Abstract

In this article, I develop and empirically test the theoretical argument that widely shared cultural beliefs about men’s and women’s abilities in entrepreneurship (i.e., “gender status beliefs”) systematically influence the social interactions during which an entrepreneur, particularly an innovative entrepreneur, seeks support from potential stakeholders for his or her new organization. To evaluate this argument, I conducted three experimental studies in the United Kingdom and the United States in which student participants were asked to evaluate the profiles of two entrepreneurs and to make investment decisions for each. The studies manipulated the gender of the entrepreneur and the innovativeness of the business plan. The main finding is consistent across studies: gender status beliefs disadvantage typical women entrepreneurs vis-à-vis their male counterparts, but innovation in a business model has a stronger and more positive impact on ratings of women’s entrepreneurial ability and overall support for their business ideas than it does for men’s. However, the strength of these patterns varies significantly depending on the societal and industry context of the new venture in question. Findings indicate that gender status beliefs can be understood as an important “demand-side” mechanism contributing to gender inequality in aggregate entrepreneurship rates and a micro-level factor affecting the likelihood that a new and novel organization will emerge and survive.

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