"I Wanna Be Free" : On the Challenges and Coping Strategies of Women Entrepreneurs in Sweden

Abstract: Women's entrepreneurship is often presented as important for creating economic prosperity at the national level and is said to offer freedom, independence, and emancipation for women. The purpose of this study is to explore the conditions of women entrepreneurs who have different backgrounds in Sweden. To achieve this purpose, this study focuses on the challenges women entrepreneurs perceive and the coping strategies they employ to navigate these challenges. The study adopts an intersectional gender perspective, grounded in research on entrepreneurship, gender, and ethnicity. It draws on qualitative data collected through semi-structured interviews with women entrepreneurs in Sweden who have different backgrounds. The findings show that the challenges experienced by the women entrepreneurs included lack of support, being belittled, being excluded, having to work harder and be strong and having to adapt. The analysis discusses that these challenges can be understood as a result of gendered perceptions of entrepreneurship and processes of Othering. Ethnicity and race also play a role in shaping these conditions. The interviewed women deal with the conditions through four strategies: the assimilation strategy; the positive strategy, the ambiguity strategy, and the change strategy. The coping strategies are discussed in relation to empowerment and emancipation. From a theoretical perspective, this study contributes to developing concepts and conceptual relationships to capture how gender, ethnicity, and race impact women's conditions as entrepreneurs.