Entrepreneuring mothers motivation and commitment from the perspective of possible selves
Abstract Objectives We examine the relationships between how women cope with role conflict and develop self-conceptions during motherhood and whilst managing an entrepreneurial venture. Prior Work The concept of possible selves (Markus and Nurius, 1986), representing individuals’ ideas of who they may become, ought to become and fear becoming, is applied to interpret mothers’ personal entrepreneurial narratives. We draw from contemporary psychological theory, which emphasises the dynamic and socially constituted nature of self-construals that offer explanations for identity-based motivations and commitment to an entrepreneurial career (Dasgupta, 2011, 2013, Oyserman 2015) of entrepreneuring mothers. Whilst we recognise that gender role identities and differential personal values systems have been implicated in women’s (alternative) entrepreneurial aspirations (Shepherd and Haynie, 2009, Zampetakis, et al., 2016; Eddleston and Powell, 2008), the concept of self might be helpful in explaining their pursuit of meaning or social purpose over profit maximization. Approach Semi-structured interviews with twenty-six entrepreneuring mothers based in the UK between 2012 and 2016 were analysed to explore the extent to which the way they think about the future exerts motivational influence. Mothers’ narratives focussed on the decision to start-up in business, their future aspirations and the nature of rewards they seek and derive from venturing. Results We find that women readily imagine themselves in the future and that multiple possible selves exert powerful motivational influence but also perpetuate self-dissonance. The pursuit of deeper meaning and purpose in work, combined with a constant striving for social legitimacy of thought, feeling and action – the ought self with respect to both work and home – characterises the lived experience of entrepreneuring mothers. Contributions: By illuminating the complexity of the identity work that entrepreneuring mothers undertake and the motivational influence of multi-domain possible selves, we extend current conceptualisations of entrepreneurial identity, self-efficacy and work-life balance. Further, we challenge the notion that only positive future selves, specific to the work domain motivate pro-active career behaviours (Strauss, Griffin and Parker, 2012). Mothers can be driven forward toward an entrepreneurial future because they fear returning to a past-work self that is irreconcilable with ought and hoped-for selves in the family domain. Value: Acute sensitivity to social expectations of role achievement in both work and home domains mitigates the motivational power of personal hopes and fears for entrepreneuring mothers and may underpin women’s willingness to sacrifice their own wellbeing in the attempt to ‘do it all’. We propose that highly individualised subjective value/s underpin the meaning of work for women that is critical for understanding i) how mothers may best be supported to start-up and sustain commitment to an entrepreneurial path or ii) how organisational cultures, policies and practices need to change to protect women’s positive future work selves from terminal ‘loss of hope’ post-partum.
This paper has been accepted for ISBE conference in November 2017. We are hoping to only publish the abstract in proceedings as we are in the process of developing the manuscript for submission to a journal.
Citation : Vershinina, N. and Phillips, N. (2017) Entrepreneuring mothers motivation and commitment from the perspective of possible selves. ISBE Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Research Institute : Centre for Enterprise and Innovation (CEI)
Peer Reviewed : Yes