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Is independence really an opportunity? The experience of entrepreneur-mothers

Meraiah Foley (Business School, University of New South Wales Canberra at ADFA, Canberra, Australia)
Marian Baird (Work and Organisational Studies, University of Sydney Business School, Sydney, Australia)
Rae Cooper (Work and Organisational Studies, University of Sydney Business School, Sydney, Australia)
Sue Williamson (Business School, University of New South Wales Canberra at ADFA, Canberra, Australia)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 22 February 2018

Issue publication date: 26 March 2018

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore how entrepreneur-mothers experience independence in the transition to entrepreneurship, and whether they perceive independence as an agentic, opportunity-maximisation motive or a constrained, necessity-driven response.

Design/methodology/approach

Adopting a qualitative and interpretive approach, the authors analysed interviews with 60 entrepreneur-mothers to refine conceptual understanding of independence.

Findings

The authors find that entrepreneur-mothers experience independence not as an opportunity, but as a functional necessity in managing the temporal and perceived moral demands of motherhood. The authors assert that there is a fundamental difference between wanting independence to pursue a more autonomous lifestyle, and needing independence to attend to family obligations, a difference that is not adequately captured in the existing conceptualisation of independence. Consequently, the authors propose the classification of “family-driven entrepreneurship” to capture the social and institutional factors that may disproportionately push women with caregiving responsibilities towards self-employment.

Practical implications

This paper proposes that a new category of entrepreneurial motivation be recognised to better account for the social and institutional factors affecting women’s entrepreneurship, enabling policymakers to more accurately position and support entrepreneur-mothers.

Social implications

The authors challenge the existing framing of independence as an agentic opportunity-seeking motive, and seek to incorporate family dynamics into existing entrepreneurial models.

Originality/value

This paper delivers much-needed conceptual refinement of independence as a motivator to entrepreneurship by examining the experiences of entrepreneur-mothers, and proposes a new motivational classification, that of family-driven entrepreneurship to capture the elements of agency and constraint embedded in this transition.

Keywords

Citation

Foley, M., Baird, M., Cooper, R. and Williamson, S. (2018), "Is independence really an opportunity? The experience of entrepreneur-mothers", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 313-329. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSBED-10-2017-0306

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited