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Senior women managers’ transition to entrepreneurship: Leveraging embedded career capital

Siri Terjesen (Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, UK)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 1 May 2005




This paper aims to explore the phenomenon of senior women managers leaving corporate organisations to start their own companies. Women's advancement to senior management roles is facilitated by the acquisition of human capital and social capital. Female ex‐corporate managers leverage personal accumulations of knowledge, skills, relationships and networks when starting and growing new ventures. A conceptual framework of “embedded career capital” accrued during past experiences and transferable to the individuals’ new entrepreneurial ventures is put forward.


Structured, in‐depth interviews with ten female entrepreneurs who recently left senior management positions in large UK corporations to start their own ventures support a spectrum from embedded career capital which is transferable and value‐creating to embodied career capital consisting of immobile, non‐rent‐generating accumulations.


Senior women managers leverage “embedded career capital”, human capital and social capital accumulated from past experiences, when founding and growing their own businesses. Embedded career capital is mobile and value‐generating to the women's new start‐ups. In contrast, embodied capital is not capable of generating rents outside the arena in which it was developed and not transferable to the new venture.

Research limitations/implications

This exploratory study is based on ten interviews, and reveals practical implications for both senior women managers eager to advance their careers as entrepreneurs and companies keen to retain these women.


The results provide support for the new concept of embedded career capital. This paper is one of the first to examine how women account for the use of human capital and social capital in the transition from corporate management to own ventures.



Terjesen, S. (2005), "Senior women managers’ transition to entrepreneurship: Leveraging embedded career capital", Career Development International, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 246-259.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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