Funded PhD Opportunity Claiming Legitimacy and Credibility - An exploration of the identity work undertaken by Female STEM Entrepreneurs

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Business and Management Studies


This research will contribute to the broader women entrepreneurship agenda but to the STEM agenda in particular which has been deemed significant in terms of the UK’s economic development. STEM subjects are considered to be key sources of innovation and job creation. Increasing the number of females in STEM careers is considered to be imperative to achieving the UK’s industrial Strategy. Indeed, only 1 in 10 STEM business owners are women and 13% of those employed in STEM occupations are women (Wise UK Statistics, 2014). DELNI STEM Business Group (2013) report that high level STEM roles constitute 11% of the workforce however, alarmingly men outnumber women by nearly 3 to 1. This is in contrast to other sectors where women constitute 47.3% of the 18-64 workforce. The STEM review in 2009 and corresponding STEM strategies developed in response (E.g. DELNI, Success through STEM, 2011; 2012) highlight the need for research which will help further unravel and address gender bias and disparity in STEM entrepreneurship.

Through the exploration of lived experiences and identity work undertaken by female STEM entrepreneurs, this PhD will not only contribute to the broader agenda of extending knowledge and understanding of the entrepreneurial behavior of females in the UK, but will help unravel the practices needed to encourage females to develop their STEM careers at all levels (DLNI, 2013). Gender perspectives on STEM entrepreneurship is an under researched topic (McAdam and Marlow, 2010; Wajcman, 2010). Whilst there have been various studies which compare male and female entrepreneurial behaviours, there is a need for research which moves beyond gender being an explanatory variable to understand how gender is represented in processes and embedded within contextual and structural arrangements (Alsos et al., 2013). Prior research has found that many female entrepreneurs are profoundly affected by the traditional sociocultural contexts where they need to work around patriarchal barriers in order to succeed (Marlow and McAdam, 2014; McAdam, 2013; Mazonde and Carmichael, 2016).

This PhD will adopt the lenses of identity work, legitimacy, power and emancipation to analyse lived experiences of female STEM entrepreneurs. A qualitative methodology is suggested where Weick’s (1995) sense making methodology, storytelling and critical incident interview techniques could be adopted to encourage female STEM entrepreneurs to reflect on prior experiences in order to help give meaning to experience. This will help them reflect on how to overcome barriers to be deemed legitimate STEM entrepreneurs.

This PhD will have a number of contributions. First, it will extend research in the entrepreneurship field by shedding light on the lived experiences of female STEM entrepreneurs. Second, it will extend the notion of identity work by applying it to a new context i.e. STEM entrepreneurship.  Third, it will have policy and practical implications by identifying interventions which can help support female STEM entrepreneurs which will feed into the wider local and national agenda aimed at encouraging more women into STEM entrepreneurship.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 65%


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 19 February 2018
Interview Date
12 March 2018

Contact Supervisor

Dr Kristel Miller

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #238406 when applying for this PhD opportunity