers indicated that they were not will-
ing or planning to fight the status quo.
Accordingly, the category “Decision not to
fight” was formed to capture these reactions.
In Step 3, to understand how these different
provisional strategies fit together, the
researchers looked for aggregate strategies
underlining the courses of action generated in
Step 2, following the suggestions of Pratt,
Rockmann, and Kaufmann (2009, p. 240). The
strategies after several deliberations and
brain-storming sessions seeking to better
understand how the courses of action related
to each other and to the literature. Figure 1
aggregate strategies.
Results and Discussion
This section presents the Lebanese women’s
narratives of how they personally identify with
the concept of entrepreneurial leadership.
Analyzing these narratives through a poststruc-
tural feminist lens enabled us to provide
accounts of how the women’s experiences and
their personal identification with the concept
of entrepreneurial leadership evolve in a web
of intersecting patriarchal and sociocultural
values and gender ideologies, on one hand,
and their desire to excel, on the other. These
narratives also enable seeing the subjectivities
the women use and how they enact these
subjectivities through their individual agency,
multiple identities and sense of self as they
navigate their complex local contexts and pre-
scribed gender.
Self-Perception as Entrepreneurial
Asked whether they perceived themselves as
entrepreneurial leaders, 16 of the 21 women
interviewed state that they do. Self-perceptions
as entrepreneurial leaders are attributable to the
women’s individual entrepreneurial career paths
and the ways that they navigate their careers
amid discriminatory gender ideologies and
patriarchal sociocultural values. The women
experience the strict gender roles and patriar-
chal culture as barriers. Their decisions to create
their own businesses are perceived as socially
unacceptable because (1) women in Lebanon
are socially and culturally expected to prioritize
Figure 1
Overview of Data Structure
Statements about their self-perceptions as women, mothers,
and their comfort with being females: “I am a woman; I like
being a woman; I am a woman, a mother of four and a
Statements about the patriarchal nature of their society and
the accompanying obstacles: “I live in a patriarchal culture;
women did not have the freedom; women did not have the
Making the decision not to argue against the status quo:
“Stupid for me to fight; Decided to be smart; all what I
wanted was to start my business; I did what I wanted…and
did what the society wanted me to do; …Did not want to
create trouble for my husband”
How do we follow through this decision; Response and
behavior hereafter: “Wanted me to prioritize my family and
that is what I did; Opened a nursery so I can be around my
children when they were young My husband is not going to
take care of my children, that is not a man’s job… so I did it;
I wanted to be there for my children and husband and have
How do we follow through this decision; Response and
behavior hereafter: “ I started my nursery… and no one
could say that I was being masculine because having a
nursery is a women’s thing…; Opened a nursery so no one
can say that it is a man’s business……”
Emphasizing the feminine
Acknowledging the
socio-cultural barriers
Decision not to fight but
to yield
Yielding to socio-cultural
pressures/ (a)
Emphasizing their roles
as wives and mothers
Yielding to socio-cultural
pressures/ (b) Being in a
feminine sector
First Order Codes Provisional
Strategies/Courses of Action
Resulted in
stress as a
of trying to
Throughout the results section, the acronym “LWE” refers to Lebanese women entrepreneurs. The numbers
following the acronyms indicate the interviewees whose names are not revealed to maintain their anonymity.
their family obligations, and (2) entrepreneurship
or business ownership is considered to be a
man’s job. Consequently, by creating their own
businesses, the women in this study are per-
ceived as socially rebellious and denied family
and societal support. The following quotations
describe the women’s views regarding their
social rebellion and consequent lack of familial
I, [therefore], am an entrepreneurial
leader because I took leadership of my
life and career and established my own
business. But that is not it! ... Iwas
among the first to do this, and the men
were always making my life difficult, say-
ing bad things about me and offering
services at lower prices. But I was not
willing to give up so I kept at it. ... So,
yes, now I can proudly say that I am an
entrepreneurial leader. (LWE 21)
Yes ... because I managed to break the
social rules and create a successful
business in a male-dominated industry.
(LWE 17)
Sure, I am. ... You need to remember that
we are living in an Arab community
where people see a woman only as a
mother and a wife. Women at that time
were not allowed to have their own busi-
nesses because men worked outside [the
home]. ...But I had a vision for this place,
and I was not willing to give it up. ... I
was criticized by all my family because
things were not as they used to be. Own-
ing a business was a man’s thing.... My
business stood the test of time and is now
better than that of men. (LWE 4)
These quotes show that the participants’ per-
ceptions of themselves as entrepreneurial lead-
ers are strongly influenced by (1) their
pioneering efforts to overcome sociocultural
barriers through hard work; (2) taking control
of their lives; and, (3) most importantly, starting
their own businesses in male-dominated indus-
tries. The women’s narratives also stress how
the experience of discrimination, resistance, and
lack of family support drive them to work
harder to grow their businesses and assert them-
selves and their career choices. Differing societal
Figure 1
Statements highlighting the problematic nature of their
environment: “ My husband and I were always fighting
…about what male competitors were saying about me …
society and my in-laws were always criticizing my
husband…; my husband and I were fighting… because of
what the people were saying that I was out of the house all
day; this society always complains about women…whatever
we do is criticized…”
Deciding on how to overcome the problems imposed by the
environment: “ Making the decision to stop listening: “ I
decided to stop listening… we decided to focus on our lives
and on being happy…we stopped listening to others; I
stopped paying attention… so I stopped listening; we
decided to i
nore the
How do we follow through this decision; Response and
behavior hereafter: “Male competitors…did not lik e having a
woman working in their sector…; Importing and exporting is
a man’s job but I did not care…”
How do we follow through this decision; Response and
behavior hereafter: “Once I stopped paying attention, things
were better for me; we were about to get a divorce and
finally we decided to focus on our lives and on being happy”
Worked in a masculine sector
as a sign of not yielding
Focused on finding peace at
Stop paying attention or
listening to the external world
without yielding to social-
cultural pressure
External world was a source of
First Order Codes Provisional
Strategies/Courses of Action
Resulted in
less stress, and
having more
time and energy
to advance their
expectations for women and men are clearly
manifested in the traditional attitudes of the
male competitors who tried to destroy the wom-
en’s businesses.
For so many years, my competitors were
only men who tried to put me down with
gossip and negative comments about me
or my management style or stealing my
employees and so on. (LWE 16)
Five women (LWE 1, 9, 12, 13, and 20) were
hesitant to state whether they perceive them-
selves as entrepreneurial leaders, but their reluc-
tance does not lead them to proclaim
themselves to be non-leaders. After hesitating,
two (LWE 1 and 12) agree that they consider
themselves to be leaders, while three provide
alternate descriptions of themselves without
calling themselves non-leaders. These interview-
ees explain their hesitation through discrimina-
tory sociocultural values and gender roles.
I am not sure. I mean, I know that I am
strong because I managed to start my
business, and it survived the difficult
phases. ...See, as a woman, my priorities
should be my children, husband, and, of
course, my family and my husband’s fam-
ily. I think that, because I am working for
myself, I can be there and do these
things. ... So maybe I am an entrepre-
neurial leader because I made my busi-
ness, and it is good, and because I raised
a good family. (LWE 1)
As a woman, being an entrepreneurial
leader is a big thing. ... To be a woman
and an entrepreneurial leader here in this
patriarchal culture is a lot. ... I mean, no
matter what you do, what is important is
being a good mother and a good wife. ...
Even if I think I am an entrepreneurial
leader, I don’t think that society will.
