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'Embrace the masculine; attenuate the feminine': gender, identity work and entrepreneurial legitimation in the nascent context

Swail, Janine; Marlow, Susan


Janine Swail

Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation


This paper critically analyses how gender bias impacts upon women’s efforts to legitimate nascent ventures. Given the importance of founder identity as a proxy for entrepreneurial legitimacy at nascency, we explore the identity work women undertake when seeking to claim legitimacy for their emerging ventures in a prevailing context of masculinity. In so doing, we challenge taken for granted norms pertaining to legitimacy and question the basis upon which that knowledge is claimed. In effect, debates regarding entrepreneurial legitimacy are presented as gender neutral yet, entrepreneurship is a gender biased activity. Thus, we argue it is essential to recognise how gendered assumptions impinge upon the quest for legitimacy. To illustrate our analysis, we use retrospective and real time empirical evidence evaluating legitimating strategies as they unfold, our findings reveal tensions between feminine identities such as ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ and those of the prototypical entrepreneur. This dissonance prompted women to undertake specific forms of identity work to bridge the gap between femininity, legitimacy and entrepreneurship. We conclude by arguing that the pursuit of entrepreneurial legitimacy during nascency is a gendered process which disadvantages women and has the potential to negatively impact upon the future prospects of their fledging ventures.


Swail, J., & Marlow, S. (in press). 'Embrace the masculine; attenuate the feminine': gender, identity work and entrepreneurial legitimation in the nascent context. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 30(1-2),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 14, 2017
Online Publication Date Nov 29, 2017
Deposit Date Nov 21, 2017
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2019
Journal Entrepreneurship and Regional Development
Print ISSN 0898-5626
Electronic ISSN 1464-5114
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 30
Issue 1-2
Keywords Gender, legitimacy, identity work, nascency
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Entrepreneurship and Regional Development on 29 November 2017 available online:


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