The Unnatural Selection of Male Entrepreneurs

Harvard Business Review’s Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic says that there is such a disproportionate number of male entrepreneurs because (1) women are more financially risk-averse; (2) women are typically more patient than men, and are thus more willing to tolerate incompetent or abusive bosses; and (3)  women are universally disadvantaged when it comes to raising capital from VCs, obtaining loans, and impressing shareholders.

The first question many would ask is, How can more women overcome these deeply-embedded sexist barriers? In practice, however, the most effective way to level the playing field is for men to recognize these conscious or subconscious tendencies and decide to change their attitudes in hiring, investing, and granting loans.

4 thoughts on “The Unnatural Selection of Male Entrepreneurs

  1. My research paper for this class focuses on women in the entrepreneurial field, so I found this article extremely interesting. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is a really entrenched problem. Let me play the devil’s advocate for moment, however. Among the personality traits that seem to go hand-in-hand with successful entrepreneurship are tenacity and a disproportionate sense of self-efficacy. In other words, successful entrepreneurs do not let anyone’s “no” stop them, and they have an outsized sense of their own importance (at least to the venture) as well as a rather overblown belief in the accuracy of their judgment. (This is why a lot of them fail, too, of course.) But in a sense, this is necessary. How will you sell your product to customers who have never heard of the thing you’ve created, or talk a store into carrying it, or persuade a bank to loan or an investor to provide working capital, if you are easily intimidated?

    People don’t buy your products or services to be nice; they buy them because they need or want them. You have to overcome a great deal of inertia – or outright suspicion – to change people’s behavior generally. This requires a strong personality. Are these VCs doing the market a favor by weeding out weaker candidates?

    OK, enough devil’s advocate.

    There have been a lot of female entrepreneurs throughout America’s history – including immigrant and African-American entrepreneurs. Madame C.J. Walker, Debbie Fields, Martha Stewart, Doris Christopher, Sara Blakely, Jean and Jane Ford. And lots more.

    But if you look at the areas in which they have become multimillionaires, it’s telling: hair care products, cookies, home and style, cooking implements, clothing, cosmetics. Detect a pattern there?

    I submit that one of the reasons there are far fewer female entrepreneurs than male entrepreneurs at this point is because of where most the action (and venture capital) is at this point: science and technology. And women simply do not choose those fields in anywhere near the numbers that men do. If you know anything about education in those areas, you know that for the most part, by EIGHTH GRADE, the die is cast. If you aren’t prepared to study advanced sciences in high school, a degree in those fields is pretty much foreclosed.

    So, one of the “solutions” to the “more female entrepreneurs” problem – at least in the STEM fields – is getting more girls ready for science in GRADE SCHOOL.

    That is not an easy fix, and frankly not one that a lot of people outside engineering education are talking about. But until you have an equal number of girls playing in science as you have boys, you will never have the same number – or even just higher numbers – of female entrepreneurs creating high-growth companies in the areas that are generating a disproportionate amount of the VC investments