Portrait d'expert : Maud VAN MERRIENBOER

Maud VAN MERRIENBOER is a PhD student at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and her thesis focuses on the identities of ethnic minority entrepreneurs.

Can you introduce yourself in a few words?

My name is Maud VAN MERRIENBOER, I live in the Dutch city of Almere and work as PhD candidate at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. I am a passionate qualitative researcher with a BA in African studies and a MSc in organizational ethnography. I love animals, swimming, taking walks, listening to podcasts, playing games and reading. I am currently reading ‘The Calculating Stars’ by Mary Robinette Kowal, a brilliant sci-fi novel about women in space.  

What is your thesis topic?

My thesis focuses on the experiences and identities of ethnic minority entrepreneurs in the Dutch start-up ecosystem. I explore the challenges they face in constructing their entrepreneurial identities, but also look at ways in which they leverage their minority identities to acquire entrepreneurial resources.

Why did you choose this topic?

The Dutch start-up ecosystem is still a majority white and masculine environment, and underrepresented groups such as women and entrepreneurs of color do not have the same access to entrepreneurial resources as white and educated males. With my research I hope to increase the visibility and shed light on the experiences of these  groups as well as identify ways in which they can gain access to the same entrepreneurial resources as their counterparts.

And what surprised you the most about your research?

Without a doubt the willingness to cooperate and the openness of my research participants. I followed some of them  for more than a  year and during this time they really opened up to me. We discussed sensitive subjects such as experiences of racism and discrimination, family life and mental health. That they trusted me with their stories is something I recognize and am grateful for, and it benefits my research as well.

Why did you choose to work with Miruna?

Miruna is one of the authors of a brilliant literature review on entrepreneurial identity research, and this work serves as a cornerstone of my dissertation. Engaging in discussions with someone who knows the field well and can identify where the relevant gaps in literature are is very valuable. The second reason to work with Miruna is more personal. As a young woman in academia I benefit from mentorship and advice from women in senior academic positions such as Miruna. She recognizes my experience and can give me a glimpse of what I hope is yet to come in my academic career.

Can you tell us a little more about a concept you found in your research?

I recently became interested in the concept of authenticity. I think that most of us recognize the desire to truly be yourself both in private life and at work. Entrepreneurs in minority positions are no different, but also need to adapt to majority audiences and ‘play the game’ of entrepreneurship to fit in and access resources. My research participants struggle to navigate this tension between on the one hand fitting in and on the other hand feeling like your true self. I further find that this tension is especially visible in early stages of venture development when they not yet have obtained entrepreneurial legitimacy and impedes their entrepreneurial identity construction.  

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