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Learning to Not Belong: Entrepreneurial Learning Experiences of Women High-Tech Entrepreneurs

Kubberød, Elin, Jones, Sally ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4760-5969 and Pettersen, Inger Beate (2021) Learning to Not Belong: Entrepreneurial Learning Experiences of Women High-Tech Entrepreneurs. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research, 27 (8). pp. 1983-2008. ISSN 1355-2554

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Purpose – The influence of gender on high-tech entrepreneurship is of growing interest worldwide, as scholars argue that women face gendered barriers specific to this field. Although some gender-focused research exists on the interplay of context and entrepreneurial learning, these issues have yet to be intensively studied and the research addresses this gap. Design/methodology/approach – The research draws upon empirical evidence from the entrepreneurial learning of nine women opportunity entrepreneurs in the high-technology sector in Norway. It employs a qualitative phenomenological approach, with retrospective and in-depth interviews to capture and analyze the entrepreneurs’ lived experiences and learning histories. Findings – The entrepreneurs in this study highlight gendered learning experiences, leading them to make conscious and strategic decisions of both alignment and resistance to negotiate their enterprise in a highly masculine sector. Their prior learning histories of not belonging seem to underpin their preparedness for entrepreneurship in the sector. Counter to prevailing theorizing, not belonging is an enabling condition, allowing women entrepreneurs to subvert and challenge a highly masculinized context. This condition empowers them to mobilize their “otherness” to create change within their own ventures and make the rules on their own terms. Originality/value – This interdisciplinary research deepens the understanding of the interplay between gender, entrepreneurial learning and context through the concept of belonging and extends theorization of the gendered dynamics in entrepreneurial learning histories. The paper proposes a framework of gendered entrepreneurial learning in a masculinized industry context, which highlights important implications for future gender and entrepreneurial learning research.

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