Finishing Strong in the Face of Adversity

By Dr. Abby Jandro

Being an entrepreneur often has you deep in the details of what needs to be done to close out the year. The chance to stop and reflect may seem like a luxury. Yet reflection is a key skill for entrepreneurs and leaders alike, and if you intend to finish strong in 2015 it is a must-do, not a nice-to-do.

One potential topic of reflection is your identity as an entrepreneur. Many women business owners I coach and talk to say they don't always feel like one, and I can relate. It took me over a year and a half to accept the title of entrepreneur, and it will likely take longer for me to fully embrace the identity.

My experience of an entrepreneur during my graduate studies in San Francisco was a man in his twenties or early thirties hanging out in his favourite coffee shop 'office' with his business partner buddies building a website or an app.

That was certainly not me.

Since completing my degree, I moved to Australia and decided the job with the consulting firm and the not-for-profit gig were not for me. It was time to 'have a go,' as Australians say it, at developing my own thing. While what I read from the US is more diverse, the typical Australian woman entrepreneur is depicted in mainstream media as having either left the corporate world to spend more time with her family or just happened to fall into business in one of three fields: baking, fashion or something related to children.

Again, that was and is not me.

Identity is an interesting concept to explore in relation to entrepreneurship. Particularly for those of us who initially embarked on more traditional career paths. Just looking at the many variants on the word entrepreneur is a clue that this is often not an overnight process. We have Infopreneurs, Mompreneurs, Solopreneurs, Socialpreneurs, and the list goes on.

The Oxford Dictionaries online define entrepreneur as ‘a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope for profit.' All of the above categories meet that definition, yet people are still seeking to further define with which community of like-minded people they identify most.

Researchers Côté and Levine (2002) describe how identity development is a social process that has changed dramatically in the last century or so. The primary reason for this change is the increase in choice. We have so many choices today of what career to explore that we will probably change our minds 10 or more times.

More and more women around the world are choosing entrepreneurship.

Researchers from Spain and Sweden, Garcia and Welter (2011), studied women entrepreneurs in relationship to gender identity. They comment that research has established the existence of a gender bias favoring masculine traits over feminine in entrepreneurship. The women they interviewed had three approaches to this bias:

  1. Recognize and build upon the difference between their identity as a woman and their identity as an entrepreneur. These women spoke of 'juggling' the different responsibilities associated with business and family, and 'overcoming' business related challenges.
  2. Challenge the difference between these identities. Instead of seeing themselves as different from the entrepreneurial norm, these women used gender to their advantage. It was an opportunity to do things differently with regard to how they approached interactions with clients and other business activities.
  3. Some combination of the two.

Gender is not the only identity that women entrepreneurs incorporate into their sense of self. There is their profession, industry and culture to consider as well. Some of these identities will mesh easily with being an entrepreneur, while others will take more effort to reconcile.

At the risk of sounding cliché, developing an identity as an entrepreneur is a journey. Garcia and Welter found that younger, less experienced women entrepreneurs are more likely to see their differences and work to overcome them, while wiser and more experienced entrepreneurs more often will build upon them.

So, the business may be official, the website may be up, the first dollar made and you may still not feel like an entrepreneur. You are not alone. While doubts may exist and confidence may come and go, you are exactly where you are supposed to be on this journey.

Consider reflecting on the following as you finish strong in 2015:

I wish you the best in business for 2016.


Côté, J.E. & Levine, C.G. (2002). Identity, formation, agency and culture: A social psychological synthesis. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Entrepreneur [Def. 1]. In Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved November 10, 2015, from

Garcia, M.D. & Welter, F. (2011). Gender identities and practices: Interpreting women entrepreneurs’ narratives. International Small Business Journal, 31(4), 384-404.

Abby Jandro, PhD
Perth, Western Australia
“Identifying as an Entrepreneur”

Bio: Dr. Abby Jandro is an Executive Coach and Leadership Consultant based out of Perth, Western Australia. Through her work she hopes to see more women starting and leading businesses, more collaborative leaders and more people enjoying their career. Learn more about her work at or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Back to Articles