Overcoming Gender Bias In Entrepreneurship
This week I wanted to touch on a problem that is pervasive throughout not just entrepreneurship but through society as a whole: Sexism. There are a lot of articles that have been written which express the strides that have been made towards closing the gender disparity in entrepreneurship and if we examine the most successful corporations in America we can see that a growing number of them were founded by women, or have at least one female in a high level executive position with several more on their board.
Flickr, Liquid Paper, Build A Bear, Bath and Body Works, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and Proactiv Solutions are just a small sampling of currently successful multimillion-dollar businesses founded by women. According to Forbes venture capital investment for women entrepreneurs grew 20% in 2013 to 16% of total V.C. investment. While this improvement should be lauded, I still see a problem when I compare this to the fact that over 50% of the fastest growing businesses in 2013 were male run. Society now has no problems with allowing women to take the reigns and run and manage large corporations, but still doesn’t want to fund these ventures.
Some Surprising findings about Sex & Sound Appeal
A study released in February by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists in the United States (PNAS), aimed to find out if there was a natural gender bias when it comes to Venture Capital funding, and not surprisingly the data came back overwhelmingly that a gender bias exists among both males and females. The study gave participants the same exact funding pitch presented in 4 different ways. In a male voice or a female voice, and with a picture attached of either an attractive male, a less attractive male, an attractive female, or a less attractive female.
Bias Against Women Found in Both Sexes
Given the same exact pitch, venture capitalists were overwhelmingly willing to fund the pitch given in a male voice with a photo of an attractive male attached, surprisingly the least likely to be funded was the pitch presented in a female voice with a picture of a very attractive female attached to it. This disparity existed between both male and female venture capitalists, in fact women were the least likely to fund the pitch presented by an attractive female.
Fixing the Problem will take conscious effort
This study points to a specific issue that will not be solved unless conscious effort is put into it. Winning the generic lottery enough to be deemed as attractive by society as a whole also increases your chances of launching a successful venture capital campaign, unless you’re also a woman. These are subconscious pre-judgments that we make and will continue to make until bigger societal changes occur. I wish I could offer a more profound or deeper insight into this problem; but unfortunately, the only solution I know of at present is simply to be aware of your own biases in hopes of minimizing their impact on your overall decision making process.
If you have any suggestions for further action that could be taken on the issue or would just like to sound off on the topic in general, feel free to leave a comment.