(LWE 13)
Figure 1
Statements concerning experiences with rejection and criticism: “Why should I
support my husband when he is not willing to support me… My husband and
my family did not approve of me having my own business…; my father said that
if I wanted to work, I should get a job in a bank or as a teacher, but not doing
business;being a business woman is very difficult here; no one was supporting
me except my friends…even my brothers were against me...; I was criticized by
all my family because … owning a business was a man’s thing; no one helped
How do we follow through this decision; Response and behavior hereafter :
“…some describe me as masculine because I argue with them and I am
aggressive and decisive…but I never listened.; For so many years my
competitors … used to ridicule me and say that I should be at home cooking for
my children…they always complained about me being a bully or too aggressive
as a woman…I needed to be like that for them to listen to me…”
How do we follow through this decision; Response and behavior hereafter I
work with several local entities to support young women who want to create
their own businesses… I guide them and give them advice; I feel that it is my
duty to help these younger women be strong and independent;I keep reminding
her (daughter) that she needs to be strong and a fighter to survive in this count ry
and in this culture…”
How do we follow through this decision; Response and behavior hereafter: I
fought with everyone, I had to fight society at large and their thoughts…I h ad to
fight the suppliers …. I had to fight with competitors; I actually argued with
everyone who interfered in my life…I was fighting and sometimes I feel that I
still am…”
Statement describing their reactions” : …but I was not willing to give up; I was
not willing to accept that…eventually I got a divorce;I did not mind…I resisted
all the pressure…I did not care that they said that I do not respect society”
Statements highlighting the role of socialization and the patriarchal gender
ideology: Females in this culture…are brought up not to take the lead and
initiative. They are supposed to follow a male figure...; I was not willing to
prioritize others as my mother and the society wanted me to do…; opening a
hair parlor was not a woman’s job …”
Acting on their rejection of
ascribed gender roles by (c)
portraying masculine
Emphasizing the salience
of ascribed gender roles
Emphasizing their refusal
to yield to socio-cultural
pressures/gender roles
Acting on their rejection of
ascribed gender roles by
(a) perseverance and openly
fighting the socio-cultural
Acting on their rejection of
ascribed gender roles by (b)
supporting other
women/helping them be
First Order Codes Provisional
Strategies/Courses of Action
Resulted in
of pride as a
consequence of
being a social
deviant, and being
different from other
Lack of family support
These quotations from the hesitant group
show their reluctance to perceive themselves as
entrepreneurial leaders without also asserting
their motherhood role. Their reluctance demon-
strates the influence of gender socialization and
the deeply engrained gender ideologies. These
prevent the women from celebrating their
career choices without also showing compliance
with gendered expectations. Their hesitation also
demonstrates the extent to which their self-
perceptions (de Bruin, Brush, and Welter 2007)
are negatively affected by the societal values that
do not accept or support women’s entrepreneur-
ship and restrict them to roles related to the fam-
ily and the home.
Seen through a poststructural feminist lens,
the narratives of both groups demonstrate that
cultural norms do not leave Lebanese women
free to perform their gender as they desire.
Moreover, these cultural norms restrict wom-
en’s entrepreneurial ventures, denying them
support from both family and society. These
narratives illustrate how women’s entrepre-
neurial work is perceived as less legitimate
than that of their male counterparts. The wom-
en’s individual narratives recount experiences
of both implicit and explicit bias. The majority
of women speak of the social and cultural
biases they face and how they choose to deal
with these biases. This process of discernment
plays a role both in how they cope with such
biases and in how they self-identify as entre-
preneurial leaders.
Fueled by their rejection of the strict, domi-
nant gender roles and patriarchal sociocultural
values (Afiouni 2014; Al Dajani and Marlow
2010; Itani, Sidani, and Baalbaki 2011; Karam,
Afiouni, and Nasr 2013; Tlaiss 2014, 2015b), the
Lebanese women entrepreneurs choose alterna-
tive, nontraditional career paths. Pursuing their
career choices and shaped by their individual
battles, the women in this study construct their
perceptions of entrepreneurial leaders based on
their own self-conceptualizations. The women’s
personal accounts, therefore, demonstrate how
their self-identity evolves in the intersecting web
of patriarchal and sociocultural values, gender
ideologies, and the personal desire to excel.
These narratives also show that the women rec-
oncile themselves to this perpetual internal con-
flict of trying to resolve the demands imposed
upon them by society and others. Even while
perceiving themselves as successful entrepre-
neurs, the women still feel that they must nego-
tiate sociocultural complexities and respond to
society’s expectations. Similar findings are
reported in other studies conducted in the Arab
world (e.g., Al Dajani and Marlow 2010; Itani,
Sidani, and Baalbaki 2011), confirming that the
pressures of sociocultural values act as barriers
to women’s entrepreneurial careers. Accord-
ingly, we argue that the poststructuralist femi-
nist approach within this intersectional
framework facilitates our understanding of how
the interviewees’ self-reported perceptions of
entrepreneurial leadership are inseparable from
other social categories.
Construction of Entrepreneurial Identity
and Entrepreneurial Leadership Identity
Being women, entrepreneurs, wives, and
mother poses dilemmas and problems for the
women in this study. All the interviewees
criticize the traditional approaches to gender,
the masculinization of the entrepreneurial career
path, and negotiate their identities in relation to
their entrepreneurship. While seeking entrepre-
neurial legitimation, the women display three
forms of identity construction strategies: compli-
ance and adaptation, disregard, and defiance
and resistance.
Compliance. In contrast to the widespread
discourse on women’s entrepreneurship (Itani,
Sidani, and Baalbaki 2011), the five women in
this group (LWE 1, 9, 10, 14, and 20) find it pos-
sible to be women, mothers, and entrepreneurs.
This group of women criticizes but does not
resist gender discrimination. They find compli-
ance and conformity with gendered norms to be
the optimal means to advance their entrepre-
neurial careers. These women do not fight their
culture but gain agency by negotiating and con-
forming with cultural prescriptions, even focus-
ing on dedication to their families and
compliance with ascribed gender roles. This
strategy proves to be demanding, taxing, and
stressful as the women attempt to please every-
one (i.e., their families and society) while pursu-
ing their dreams of owning their own business
and fulfilling the additional responsibilities that
that alone entails.
I am a woman, and I live in a patriarchal
culture. It is stupid for me to fight, so I
decided to be smart. ... They [society and
cultural expectations] want me to priori-
tize my family, and this what I did. ... I
opened a nursery, so I could be around
my children when they were young, and
when they went to school, they would
come to me to the nursery, and I could
take care of them. ... So I did what I
wanted, and I have my own business and
did what society wanted me to do. ... I
often feel tired.... I always have a lot to
do. ... I am stressed out about my busi-
ness and my husband and my children.
(LWE 9)
I like being a woman, and I don’t want to
be rough or loud or masculine. ...When I
created my business, I opened a nursery,
so no one can say that it was a man’s busi-
ness. Here, they think that children
should be around women, especially
when they are young. ... Ialwaysempha-
sized how committed I am to my family
and motherhood, so when the mothers
and fathers came to drop off their chil-
dren, they felt safe about their children,
and that made me look as a good woman
and mother. (LWE 20)
This group of women constructs their entre-
preneurial identities by minimizing social rejec-
tion and by soliciting social approval through
various means. Cognizant that their entrepre-
neurial interests are socially frowned upon, as
explained in the previous section, these women
attempt to reduce the risk of societal rejection
by establishing conventional feminine ventures
(nurseries and esthetics centers). They also
exhibit socially appropriate behavior by focus-
ing on and prioritizing their role as mothers and
wives over that of entrepreneurs. As entrepre-
neurs, they use the flexibility of their work
schedules to reconcile their family obligations
with the demands of self-employment. Accord-
ingly, we argue that self-employment serves as a
coping strategy allowing the women to combine
employment with being good mothers and
wives, as suggested by Cal
as, Smircich, and
Bourne (2009). Thus, by choosing to accept
gender norms and pursue an entrepreneurial
career in a perceived feminine sector, these
women can better fulfill their desire for entre-
preneurial careers without sacrificing an
acceptable work–life balance. Furthermore, pri-
oritizing their motherhood/wifely/feminine
identity enables these Lebanese women entre-
preneurs to smoothly navigate the local gen-
dered expectations to create and legitimize their
entrepreneurial identities. By conforming to
their society’s gendered norms, these
interviewees stretch the boundaries of what is
acceptable for a woman to do within their local
context. These findings, therefore, support pre-
vious studies (Afiouni 2014; Tlaiss 2014) high-
lighting the negative impact of societal
expectations on Arab women. They also align
with Essers and Tedmanson’s (2014) findings that
Turkish women in the Netherlands develop their
entrepreneurial identities and advance their
careers by embracing societal gender roles and
expectations and behaving in an appropriate fem-
inine manner.
Disregard. Compared to the compliance
group, the women in this group (LWE 7, 12,
and 13) opt for what they find to be a more
acceptable balance between compliance and
resistance which they achieve through disregard
to society and cultural expectations. These wom-
en’s entrepreneurial identities assert some inde-
pendence from patriarchal views because they
operate in the traditionally masculine sectors of
clothing and import/export. They do not con-
form to gender role stereotypes but, neverthe-
less, do not want to openly resist societal
expectations. Alternatively, they cultivate their
identities by deliberately distancing themselves
from their controlling society.
I decided to stop listening. ... My hus-
band and I were always fighting because
I was very nervous about what my male
competitors were saying about me and all
their rumors because they did not like
having a woman working in their
sector. ... Society and my in-laws were
always criticizing my husband.... We
were about to get a divorce, and finally,
we decided to focus on our lives and on
being happy. ... We stopped listening to
others, and we stopped allowing them to
influence us. (LWE 7)
Although my children were big when I
started my business, my husband and I
were fighting because he said that I was
not paying enough attention to the chil-
dren ... and because ... people were say-
ing that I was out of the house all day. ...
So we decided to ignore people. ... Ialso
try to find a happy medium. ...During the
high season, I let them know that I will be
away or late, and I make sure that I spend
quality time with them. ... During the low
season, I work from home and am always
there when my children come back from
school or university and when my hus-
band comes back from work. (LWE 12)
Whereas the compliance group’s strategy is
based on gaining acceptance by complying with
societal expectations, the disregard group exhib-
its independence by distancing themselves from
their society. Concerned principally with isolat-
ing themselves from societal gender stereotyp-
ing, this group’s narratives highlight their efforts
to detach themselves. However, unlike their
compliance counterparts, the disregard group
seeks to achieve work–life balance through time
management and compromise. Attempting to
reconcile imposed societal expectations by jug-
gling their careers and family responsibilities
(Tlaiss 2014), these interviewees remain true to
themselves as women and as entrepreneurial
leaders. This strategy allows them to focus on
career advancement, and consequently, they
experience less stress in their lives, especially
compared to the compliance group who seek to
please everyone.
By choosing to distance themselves and to dis-
regard discriminatory societal expectations and
negative stereotypes, these women defend them-
selves against gendered norms and precepts. They
symbolically create a boundary between them-
selves and their un-egalitarian society. Such
boundary work, according to Essers and Ben-
schop (2009), is a type of identity work; individu-
als highlight their differences to create boundaries
between themselves and other groups. To deal
with societal expectations, this group of women
crafts their entrepreneurial identities by drawing
boundaries between themselves and their busi-
nesses and society. Hence, we argue that bound-
ary work enables them to determine their
entrepreneurial identities and to extend the boun-
daries of social acceptability to include their lead-
ership, entrepreneurship, and work–life balance.
This group’s narratives support previous
studies conducted in Lebanon and the AME (Al
Dajani and Marlow 2010; Tlaiss 2015a) finding
that, to construct identities, women must navi-
gate ascribed gender roles and their maternal
duties. The path taken by the women in this
group to form their identity by establishing
boundaries or drawing lines of separation
shares commonalities with the path taken by
Muslim women entrepreneurs who create their
entrepreneurial identities by generating bounda-
ries and distancing themselves from the Muslim
community and its rules (Essers and Benschop
2009). These interviewees’ responses highlight
how they cope and deal with societal expecta-
tions while constructing their entrepreneurial
identities. Previous studies (e.g., Essers and Ted-
manson 2014) show that the intersections
between different identities and specific societal
expectations can give rise to conflict, as seen in
the stories of our interviewees. In other words,
the Lebanese women entrepreneurs who oper-
ate within a context that values masculinity are
more likely to experience conflict between their
identities as women, mothers, and entrepreneur-
ial leaders.
Defiance. Most of the Lebanese women entre-
preneurs in this group (13 of 21 interviewees,
including LWE 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, and 21) legitimize themselves as entrepre-
neurial leaders by (1) rejecting social norms and
assumptions and (2) voicing dissent from the
ascribed gender roles and the normalization of
the masculine discourse. Complete rejection and
defiance of the societal assumptions operating
within a complex system of oppression and dis-
crimination forms the core of this group’s iden-
tity construction, especially in comparison to the
compliance and disregard counterparts. The defi-
ance group objects to and outright disapproves
of any form of gender discrimination and demon-
strates agency by resisting conventional norms
and societal expectations. Whereas the compli-
ance group chooses to negotiate cultural pre-
scriptions, and the disregard group to distance
themselves from their patriarchal masculine soci-
ety, the defiance group breaks gender stereo-
types and asserts agency by claiming equal
rights. In constructing identities as entrepre-
neurs, these interviewees openly and vocally
reject societal perceptions of women as less suita-
ble than men or not at all suited for entrepreneur-
ship. These women also embrace their socially
deviant or nonconforming status. Unlike the dis-
regard group, the women in the defiance group
seem to be comfortable constructing their own
identities of what it means to be an entrepreneur-
ial leader. To that end, they redo gender (Diaz-
Garcia and Welter 2013) as they act in ways that
do not fit the norms governing females, thereby
challenging the social hierarchy and power struc-
tures. Their narratives reveal how their experien-
ces constructing their identities and redoing
gender as a strategy intersect with the sociocul-
tural context as they create their own self-
perceptions as entrepreneurial leaders.
The women in this group thus resist societal
pressures and react with active agency, which
they internalize as an empowering experience.
The discriminatory values in the Lebanese socio-
cultural context do not negatively affect these
women’s self-perceptions, as argued in previous
studies (de Bruin, Brush, and Welter 2007), but
motivate them to work harder to validate their
career choices as entrepreneurs. This approach
allows these women to differentiate themselves
from the majority of the Lebanese women who
comply with social expectations.
Females in this culture, from the time they
are young, are brought up not to take the
lead and initiative. They are supposed to
follow their husbands. It kills the spirit of
entrepreneurship to follow a male figure,
whether a politician, husband, father, or
brother. I was not willing to prioritize
others as my mother and society wanted
me to do. ... Plus, why should I support
my husband when he was not willing to
support me? ...I was not willing to accept
that. ... Eventually I got a divorce because
my husband wanted me to focus on his
needs and support him ... and he was lis-
tening to what his family and society
were saying. (LWE 19)
My husband and my family did not
approve of me having my own busi-
ness. ... Opening a hair parlor was not a
woman’s job. ... My father said that, if I
wanted to work, I should get a job in a
bank or as a teacher but not doing busi-
ness. ... But I was not willing to give
up. ... I fought with everyone. No one
was supporting me, except my friends. ...
