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Female business owners hiding in plain sight

Allison D. Weidhaas (Department of Communication and Journalism, Rider University, Lawrenceville, New Jersey, USA)

International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship

ISSN: 1756-6266

Article publication date: 24 January 2018

Issue publication date: 23 February 2018




The purpose of this paper is to explore what female business owners hide to better understand social norms and discourses that influence the decisions women make about how they structure their home and work lives.


The author used qualitative interviews to access the narratives of female business owners in public relations within the USA. This industry segment attracts primarily women and, unlike a retail store, offers women a variety of ways to structure their business hours and locations.


Women use hiding as a way to manage others’ impressions and as a way to gain legitimacy for themselves and their organizations. Specifically, the findings fall into three categories: hiding childcare obligations, obscuring their work locations and “fake it until you make it”. Hiding is used a strategy to deal with tensions that arise based on women’s interpretations of social norms and discourses.

Research limitations/implications

Based on the finite nature of any study, it is difficult to assess the long-term impact of hiding. Further, as with many studies, the geographic location, gender and industry segment provide a context for this research, which means the reader must determine the transferability.


Few studies explore hiding as a means to gain access to gendered discourses that can undermine identity construction and business growth. By uncovering what female business owners hide, it provides opportunities for self-awareness and agency.



Weidhaas, A.D. (2018), "Female business owners hiding in plain sight", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 2-18.



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