Things that can be Fixed: Why Women Start Fewer Startups than Men

For the last few months I’ve been asking why women start fewer startups than men [1] (especially in the tech sector), and what can be done about it.

I’ve uncovered two key points on the issue so far:

+ There’s a drop off in gender ratio for admission numbers for women into graduate school for Masters & PhD degrees.

Why is that?  It would seem that perhaps women are being systemically discouraged from applying to graduate school, or that graduate school admissions processes are still biased against admitting women (or a little of both).  Either of those are harder to track down or prove than the data showing that the drop off occurs (academically known as Leaky Pipeline Theory).  Many startups (especially in the tech sector) come out of the creative froth of graduate schools, so this is a problematic starting point.

+ There’s also appears to be some sort of venture capital gender gap[2].  Perhaps this is further evidence of a social bias against women founding startups, or, it’s been suggested, perhaps women who do start businesses don’t think big enough.

I think both of these are approachable problems whose root causes could be determined by further research.

note: Some people proffer evolutionary psychology/childhood socialization theories, and while they might be factors, I mostly am not interested in them as I don’t see them as things that can be changed on a practical timescale.  Additionally, I think these points are places to work from, and would have a larger immediate impact.

[1] Study: Men Twice as Likely to Start Businessess (

[2] Women Entrepreneurs Face Venture Capital Gender Gap (


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One response to “Things that can be Fixed: Why Women Start Fewer Startups than Men

  1. From the hearsay statistics department:

    I read somewhere (sorry for no link) that disproportionate numbers of entrepreneurs have learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Or other characteristics that reduce their ability to get good jobs. This makes starting a business a more attractive option compared to the jobs they could get. I’ve also heard that learning disabilies are more common in men than in women.

    The dyslexia-entrepreneur source also said that Doctors, Lawyers, and Ivy League graduates are under-represented among entrepreneurs. The explanation was the same. They didn’t have to start companies and go through the risky underpaid startup years. They could get a safe rewarding job without doing that.
    By this rationale, one way to reduce the number of female nerd entrepreneurs would be to get existing businesses to offer them great jobs and careers. And heavily recruit qualified female students for the colleges that qualify them for great jobs.

    Labor stats are abundant, a stats nerd could probably tease out whether any of this is actually happening.