Even my brothers were against me. ... I
had to fight society at large and their
thinking that I was selfish and a bad
mother and a negligent wife because I
was focusin g on my new busin ess. ... I
had to fight the suppliers and prove to
them that my business would succeed
even though I was a woman and did not
have male partners. ... I had to fight with
competitors who were making fun of me
and my lack of business experience and
starting a price war against me. (LWE 6)
In my experience, every woman in
Lebanon who decides to open her own
business and ... go against society is an
entrepre neurial leader. ... Being a
businesswoman is very difficult here ...
but I did not mind. ... I resisted all the
pressure. ... I did not care that they said
that I did not respect society or that I
would not be a good mother. ... I actually
argued with everyone who interfered in
my life. ... I was fighting, and sometimes
I feel that I still am. ... Ispentallmysav-
ings and borrowed money because I was
not willing to give up. ... I knew that I
had it in me and that I was better than
what everyone was saying. ...I knew that
being a mother and a wife did not mean I
cannot have a good business. (LWE 11)
These narratives reveal the types of challenges
this group of women faces, how they make sense
of these challenges, and what strategies they use
in building their identities. The interviewees’ nar-
ratives also show that they do not denigrate or
gender stereotype other women; they do not
exhibit the Queen Bee attitude attributed in
recent research in psychology to successful
women in masculine cultures who distinguish
themselves from other women by denigrating
and gender stereotyping them (Derks et al. 2011;
Mavin 2008). To the contrary, this group of
women empowers other women by employing
them and helping them become financially inde-
pendent. Despite intense pressure to conform,
the women in this group focus on their individual
effort and agency and do not mention reliance on
specific external support mechanisms. Their nar-
ratives reiterate statements such as “No one
helped me,” “I borrowed money,” and “I had to
fight.” Perhaps due to the lack of external support
mechanisms, these women choose to support
other women as a further rejection of social con-
formity. In contrast to a Queen Bee who perpetu-
ates gender stereotyping of other women (Derks
et al. 2011; Mavin 2008), this group aims to instill
their views on gender equality and agency in
younger generations. In their narratives, the inter-
viewees discuss their committee work with non-
profit organizations supporting women
entrepreneurs with information, seed money,
and assistance. The mothers in this group fre-
quently refer to teaching their daughters to be
strong and resilient, to never feel or accept inferi-
ority to men, and to always fight for their rights.
Similarly, Essers and Benschop (2009) show that
Moroccan women entrepreneurs construct their
entrepreneurial identity through rebelling and
fighting for women’s rights.
All my employees are women, except my
drivers. ... I feel that it is my duty to help
these younger women be strong and
independent. (LWE 18)
Since she [my daughter] was very young,
I have always taught her to say no ... not
to allow others to tell her what to do. ...
Even now, I keep reminding her that she
needs to be strong and a fighter to survive
in this country and in this culture. ... It is
very important to teach girls this at home
because they do not learn this at school,
and society only teaches them to be
second-class citizens. And I refuse to have
my daughter think like that because men
and women are equal. (LWE 5)
I work with several local entities to sup-
port young women who want to create
their own businesses.... I try to go there
twice a week and talk to these potential
women entrepreneurs. ... Iguidethem
and give t hem advice. ... We are also
working with several banks to get them
to offer these women low-interest loans to
start their businesses. ... I feel that I owe
it to help them. ... No one helped me, so I
help others. (LWE3)
The Lebanese women entrepreneurs in this
group used masculine qualities without
renouncing their femininity. While constructing
their entrepreneurial leadership identities, the
defiant group exhibits both feminine and mas-
culine traits on an ad hoc basis. The adoption of
masculine traits, such as assertiveness and domi-
nance, is motivated by the women’s need to be
heard by their masculine society and to be taken
seriously by their male competitors. However,
their use of masculine traits further complicates
their identity-construction strategies by violating
the communal traits prescribed to women by
gender-role norms (Carli, 1999, 2001). This
behavior also aggravates their relationships with
their male counterparts, who tend to see women
who assert a high degree of agency as too
agentic to be influential. Caught in a struggle to
stay true to their ascribed gendered role while
emulating masculine norms, the women adopt
male traits to avoid being perceived as deficient,
soft, or incompetent as entrepreneurs or entre-
preneurial leaders. This effort resonates with the
struggle of many women entrepreneurs with
their femininity and others’ negative perceptions
of them based on the masculine normative
discourse, expressed in social criticism (Ahl
2006; Ahl and Marlow 2012; Cal
as, Smircich,
and Bourne 2009; Kelan 2009; Lewis 2013).
Hence, we argue that this group of women
encounters a “double bind” (Carli 1999, 2001):
although good leaders are expected to be
agentic, the agentic women leaders in this study
are censured for demonstrating too much
agency and insufficient femininity.
Drug distribution is male dominated in
Lebanon. ... They [male competitors]
expected that, because I am a woman,
they would be able to boss me around or
put me down. ... Some describe me as
masculine because I argue with them, and
I am aggressive and decisive.... I used
them [these qualities] because I think I
need them to do business, and every busi-
nessperson should be like that when the
situation requires being like that. (LWE 8)
For so many years, my competitors were
only men. ... Sometimes when we used
to meet at international exhibitions, they
used to ridicule me and say that I should
be at home cooking for my children. ...
When we used to co-manage or plan
events, they always complained about
me being a bully or too aggressive as a
woman. ... Ineededtobelikethatfor
them to listen to me because, if I am not,
they will think that I am too soft, and they
can boss me around. And I was not will-
ing to let them do that to me. (LWE 15)
To conclude this section, we argue that the
dynamic intersections between the women’s
lives and their sociocultural environments result
in a multifaceted identity-construction process.
Our poststructural feminist analysis reveals the
complexity of gendered dynamics within Leba-
nese society and confirms that the women’s con-
struction of their entrepreneurial identities is
contextually driven. Moreover, the analysis
reveals how the women simultaneously rein-
force and challenge gendered power relations.
Whereas some women do gender and try to fit
in with established cultural practices and gen-
dered norms, still others redo gender to disrupt
gendered norms. This analysis brings to light
how Lebanese women comply with, disregard,
and defy sociocultural values and gender ideolo-
gies to build their identities as entrepreneurial
Concluding Remarks
This pioneering study reveals the heterogene-
ity and complexity of Lebanese women entre-
preneurs’ experiences of entrepreneurial
leadership, agency in the face of gender discrim-
ination, and internalization of sociocultural val-
ues and ascribed gender roles during the
construction of entrepreneurial identities. The
analysis illustrates how the Arab women seek-
ing entrepreneurial legitimation use compliance,
disregard, and defiance strategies to construct
their identities. This article, thus, makes mani-
fold contributions.
First, we aid in the development of the small
but growing field of entrepreneurial leadership
theory by addressing the need for contextually
embedded research and gender studies within
local contexts. To the emerging area of entrepre-
neurial leadership, we contribute gender
research exploring how Lebanese women per-
ceive themselves as entrepreneurial leaders. Our
research demonstrates how women’s entrepre-
neurship can best be explored, approached, and
understood in its societal context. By exploring
gender in the context of Arab women’s entre-
preneurial leadership and lived practices, we
examine this concept from a unique perspec-
tive. This approach grants greater recognition
that women’s entrepreneurial experiences out-
side the Anglo-Saxon contexts are worthy of
investigation in their own right. By focusing on
the Arab women of Lebanon, we support two
decades of scholarly work demonstrating that
current conceptions of entrepreneurship are not
universally applicable across either gender or
We empirically demonstrate that Lebanese
women’s experiences of entrepreneurial leader-
ship reflect their struggles with societal and cul-
tural constraints and limitations. Their
entrepreneurial leadership, therefore, is built on
(1) their personal status as pioneers, women
who persevered to make their dreams a reality
in an unsupportive, masculine environment; and
(2) the realization of their dream in building
successful businesses that have survived social
rejection, obstacles, and financial difficulties.
The Lebanese women’s experiences of entrepre-
neurial leadership are deeply integrated into
their identity creation as they seek to overcome
their local culture’s gendered discrimination and
restrictions to prove themselves as entrepre-
neurs and entrepreneurial leaders. Put another
way, their journey to claim entrepreneurial
leadership goes hand in hand with their journey
to create their entrepreneurial identities while
navigating the obstacles in their local society.
Their efforts provide a means to understand
why some women entrepreneurs reject the dom-
inant discursive practices within the Lebanese
society and how entrepreneurial leadership
unfolds through the voices of women in the
AME. Through their own unique entrepreneurial
encounters, Arab women voice their insights
concerning social inequality, hardship, exclu-
sion, and gender stereotypes.
