Exploring Women’s Career Transitions into Entrepreneurship During the COVID-19 Pandemic Through the Lens of the Kaleidoscope Career Model
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ABSTRACT This research was conducted to help organizations, other researchers, and women interested in entrepreneurship understand the complexity of the experience of women entrepreneurs. The Kaleidoscope Career Model (KCM) Theory and the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) were used to explore how participants perceived their individualized experiences and made sense of their motivations for becoming entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The two research questions were 1) What are the lived experiences of women who left traditional jobs to pursue entrepreneurship during the COVID-19 pandemic? and 2) How do the KCM motivational parameters of authenticity, balance, and challenge factor into the participants’ decisions to leave traditional jobs to pursue entrepreneurship? Although sampling was open to any woman over age 18 who owns at least 51% of her business, and who started her business after March 13, 2020, interestingly all 8 participants were women of color. This unforeseen emergence of racial homogeneity of the participant sample provided interesting perspective for analysis that went beyond age, geographic region, and gender, which were anticipated demographic differences. Interviews were conducted via Zoom with 15 open-ended questions and three supplemental activities, a Critical Incident Technique (CIT), a KCM scale, and a Self-Anchoring scale. Findings show that Gen Xers and Y/Millennial’s indication of authenticity as the primary motivator in early and mid-career stages. Authenticity and balance were both identified as primary. Participants relied on guidance from a higher power to get through difficult times. Participants reflected on life and focused on the opportunity to act versus the crisis. Several implications for policymakers, organizations, and researchers to consider were initiatives centered on cultivating authenticity as a motivator of women in early and mid-career, incorporating reliance on a higher power as a coping mechanism during entrepreneurial challenges, consideration of women of color as an intersectional factor in research, and advancing intrapreneurship within organizations. A delimitation was the geographical focus on the United States. Future studies should implement longitudinal research designs to monitor the progress and hurdles faced by women entrepreneurs across an extended timeline, encompassing data from before and after the pandemic and delving into more experiences, successes, and challenges faced by women of color in entrepreneurship.