Research shows that women around the world are less likely to consider entrepreneurship as a career path, largely because they don’t see other women entrepreneurs as role models.
They’re also less likely to have the management experience that can lead to starting a company. Just 19 percent of top executives are women, according to a LeanIn.org and McKinsey report, and a main reason they don’t rise is because they are less likely to have mentors in senior leadership.
That changes when women run companies. The gender pay gap shrinks, and women are more likely to be promoted, according to research of public companies by Linda Bell, an economist and provost of Barnard College. “Whether by cause or effect, the presence of a top woman executive has a really robust impact,” she said.
Women are also left out of financing networks, which are predominantly male and often operate through referrals from friends. They are more likely to invest their own money instead of outside capital in their businesses, and when they seek investors, they ask for less.
Networks are important for another reason: emotional support. “Launching an entrepreneurial venture is a lonely and sometimes scary undertaking, and you need to have people to talk to,” Ms. Coleman said.
Incubators — physical spaces where people start businesses and meet other entrepreneurs as well as lawyers, accountants and investors — don’t help. In a study of 18,000 firms started in incubators, only 6 percent were by women.
Another factor could also be at play. Women are generally more risk-averse than men. That makes them better equity investors over the long term, studies have shown. It also discourages some from entrepreneurship, and from trying to build high-growth businesses. In some cases, that might be a wise investment decision, too, considering about half of new businesses fail within five years.