Second, this study provides unique insights
into gender and the construction of entrepre-
neurial leadership. In bringing together feminist
and gender research within an intersectional
framework, this study provides greater under-
standing of the ways in which women’s socially
constructed subjectivities interlock with patriar-
chal sociocultural values. The study’s poststruc-
tural feminist lens enables better understanding
of how the women construct their identities in
relation to who they are and the choices they
make in their journey to becoming entrepre-
neurial leaders. Through this exploratory pro-
cess of identity construction, we can better
discern the dominant discursive ways through
which entrepreneurial leadership functions are
Moreover, we uncover how diverse the strat-
egies utilized by women in dealing with oppres-
sion are. Thus, we answered the scholarly calls
(e.g., Ahl 2006; Cal
as, Smircich, and Bourne
2009; Galloway, Kapasi, and Sang 2015;
Harrison, Leitch, and McAdam 2015; Henry
et al. 2015; Lewis 2013) for more feminist theo-
rizing of entrepreneurship and for entrepreneur-
ial leadership research showing how gendered
subjectivities are socially created and produced
by intersectionality. We concur with Essers and
Benschop (2009), demonstrating that the Leba-
nese women entrepreneurs’ identities are
dynamic co-constructions shaped by intersec-
tions with diverse social-identity categories. This
work helps to understand how women draw on
various feminine and masculine traits on as-
needed basis to claim legitimacy, not only for
themselves but also for their entrepreneurial
careers, leadership status, and businesses. More-
over, as ascribed gender roles pull the women
in one direction, and their ambitions in another,
their identities become more than the sum of
their womanhood, entrepreneurship, and gen-
der roles. In this case, the women perform
extensive identity work at the intersection of
gender identity and sociocultural roles within
entrepreneurship to create agency and cope
with these structural inequalities. Our concep-
tual framework reflects such identity construc-
tions because we argue that the subjectivity in
identity-building influences the act of entrepre-
neurial leadership. Entrepreneurial leadership,
therefore, is conceptualized as individuals’ abil-
ity to develop their entrepreneurial identity in a
social context and couple it to and with acts of
Third, within entrepreneurial contexts, we
advance the understanding of identity work to
scrutinize the complexity of gendered dynamics
and how they exist and intersect. Following Ess-
ers and Benschop (2009) and Sveningsson and
Alvesson (2003), our study expands the overall
understanding of how different socially con-
structed identities pave the way for the bound-
ary work performed by women in the AME
region to construct their entrepreneurial identi-
ties and affirm their leadership status. In our
study, boundary work stands as one of the strat-
egies women use to negotiate their entrepre-
neurial identities while accommodating societal
gendered expectations. Consequently, we show
how women can create symbolic boundaries
between themselves and societal expectations
without losing their independence, agency, and
equality; rather, they can use such boundaries to
assert themselves as entrepreneurial leaders.
Finally, this article contributes to practice
through its detailed narratives describing the
process of self-reported entrepreneurial leader-
ship, including features related to small busi-
nesses. We also contribute to the understanding
of entrepreneurial leadership by identifying a
need to investigate this activity separately and in
relation to other entrepreneurial experiences,
such as identity construction. Together with Gal-
loway, Kapasi, and Sang (2015), we argue that a
more nuanced understanding of this field can
be achieved if studies of entrepreneurship shift
from perceiving entrepreneurship and leader-
ship as individual properties to viewing entre-
preneurship, including entrepreneurial
leadership and identity, as situated experiences.
The challenge for policy and practice, therefore,
is to recognize that the nature of entrepreneurial
leadership is changing and that women’s entre-
preneurial identity is not based within them-
selves but is crafted in interaction with their
society and environment. In recent years,
countries, including some AME nations, have
invested in promoting entrepreneurship to
increase employment and to strengthen local
economies. This study provides important impli-
cations for the outcomes of these investments
and initiatives. Governments and other decision-
makers charged with drafting policies to pro-
mote entrepreneurship can outline policies and
programs addressing the obstacles highlighted
in this study. Specifically, Arab countries can
use these findings to tap into the underutilized
entrepreneurial talents of Arab women to boost
economic growth and development.
Limitations and
Suggestions for Future
Interesting avenues for reproducing and
expanding these findings exist given our initial
data. Due to the difficulties of data collection in
the Arab world, our theorization is based on
interview data and purposeful sampling. Using
a qualitative approach increased our under-
standing of how women entrepreneurs make
sense of their world and individual entrepre-
neurial experiences, but this sampling approach
and sample size can yield only a peek of the
bigger picture. Therefore, we strongly encour-
age those interested in this topic and region to
triangulate qualitative and quantitative methods
to further develop the understanding of the dif-
ferent means by which women perceive and
construct their entrepreneurial identities. More
highly contextualized research with larger data
sets using a triangulation method is recom-
mended to capture a more robust understanding
of women’s entrepreneurship within developing
countries. Furthermore, although we reference
and compare our findings with those reported
in other studies concerning the identities of
women entrepreneurs in other contexts, our
main focus is understanding and highlighting
the individual and unique experiences of the
Lebanese women. We, along with other schol-
ars, need to consider further exploring how the
entrepreneurial identity-building process of
women entrepreneurs differs and is similar to
that of men in diverse contexts. Future studies
could also investigate the entrepreneurial expe-
riences of Lebanese and Arab women in greater
detail. Equally interesting for future research
would be exploring similarities and differences
based on religious affiliation (equal numbers of
Muslims and Christians participated in this
study) and investigating the influences of
Islamic teachings on Lebanese Muslim women
entrepreneurs’ experiences of entrepreneurial
discourse. In conclusion, exploring the constitu-
ents and the antecedents of Arab women entre-
preneurs’ identities, as well as the traits that
define and sustain them, could make for an
intriguing study. Such research would address
the macro-issues that Arab women face across
the region and enable generalization of the
Afiouni, F. (2014). “Women’s Careers in the
Arab Middle East: Understanding Institu-
tional Constraints to the Boundaryless Career
View,” Career Development International
19(3), 314–336.
Ahl, H. (2006). “Why Research on Women
Entrepreneurs Needs New Directions,”
Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice
30(5), 595–621.
Ahl, H., and S. Marlow. (2012). “Exploring the
Dynamics of Gender, Feminism and Entre-
preneurship: Advancing Debate to Escape a
Dead End?,” Organization 19(5), 543–562.
Al Dajani, H., and S. Marlow. (2010). “Impact
of Women’s Home-Based Enterprise on
Family Dynamics: Evidence from Jordan,”
International Small Business Journal 28(5),
Bamiatzi, V., S. Jones, S. Mitchelmore, and
K. Nikolopoulos. (2015). “The Role of Com-
petencies in Shaping the Leadership Style of
Female Entrepreneurs: The Case of North
West of England, Yorkshire, and North
Wales,” Journal of Small Business Manage-
ment 53(3), 627–644.
Brush, C. G., A. de Bruin, and F. Welter.
(2009). “A Gender-Aware Framework for
Women’s Entrepreneurship,” International
Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship
1(1), 8–24.
as, M. B., L. Smircich, and K. A. Bourne.
(2009). “Extending the Boundaries: Refram-
ing ‘Entrepreneurship as Social Change’
through Feminist Perspectives,” Academy of
Management Review 34(3), 552–569.
Carli, L. L. (1999). “Gender, Interpersonal
Power, and Social Influence,” Journal of
Social Issues 55(1), 81–99.
———. (2001). “Gender and Social Influence,”
Journal of Social Issues 57(4), 725–741.
Chasserio, S., P. Pailot, and C. Poroli. (2014).
“When Entrepreneurial Identity Meets
Multiple Social Identities: Interplays and
Identity Work of Women Entrepreneurs,”
International Journal of Entrepreneurial
Behavior and Research 20(2), 128–154.
Cohen, L. (2006). “Remembrance of Past
Things: Cultural Process and Practice in the
Analysis of Career Stories,” Journal of Voca-
tional Behavior 69, 189–209.
Cope, J. (2005). “Toward a Dynamic Learning
Perspective of Entrepreneurship,” Entre-
preneurship Theory and Practice 29(4),
Corley, K. G., and D. A. Gioia. (2004).
