LAS Research Feature: Sean Williams, Technical Communication and Information Design

Dr. Sean Williams, TCID

Sean Williams, Associate Professor and Director of the Technical Communication & Information Design (TCID) program, recently published the article “Narratives of International Women Entrepreneurs: An Exploratory Case Study of Identity Negotiation in Technology Startups” in IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. Read on for a summary of the research.

Female entrepreneurs play a significant role in new business creation, yet women’s entrepreneurship stories remain largely absent in professional communication research. Therefore, a need exists to “give voice” to female entrepreneurship experiences, and this study conducted by Sean Williams (Associate Professor, Technical Communication and Information Design) with colleagues from Spain and China explores the unique identities that female entrepreneurs from different backgrounds express in their narratives. In short, this study asked, “How do female entrepreneurs express a unique entrepreneurial identity in their narratives?”

Professor Williams and his team recruited women who self-identified as technology company entrepreneurs, each from a different culture, and recorded their oral narratives about their entrepreneurial journeys. The research team then built what they call “identity curves” for each entrepreneur which map the frequency of values expressed in the stories on 34 different characteristics such as “assertiveness,” “long-term orientation,” “caution,” or “optimism.”  The study suggests that these female entrepreneurs align closely on how they talk about and understand gender even though they diverge widely on the ways that their cultural background influences the way that they built their technology businesses. 

The study is important for helping teachers and scholars to challenge the idea that a single “entrepreneurial identity” exists, especially for female entrepreneurs. As we complicate our understanding of the ways that unique individuals view entrepreneurship, we open a more inclusive space for conceptualizing what it means to do “entrepreneurship,” therefore inviting more diverse participants into the important, creative activity of building new businesses.  

Full citation:

Williams, S. D., Ammetller, G., Rodríguez-Ardura, I., & Li, X. (2020). Narratives of International Women Entrepreneurs: An Exploratory Case Study of Identity Negotiation in Technology Startups. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication63(1), 39-51.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *