Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Keith Berry, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Patrice Buzzanell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Steven Wilson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Rubin, Ph.D.


gender and organizational paradox, identity and identification, relational dialectics theory, new materialism, performativity


Despite the number of women entrepreneurs on the rise globally, the business world and the identity of the entrepreneur remain to be normed masculine and male gender stereotyped. This male gender stereotyping situates women who practice entrepreneurship in disadvantages, limiting their access to resources on which they depend to make meaning of their activities and identities. This imbalanced masculine gender order also manifests in China’s economy. Women entrepreneurs in China face complex contradictions and challenges when navigating an arena that privileges men and masculinity. However, not much is known about the micro-dynamics of Chinese women’s entrepreneurial experiences in light of China’s sociocultural and socioeconomic contexts. My dissertation, therefore, takes a discourse-oriented approach to explore 34 Chinese women entrepreneurs’ meaning making of their gender and work identities, by delving into their storied experiences. This project draws upon the structurational model of identification to consider identification as situated action and builds on the framework of relational dialectics theory (RDT) to investigate the dynamic patterns of discursive struggles. A contrapuntal analysis made of thematic analysis and a type of discourse analysis revealed two overarching themes of competing discourses that activated participants’ working lives, including the discourse of misalignment and the discourse of integration. Participants’ narratives also illuminated specific patterns of how dynamic relations between competing discourses were (re)produced in dialogue, as well as how relations of discourses shaped specific practices in dialogue. Ultimately, this project contributes to ongoing calls in communication and across disciplines, such as critical family and interpersonal communication research and intersectional feminist organizational communication research. It also extends RDT both theoretically and contextually.