“Identity Ambiguity and Change in the
Wake of a Corporate Spin-off,” Administra-
tive Science Quarterly 49(2), 173–208.
Crenshaw, K. (1997). “Intersectionality and
Identity Politics: Learning from Violence
against Women of Colour,” in Reconstruct-
ing Political Identity. Eds. M. Lyndon Sha-
naey and U. Narayan. University Park, PA.:
Pennsylvania State University Press,
Davis, A. E., and K. G. Shaver. (2012).
“Understanding Gendered Variations in
Business Growth Intentions across the Life
Course,” Entrepreneurship Theory and
Practice 36(3), 495–512.
de Bruin, A., C. G. Brush, and F. Welter. (2007).
“Advancing a Framework for Coherent
Research on Women’s Entrepreneurship,”
Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 31(3),
Derks, B., N. Ellemers, C. van Laar, and K. De
Groot. (2011). “Do Sexist Organizational
Cultures Create the Queen Bee?,” British
Journal of Social Psychology 50(3),
Diaz-Garcia, M. C. D., and F. Welter. (2013).
“Gender Identities and Practices: Interpret-
ing Women Entrepreneurs’ Narratives,”
International Small Business Journal 31(4),
Essers, C., and Y. Benschop. (2009). “Muslim
Businesswomen Doing Boundary Work:
The Negotiation of Islam, Gender and Eth-
nicity within Entrepreneurial Contexts,”
Human Relations 62(3), 403–423.
Essers, C., and D. Tedmanson. (2014).
“Upsetting ‘Others’ in the Netherlands: Nar-
ratives of Muslim Turkish Migrant Business-
women at the Crossroads of Ethnicity,
Gender and Religion,” Gender, Work and
Organization 21(4), 353–367.
Galloway, L., I. Kapasi, and K. Sang. (2015).
“Entrepreneurship, Leadership, and the
Value of Feminist Approaches to Under-
standing Them,” Journal of Small Business
Management 53(3), 683–692.
Gherardi, S., and B. Poggio. (2007). Gender-
Telling in Organizations: Narratives from
Male-Dominated Environments. Copenha-
gen, Denmark: Copenhagen Business
School Press.
Glaser, B., and A. Strauss. (1967). The Discovery
of Grounded Theory. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Greenberg, D., K. McKone-Sweet, and H. J.
Wilson. (2011). The New Entrepreneurial
Leaders: Developing Leaders Who Shape
Social and Economic Opportunity. San
Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
Hamilton, E. (2013). “The Discourse of Entre-
preneurial Masculinities (and Femininities),”
Entrepreneurship and Regional Develop-
ment 25(1–2), 90–99.
Harding, S. G. (1987). Feminism and Method-
ology: Social Science Issues. Bloomington,
IN: Indiana University Press.
Harrison, R., C. Leitch, and M. McAdam. (2015).
“Breaking Glass: Toward a Gendered Analy-
sis of Entrepreneurial Leadership,” Journal
of Small Business Management 53(3),
Henry, C., L. Foss, A. Fayolle, E. Walker, and
S. Duffy. (2015). “Entrepreneurial Leadership
and Gender: Exploring Theory and Practice
in Global Contexts,” Journal of Small
Business Management 53(3), 581–586.
Holvino, E. (2010). “Intersections: The Simulta-
neity of Race, Gender and Class in Organi-
zation Studies,” Gender, Work and
Organization 17(3), 248–277.
Itani, H., Y. M. Sidani, and I. Baalbaki. (2011).
“United Arab Emirates Female Entrepreneurs:
Motivations and Frustrations,” Equality, Diver-
sity and Inclusion: An International Journal
30(5), 409–424.
Javadian, G., and R. P. Singh. (2012).
“Examining Successful Iranian Women
Entrepreneurs: An Exploratory Study,”
Gender in Management: An International
Journal 27(3), 148–164.
Karam, C. M., F. Afiouni, and N. Nasr. (2013).
“Walking a Tightrope or Navigating a Web:
Parameters of Balance within Perceived
Institutional Realities,” Women’s Studies
International Forum 40(October), 87–101.
Kelan, E. K. (2009). “Gender Fatigue: The Ide-
ological Dilemma of Gender Neutrality and
Discrimination in Organizations,” Canadian
Journal of Administrative Sciences 26(3),
Kempster, S., and J. Cope. (2010). “Learning to
Lead in the Entrepreneurial Context,” Inter-
national Journal of Entrepreneurial Behav-
iour and Research 16(1), 5–34.
Kuratko, D. F. (2007). “Entrepreneurial Leader-
ship in the 21st Century,” Journal of Lead-
ership and Organizational Studies 13(4),
Leitch, C. M., F. M. Hill, and R. T. Harrison.
(2010). “The Philosophy and Practice of
Interpretivist Research in Entrepreneurship:
Quality, Validation, and Trust,” Organiza-
tional Research Method 13(1), 67–84.
Leitch, C. M., C. McMullan, and R. T. Harrison.
(2013). “The Development of Entrepreneur-
ial Leadership: The Role of Human, Social
and Institutional Capital,” British Journal of
Management 24(3), 347–366.
Lewis, K. V. (2016). “Identity Capital: An
Exploration in the Context of Youth Social
Entrepreneurship,” Entrepreneurship and
Regional Development 28(3–4), 191–205.
Lewis, P. (2013). “The Search for an Authentic
Entrepreneurial Identity: Difference and
Professionalism among Women Business
Owners,” Gender, Work and Organization
20(3), 252–266.
Lincoln, Y. S., and E. G. Guba. (1985). Natu-
ralistic Inquiry, Vol. 75. Thousand Oaks,
CA: Sage Publications.
Locke, K. (2001). Grounded Theory in Man-
agement Research. Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage Publications.
Mavin, S. (2008). “Queen Bees, Wannabees
and Afraid to Bees: No More ‘Best Enemies’
for Women in Management?,” British Jour-
nal of Management 19(1), S75–S84.
Metcalfe, B. D., and C. Woodhams. (2012).
“Introduction: New Directions in Gender,
Diversity and Organization Theorizing–Re-
Imagining Feminist Post-Colonialism, Trans-
nationalism and Geographies of Power,”
International Journal of Management
Reviews 14(2), 123–140.
Miles, M. B., and A. M. Huberman. (1994).
Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded
Sourcebook, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage Publications.
Mirchandani, K. (1999). “Feminist Insight on
Gendered Work: New Directions in Research
on Women and Entrepreneurship,” Gender,
Work and Organization 6(4), 224–235.
Patton, M. (2002). Qualitative Research and
Evaluative Methods, 3rd ed. London, UK:
Sage Publications.
Kaufmann. (2009). “Constructing Professio-
nal Identity: The Role of Work and Identity
Learning Cycles in the Customization of
Identity among Medical Residents,” Academy
of Management Journal 49(2), 235–262.
Santos, F. J., M. A. Roomi, and F. Li~
(2016). “About Gender Differences and the
Social Environment in the Development of
Entrepreneurial Intentions,” Journal of
Small Business Management 54(1), 49–66.
Sardar, Z. (2005). Desperately Seeking Para-
dise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim. Lon-
don, UK: Granta.
Strauss, A., and J. Corbin. (1990). Basics of
Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory
Procedures and Techniques. Newbury Park,
CA: Sage.
Sveningsson, S., and M. Alvesson. (2003).
“Managing Managerial Identities: Organiza-
tional Fragmentation, Discourse and Identity
Struggle,” Human Relations 56(10), 1163–
Tlaiss, H. (2015a). “Women Entrepreneur Moti-
vation: Evidence from the United Arab
Emirates,” International Small Business
Journal 33(5), 562–581.
———. (2015b). “Islamic Work-Related Values
and Entrepreneurship: Evidence from the
Middle East,” Journal of Business Ethics
129(4), 859–877.
Tlaiss, H. A. (2014). “Between the Traditional
and the Contemporary: Careers of Women
Managers from a Developing Middle Eastern
Country Perspective,” International Journal
of Human Resource Management 25(20),
Vecchio, R. P. (2003). “Entrepreneurship and
Leadership: Common Trends and Common
Threads,” Human Resources Management
Review 13(2), 303–327.
