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Proactive and reactive plots: narratives in entrepreneurial identity construction

Cecilia Bjursell (Encell – National Centre for Lifelong Learning, Jönköping University, Jönköping, Sweden)
Leif Melin (CeFEO, Jönköping International Business School, Jönköping, Sweden)

International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship

ISSN: 1756-6266

Article publication date: 27 September 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to offer a new perspective on entrepreneurial identity as a narrative construction, emerging in stories about entering the family business.

Design/methodology/approach

The qualitative methodological approach involves an interpretative analysis of transcribed interviews conducted in narrative style with 12 women from Swedish family businesses.

Findings

By presenting entrepreneurial identity as a combination of two distinct narratives, the “passive” entrance into the family business is highlighted. The “Pippi Longstocking” narrative illustrates conscious choices, drive and motivation based on an entrepreneurial identification: the proactive plot. The “Alice in Wonderland” narrative on the other hand, illustrates women who happen to become entrepreneurs or business persons because the family business was there: the reactive plot. The contrasting and complementing narratives illustrate ambiguities in the identity process.

Practical implications

The authors identified the following opportunities for women in family business: the family business can offer easy access to a career and on‐the‐job learning opportunities; education in other areas can be useful when learning how to manage and develop the family business; and the family business offers a generous arena for pursuing a career at different life stages. Implications for education as well as for policy makers are also presented.

Originality/value

The narratives presented are given metaphorical names with the intention to evoke the reader's reflection and reasoning by analogy, which can lead to new insights. The use of metaphors illustrates multiple layers and ambiguities in identity construction. Metaphors can also create awareness of the researcher as a co‐creator of knowledge.

Keywords

Citation

Bjursell, C. and Melin, L. (2011), "Proactive and reactive plots: narratives in entrepreneurial identity construction", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 218-235. https://doi.org/10.1108/17566261111169313

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited