What? Gender bias in entrepreneurship?

Raise your hand if you think there is gender bias in entrepreneurship?

Well, I asked my undergraduates and most of them said a resounding NO.
So let’s look at what others are saying.
A recent article in TechCrunch suggests that Silicon Valley is well-known, and in fact successful as a enterprising metropolitan area of the US is because of its diversity – of gays, immigrants, Bohemians. “Just not women. Dunn and Bradstreet data shows that of the 237,843 firms founded in 2004, only 19% had women as primary owners. And only 3% of tech firms and 1% of high-tech firms (as in Silicon Valley) were founded by women.” What about executives? Even Apple? Yes, not one woman.

In non-tech firms, the statistics paint a different picture. women-owned firms constitute a minority of all firms (28 percent),
The number of women-owned firms increased by 19.8 percent from 1997 to 2002, compared with a growth rate of 10.3 percent for U.S. firms overall. The number of firms with employees increased 8.3 percent for women-owned firms and just 4.3 percent for U.S. firms overall. their relative importance in terms of sales, employment, and payroll actually has decreased over the same period.

Some statistics from several reputable sources* might shed light on this issue.

Men and women regarding:
Motivation – the same

Results of a Kauffman Foundation study showed women started companies because they wanted to build wealth, capitalize on business ideas they had, liked the startup company culture, and were tired of working for others and wanted to be their own boss. Just like men.

Education – the same

Women’s participation in business and MBA programs has grown more than five-fold since the 1970s, and the increase in the number of engineering degrees granted to women grew almost 10-fold.

Competence – the same

Not to start a feud here but some resources say women show more competent results than males at the helm.

So what’s the problem?
1. Bias. Not overt, rub it in your face bias. Comments like:
Q: What does an entrepreneur look like?
A: White, male, under 30, nerd, with no social life who dropped out of Harvard or Stanford (2009 National Venture Captialists Association conference).
VCs tend to invest in people they know, and since men and women network in different ways, and in different places they may not know each other.

2. Women-owned firms tend to be smaller than firms owned by men is that women tend to concentrate in low-growth retail and service lines of business.

3. Society
Check out INC.’s blog

“Society at large explicitly perpetuates motherhood and not parenthood, and implicitly enforces the status quo through its policies around access to childcare for babies, school calendars and thousands of other complicating factors,” says writer Stacey Higginbotham, arguing that women shouldn’t have to choose between raising a family and building a start-up any more than men should.

Do we have a problem? Depends who you ask.


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