Weedon, C. (1987). Feminist Practice and
Poststructuralist Theory. Oxford, UK:
Welter, F. (2011). “Contextualizing Entrepre-
neurship: Conceptual Challenges and Ways
Forward,” Entrepreneurship Theory and
Practice 35(1), 165–178.
West, C., and D. H. Zimmerman. (1987).
“Doing Gender,” Gender and Society 1(2),
Yousafzai, S. Y., S. Saeed, and M. Muffatto.
(2015). “Institutional Theory and Contextual
Embeddedness of Women’s Entrepreneurial
Leadership: Evidence from 92 Countries,”
Journal of Small Business Management
53(3), 587–604.
Zahra, S. A., and M. Wright. (2011).
“Entrepreneurship’s Next Act,” Academy of
Management Perspectives 25(4), 67–83.
... Yet, research investigating their coping strategies is not readily available. Previous studies have been primarily occupied with investigating the tactics used by Lebanese women to overcome their patriarchal, masculine sociocultural context and its strictly defined gender roles (Afiouni et al., 2020;Tlaiss & Kauser, 2019). To attend to the research shortage and its narrow focus, this study investigated the Lebanese women HR managers' coping strategies while paying close attention to the role of agency and if and how the doing/re-doing of gender unfolds in their strategies. ...
... Based on the suggestions of previous studies conducted with women in Lebanon (Afiouni et al., 2020;Tlaiss & Kauser, 2019), I followed Lincoln and Guba's (1985) purposeful sampling guidelines to choose my interviewees. ...
... The pressure that Lebanese women face to do gender per societal expectations has been referred to in previous studies (Tlaiss, 2019), but the novelty of these findings lies in illustrating how the regret of doing gender unfolds as a coping strategy for women who feel powerless and lack agency. Furthermore, although the re-doing of gender through the assumption of roles that are traditionally assigned to men was highlighted in previous studies (Tlaiss & Kauser, 2019), the findings build on this by empirically demonstrating how the re-doing of gender and the expression of masculine characteristics unfolds as a coping mechanism for agentic women living and working in crisis-countries. ...
Full-text available
Practitioner notes What is currently known? Research on women's coping strategies is minimal, primarily focussed on single sources of stress and ignores the role of silence as a coping strategy. Research on coping strategies is Western‐centric, overlooking the experiences of workers in Arab, turbulent macro‐contexts. What this paper adds? In‐depth understanding of the coping strategies of women HR managers beyond the narrow dichotomy of emotion‐focussed and problem‐solving coping strategies. Demonstration of how various types of silence and gender as a performative unfold as coping strategies for women in turbulent contexts. The implications for practitioners Practitioners need to deepen their understanding of the stresses that employees in countries with macro‐level turbulence experience. Practitioners need to improve their understanding of silence and gender as a performative as coping mechanisms and integrate them into their development of interventions.
... Women are more likely to be encouraged to take care of the family first (Dana et al., 2020), rather than be encouraged to become an entrepreneur (Chamlou (2008). It is worth noting that in the literature, that entrepreneurial research is often gendered as male, and thus interprets gender as a variable in isolation from its relationship with other dynamic social categories, such as the cultural context (Tlaiss and Kauser, 2019). Chamlou (2008) believes that the region's business and investments are largely gender blind, and suggests that this disadvantages women entrepreneurs more than it actually benefits them. ...
... Qualitative research enables researchers to gain insight into people's emotions and thoughts (Sutton & Austin, 2015). We drew from the epistemological tradition, which entailed adopting a lifeworld ontology that all observations are valueand theory-laden and that investigations of the social world cannot uncover objective truth (Tlaiss & Kauser, 2019). The qualitative method was appropriate for achieving a deep understanding of how smartphones and mobile applications can help Iraqi women entrepreneurs to overcome the social, family, cultural, market and financial barriers in a complex society. ...
Full-text available
There is a wide gender gap in developing countries due to a range of cultural, economic and political barriers. This is even more accentuated in post conflict economies in times of crisis. Smartphones and mobile applications can help to narrow this gap. The economic and non-economic challenges facing women entrepreneurs and the role of smartphone innovation in overcoming these challenges and developing strong marketing strategies were investigated. We drew on the 5M model to investigate how mobile applications can support women entrepreneurs. We conducted thirty interviews with women entrepreneurs in Iraq. The findings show that mobile applications provided these entrepreneurs with innovative ways to overcome many of the challenges they face in relation to running a business. The research provides theoretical contributions by developing an integrated, multilevel analytical model on women in entrepreneurship based on extending the 5M model with new technology-related elements. Practical, policy and managerial implications are discussed.
... Every society categorizing people according to sex, assigns specific expectations that are part of the gender social construction [88]. Lebanon is described as a patriarchal country, where men have the authority and power, thus explaining our results [89]. Also, it could be that both genders exhibit bullying but under different forms; boys are more likely to express physical bullying behaviors such as hitting and fighting while girls usually engage in indirect bullying such as teasing, gossiping, or spreading rumors [90]. ...
Full-text available
Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to prolonged exposure to stress and anxiety, raising concerns about a large spectrum of psychological side effects. The primary objective of the study was to validate the COVID-19 Bullying Scale (CBS-11). The second objective was to explore factors associated with COVID-19-related bullying and evaluate the mediating effect of fear and anxiety between knowledge and COVID-19-related bullying. Methods: A cross-sectional online survey conducted between December 20, 2020, and January 5, 2021, recruited 405 Lebanese adults using a snowball sampling technique. The CBS-11, an 11-item tool specifically created for this study, was used to measure bullying behaviors towards COVID-19 patients. Results: All items of the CBS-11 converged over a 1-factor solution with an eigenvalue over 1, accounting for a variance of 75.16%. The scale has a high Cronbach’s alpha (.974), indicating excellent reliability. A positive correlation was found between the COVID-19 bullying scale and fear, anxiety, and stigma discrimination. The logistic regression showed that higher fear of COVID-19 (ORa=1.04), a positive attitude toward COVID-19 preventive measures and hygiene recommendations (ORa=1.18), higher stigma discrimination scores (ORa=1.09), and having a health professional family member (ORa=2.42) were significantly associated with bullying. Conclusion: Our main findings showed that the CBS-11 could be an efficient tool to measure bullying behaviors toward COVID-19 patients. Stigma discrimination and fear from COVID-19 were associated with higher bullying attitudes. Future prospective studies are needed to understand better the factors related to bullying among adults during a pandemic, such as COVID-19.
Full-text available
Women are increasingly becoming acknowledged as great entrepreneurs in the modern period, owing to their strong drive, personal characteristics, and talents to offer to a vibrant economy. For the purpose of understanding and explaining gender constructions of entrepreneurial leadership, this research investigates feminist theories as well as the relevance of a poststructuralist feminist perspective on the subject. This research also examines the national impact of governance on SDGs. Data sample of 160 questionnaires was collected from students that are associated with entrepreneurship idea and recognize gender biases processes belonging to the Bahria University, Islamabad. The research concludes that a more comprehensive knowledge of this sector may be attained if entrepreneurship research shifts away from individual qualities and toward contextual experiences.
Purpose The aim of this paper is to explore how men entrepreneurs construe their success and the influence of the socio-cultural context and political and economic turbulence on their construals of success in the context of the Arab country of Lebanon. Design/methodology/approach To achieve the objective, the author draw on intersectionality theory and capitalise on twenty in-depth, semi-structured interviews with men entrepreneurs. Findings The findings reveal how construals of success by men entrepreneurs occur at the nexus between patriarchy, gendered expectations and adverse economic and political conditions. As a result, success is construed through the perseverance and legitimacy of their business and their compliance with expected family roles. These construals unfold as the men hold themselves accountable for and do gender and success per the ideal expectations indoctrinated by patriarchy. Originality/value The originality of this study lies in its theoretical contributions. First, it is the first study to explore the construals of success by men entrepreneurs in an Arab Middle Eastern country. Second, it contributes to a growing body of work that explores gender as a situated practice and demonstrates how it is performed by men entrepreneurs while construing their success. Third, it contributes to research on intersectionality in entrepreneurship and sheds light on the interconnections of gender, patriarchal socio-cultural values, economic and political conditions and entrepreneurship in Arab countries.
