Purpose – This feminist standpoint study aims to make an empirical contribution to the entrepreneurial leadership and HRD fields. Women entrepreneur leaders' experiences of gender will be explored through a framework of doing gender well and doing gender differently to unsettle the gender binary. Design/methodology/approach – Against a backcloth of patriarchy, a theoretical gender lens is developed and a feminist standpoint research (FSR) approach taken in this study. There are five case studies of women entrepreneur leaders operating small businesses across North East England in sectors of IT, law, construction, beauty, and childcare. In each case study a two-stage semi-structured interview process was implemented and the women's voices analysed through a framework of doing gender well and differently. Findings – This paper highlights the complexities of gender experiences offering four themes of women entrepreneurs' experiences of gender within entrepreneurial leadership: struggling with entrepreneurial leadership; awareness of difference; accepting and embracing difference; and responding to difference, which are offered to challenge the gender binary and capture the complexities of how gender is experienced. Research limitations/implications – The field must begin to shift its focus from the dominant masculine discourse to foster understandings of gender experiences by using gender as an analytical category to enable the field to truly progress. Social implications – Women are still an under-represented group within entrepreneurship and within the higher echelons of organisations. This requires greater attention. Originality/value – This feminist study calls for both scholars and practitioners to analyse critically their underlying assumptions and bring a gender consciousness to their HRD research and practice to understand gender complexities within entrepreneurial leadership and organisational experiences more widely.