Investors more likely to give to men over women who are pitching the exact same idea

Well, this is depressing. ThinkProgress flags a new study that shows just how much the gender of the person doing the pitching affects what business proposals are invested in.

Researchers from Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Wharton School examined three entrepreneurial pitch competitions along with two controlled experiments. “[W]e find that investors prefer entrepreneurial pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared with pitches presented by female entrepreneurs, even when the content of the pitch is the same,” they write. Good looking men were particularly persuasive, although physical appearance didn’t make a difference for women. This leads to what the researchers identify as “a profound and consistent gender gap in entrepreneurship.”

And it’s no joke that the gap is profound. Women-led companies got just 13 percent of all venture capital funding last year, are less likely to get small business loans, and composed a tiny 3 percent of the companies that went public in the last couple decades. 

This enormous gap despite the fact that women are actually nearly twice as likely to start businesses as men. (Yep, this is not one of those gender gaps you can even begin to blame on lack of interest.) Think about what that means–not just for the female entrepreneurs who worked hard and took some risks and probably will never know for sure if their business would have succeeded if only they’d been a hot dude. Imagine all the good ideas that never reached their potential just because a woman had them. Remember: these were the exact same pitches. That’s a loss for all of us.

You’d think folks in the venture capitalist and entrepreneurial communities–who presumably have far more faith in the invisible hand’s ability to identify and invest in the best ideas than an anti-capitalist like me does–would be seriously concerned by research like this that suggests gender bias is throwing such a major wrench in their visions of a perfect capitalist meritocracy. I look forward to seeing the innovative solutions they’re working on to address this.

Maya DusenberyIn other news, Maya is accepting applications from attractive men who’d like to deliver pitches to investors on behalf of Feministing.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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