Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration

First Advisor

Banu Özkazanç-Pan

Second Advisor

Maureen Scully

Third Advisor

Marcy Crary


Despite organizations’ growing concerns over the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities in the United States, not enough is known about the conditions that lead underrepresented minority professionals to exit organizations and become entrepreneurs. Through an intersectionality lens and using a phenomenological methodology to form descriptive themes, this study seeks to further explore the experiences of minority professionals in organizations. Specifically, the focus of the study is to understand the conditions prompting underrepresented minorities to become entrepreneurs and either straddle or exit when launching their ventures. Although underrepresented minorities launching their own businesses is not a new phenomenon, the idea that there may be specific drivers within their organizational environment that move them in this direction that may be different from the non-minority population could add to our understanding of what causes them to choose entrepreneurship over employment at another organization. Employing qualitative fieldwork, the study utilized in-depth interviews with 30 underrepresented minority entrepreneurs to understand their experiences. These interviews included individuals who have exited by leaving the organization and launching their own businesses and those who straddled (stayed) while launching their businesses. Examining the experiences of the participants through a lens of intersectionality sheds light on the ways that overlapping identities interact in the face of power and oppression. This study considers the intersecting identities of gender, race, class, and age as well as their relationships with power structures within organizations as reported by underrepresented minorities. It also sheds light on why some individuals choose exit over voice and provides insights about the interactions of identity, power, and organizational structures in management and organization studies. The study finds that underrepresented minorities continue to face negative identity-based experiences within organizations due to the power structures that reinforce and support oppression.