Full-text available
In examining women’s entrepreneurship in the Middle East, this book aims to challenge Global North assumptions about the disempowering impacts of Islamic Shari’a and governance. Referring to the constraints of Islam on women’s subjectivity and agency greatly misunderstands religious identity, of both men and women, and the way in which public administration and private sector institutions are organized in very different ways to Western regions. This timely text expands and adds new insights to the theorizations of women’s entrepreneurship in the Middle East, through unravelling spatialized themes, and incorporates contemporary themes including: an Islamic science reading of women, work and venturing; changing families and entrepreneurship development; women managing social crises; Islamization, governance and women; Islamic feminist activisms and entrepreneurship; representations of women’s entrepreneurship on social media; and women’s collectives leading entrepreneurship via Facebook entrepreneurship.
Purpose Despite the increase in female entrepreneurship literature, very few studies exist that systematize the extant literature, especially in emerging and developing countries. This article fills part of this gap; it maps, categorizes and groups the objectives, theoretical approaches and research methods on female entrepreneurship conducted in one or more of the 155 emerging and developing countries. Design/methodology/approach A systematic literature review (SLR) was conducted, using Scopus and Web of Science, over a 10-year timeframe (2010–2020). Out of 465 papers, 77 were selected for content analysis. Findings Most articles focus on understanding women entrepreneurs' challenges, the factors affecting their entrepreneurial performance and encouraging entrepreneurship. Qualitative research was found to be the predominant approach, while mixed studies appeared less frequently. Practical implications This paper sheds light on female entrepreneurship characteristics, including business competence, performance and entrepreneurial orientation. Further, it can help female entrepreneurs to recognize the most relevant aspects regarding performance, the essential driving factors and entrepreneurial motivations, among others. Originality/value First, this paper groups the objectives and the theoretical and methodological approaches that guide female entrepreneurship research. Second, it identifies distinct gaps, grouped and explored using unpublished thematic categories. Finally, the authors propose an extensive future research agenda regarding female entrepreneurship in emerging and developing countries.
Purpose This study aims to explore the process of women entrepreneurship in India from a social perspective using the concept of entrepreneurship as emancipation. Design/methodology/approach An interpretive approach is applied to address the study objectives, and based on an inductive method, the non-economic antecedents that led women to start entrepreneurship ventures are explored using 33 in-depth interviews. The study explores beyond the motivations and investigates the social process through which a women entrepreneur passes through after taking the decision to start a business venture. Findings Major findings indicate entrepreneurship as a change process where changes in both the entrepreneur and her social surroundings are observed with time. More detailed analysis reveal opposing (the entrepreneur) social forces in the initiation phase but more supportive social set up in the later phases of the entrepreneurship. The results support the process of entrepreneurship as emancipation (with stages such as seeking autonomy, authoring and declaring). Research limitations/implications The present study supports the concept of entrepreneurship as an emancipation process, and how it unfolds as a gendered process in a society where women (in general) are still not treated as equals. Practical implications The study has practical implications for entrepreneurs and their stakeholder networks. Social implications The findings have novel social implications on how a broader social structure has an influence on the entrepreneurship journey of a woman. Originality/value To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to explore the phenomenon of entrepreneurship as an emancipation for women entrepreneurs of elite families in a developing nation who have started their business from non-economic needs.
Full-text available
This book gathers the stories told by men and women about a particular event. With a play on words sometimes used by feminists in the past, it could have been entitled His/story and Her/story, in order to convey from the outset a banal, but sometimes overlooked, fact: the contents of stories depend on the voice telling them, and the experience recounted in first person differs according to the gender of the narrator. The voice springs from the body, from a subjectivity that is also materiality. Going through the world in the body of a woman or a man entails differing experiences of reality, and therefore the production of differing accounts of that reality. The feminists of the past sought to show that history was a story written by men, and that it recounted only part of human experience. The rest was excluded or marginalized, and above all the history of women, both as personal experience and as a dimension of everyday life – a life, that is to say, which does not ‘make history’. The main difference between men and women is that they have bodies which expose them to different experiences of the same world; or better, which differently mediate the way in which their relationship with the world is socially constructed. As we recount our experience of the world, we make it intelligible both to ourselves and others. Hence language is a form of mediation among ourselves, our experience of the world, and the others in the world. When the narrating voice talks to the Other, it describes, explains, justifies, constructs discourse objects, transmits emotions, creates intimacy or distance, theorizes, builds a moral and aesthetic order, and constructs the identities of the speaker and the listener. Recounting is therefore a social practice: a discursive practice, in fact, which together with other material practices like working, constructing artifacts, objects of use and complex technologies, constructs social relations and the world as we know it, and therefore meaningfully endowed with sense. The knowledge preserved and transmitted by narratives – the practical knowledge about how things are done, and done together, which derives from experience and transmits its flavour and warmth – is defined as narrative knowledge. Opposed to it is the analytical knowledge, also called paradigmatic or scientific, which seeks to formulate universal laws. The book therefore explores the kind of situated knowledge comprised in the experience of men and women and transmitted through reflection on their experiences and those of the persons closest to them. It examines stories about work constructed around a particular event: the entry of a She into a predominantly male work group. She does a job which tradition defines as typically male, or She has a position of organizational responsibility occupied by few or no other women. The He of the story is a colleague of She. He has seen Her join the group and usually has a similar or superior job grade.
Identity-based politics has been a source of strength for people of color, gays and lesbians, among others. The problem with identity politics is that it often conflates intra group differences. Exploring the various ways in which race and gender intersect in shaping structural and political aspects of violence against these women, it appears the interests and experiences of women of color are frequently marginalized within both feminist and antiracist discourses. Both discourses have failed to consider the intersections of racism and patriarchy. However, the location of women of color at the intersection of race and gender makes our actual experience of domestic violence, rape, and remedial reform quite different from that of white women. Similarly, both feminist and antiracist politics have functioned in tandem to marginalize the issue of violence against women of color. The effort to politicize violence against women will do little to address the experiences of nonwhite women until the ramifications of racial stratification among women are acknowledged. At the same time, the anti-racist agenda will not be furthered by suppressing the reality of intra-racial violence against women of color. The effect of both these marginalizations is that women of color have no ready means to link their experiences with those of other women.
Côté’s model of ‘identity capital’ is said to comprise a set of strengths and psycho-social skills that are deployed by individuals to both define themselves and represent how others define them. Identity capital is multi-dimensional by nature, both tangible and intangible in character and acquired through the application of resources in identity exchanges. The identity capital framework is built around the youth experience and is, therefore, germane to an exploration of the meaning, motivation and value of youth engagement with socially entrepreneurial endeavours. The young are described as an increasingly important cohort in terms of the creation of socially innovative solutions to the world’s ‘wicked problems’ – and as leaders, not merely followers. In this paper, the model is applied to a single case study of a young New Zealand social entrepreneur using multiple sources of both primary and secondary data (with a longitudinal orientation). Particular emphasis is given to probing how identity capital in this example is accumulated, deployed and exchanged in relation to the lived experience of being a young social entrepreneur, and through a socially entrepreneurial cultural frame of reference.
We engage in a critical theoretical exercise to extend the boundaries of entrepreneur-ship theory and research by reframing "entrepreneurship as positive economic activity" to "entrepreneurship as social change." Reframing entrepreneurship through feminist analytical lenses, we argue that more theoretical frameworks are needed for exploring the varieties of social change that entrepreneurship may bring about. We also discuss what difference this would make in extant entrepreneurship perspectives. Theoretically, methodologically, and analytically, such reframing is the main contribution of this paper.