A woman's place is in the… startup! Crowdfunder judgments, implicit bias, and the stereotype content model.

Johnson, M. A., Stevenson, R. M., & Letwin, C. R. (2018). Journal of Business Venturing, 33(6), 813-831

Topics: Entrepreneurship, Gender Stereotypes, Funding

Year: 2019

Country: United-States


The present study explores a more nuanced theory regarding the relationship between crowdfunding decisions and investor stereotypes. Key takeaway: The gender biases held by investors increase their stereotyped perceptions of females as trustworthy which increases their willingness to invest in early-stage women-led ventures. 


Research in venture capital financing (provided to small and early-stage firms) show that investors tend to disadvantage women in funding decisions due to implicit bias. Wanting to explore a more nuanced theory, the authors argue that, in early-stage funding, gender stereotypes might increase funding for women entrepreneurs. The study focuses on implicit bias that underlie crowdfunding decisions. Based on the stereotype content model, women will be perceived as more trustworthy which will result in that female entrepreneurs would be more likely than male entrepreneurs to get financed. On the other hand, women will be seen, stereotypically, as less competent. The “implicit gender bias will moderate the indirect effect of gender” via a moderated-mediation path (conditional indirect effects of the dependent variable on the outcome). 


They test their hypotheses using a “dual path moderated-mediation model”, across two studies. The first study uses archival data, and the second is an experimental study that examines the funder’s decision-making process.

For the first study they study the relationship between gender and funding decisions, using archival data from the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. They randomly selected 416 Kickstarter projects with clear gender information. To identify the impact of gender on the amount of funding received, they run a logistic and Poisson regression. The results show that women were significantly “more likely to be funded than men”. 

For the second study they conducted a randomized experiment in which they examined the impact of the gender of the pitching entrepreneur (hired actors, male vs. female entrepreneur). The participants were amateur investors that formed a sample of 73 investors. Perceptions of trustworthiness and competence, willingness to fund, and implicit gender bias were measured by a questionnaire sent to the investors. They used “a regression-based, bootstrap approach to examine the direct and indirect paths” implied by their model. The study’s result provides support for the hypothesis that funder trustworthiness perceptions “influence their willingness to fund female entrepreneurs”.


Thus, their results demonstrate that “gender biases held by investors” increase their stereotyped perceptions of females as more trustworthy, which increases their willingness to invest. These results should be seen as encouraging for women as they demonstrate an alternative way by which women can “overcome the negative aspects of gender bias” and increase their probability of receiving funds. 

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