Women’s Entrepreneurship Research – What We’re Funding

The Kauffman Foundation put out a call for proposals for research in Women’s Entrepreneurship earlier this year as a part of our New Entrepreneurial Growth Initiative, which seeks to identify new areas in which entrepreneurial growth can help drive the United States economy.

There continues to be a large gender gap in the number of business owners, founders, and leaders in the United States, which has either remained relatively steady or improved modestly in the last decade, depending on the data source you look at. We believe this gap can narrow further with insightful research on the topic.

We received an overwhelming number of outstanding proposals and, after much deliberation, chose to fund twelve proposals.

Through this collection of research and the efforts of these talented researchers, we hope to better understand the challenges for women entrepreneurs, such as:

  • How women seek finance, and how investors choose to finance
  • How subconscious biases may affect women-owned businesses
  • How women’s leadership roles impact the success of companies
  • How and when women choose to start or join a new venture
  • The role gender plays in emerging fields of knowledge, such as: accelerators and crowdfunding

Upcoming Women's Research:

Measuring Women's Leadership in VC Funds 

Principal Investigator: Ruta Aidis, George Mason University, Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard

There is growing interest in identifying the gender impact of VC investments, however, the existing measures are often vague and implied rather than based on concrete data. This pilot project addresses this data gap by developing a uniform measurement tool for assessing women’s leadership that can be used by policymakers, VC firms and investors.

The Impact of Signals Sent by Men and Women on the Continued Interest of Angel Investors

Principal Investigators: Linda Edelman, Bentley University; Tatiana Manolova, Bentley University; Candida Brush, Babson College

This research seeks to answer what should be done about measuring implicit (unconscious) bias against women founders. Further, this research will seek to answer why a gender gap persists in obtaining business financing, and does the persistent underrepresentation of women in the financing industry, especially venture capital, play a role.

Strategies for Empowering Women Angel Investors

Principal Investigator: Susan Coleman, University of Hartford

Using The Rising Tide Program, an initiative designed by Kauffman Senior Research Fellow Alicia Robb to help address the gender gap in equity investing, this research will follow the women in this angel training program and identify changes in motivations, attitudes, and skill levels. This research will also evaluate which training activities are most beneficial in helping the participants prepare for investing in entrepreneurial firms, and it will evaluate investing behaviors in terms of amounts and types of investment.

Investor Perceptions of Women Founders in Entrepreneurial Resource Acquisition

Principal Investigator: Laura Huang, University of Pennsylvania

This project examines the signals and cues that women entrepreneurs may portray that influence the way potential resource providers (e.g., investors) subsequently evaluate these entrepreneurs and their new ventures.

Increasing Women’s Representation in Entrepreneurial Activity: A Longitudinal Study of the Rising Tide Program

Principal Investigators: Kyle Lewis, University of California, Santa Barbara; Renee Rottner, University of California, Santa Barbara; Sarah Thébaud, University of California, Santa Barbara; Joseph Broschak, University of Arizona; Christine Beckman, University of Maryland

This project will investigate both structural and stereotype challenges among women angel investors through The Rising Tide Program. This context has not been extensively studied in the entrepreneurship literature, but there is research evidence suggesting that increasing women’s presence on the investment side will have downstream effects on women’s entrepreneurial activity more generally.

Gender Differences in the Demand and Supply of Capital in Equity Crowdfunding

Principal Investigator: Mingfeng Lin, University of Arizona

The research will answer questions on how gender information on the founder, as well as gender composition of the founding team, affect the probability that the fundraising campaign is successful. It will also seek to answer whether there is a difference in the choice of startups between male and female investors—whether female investors are more likely than males to invest in female entrepreneurs.

Milestones and Women’s Engagement in the Entrepreneurial Process

Principal Investigators: Rory McDonald, Harvard Business School; Alicia DeSantola, Harvard Business School

This research extends the lens on women’s involvement in the entrepreneurial process beyond the act of founding a venture to examine how women shape success as influential employees, investors, and board members. It seeks to answer a number of questions concerning the evolving role of women as ventures attain developmental milestones.

Women’s Entrepreneurship and Rent Sharing: Can Female Entrepreneurs Help Close the Gender Income Gap?

Principal Investigator: Christian Moser, Princeton University

This research will use the Brazilian context to evaluate the extent to which female entrepreneurship can close the gender income gap. This project will aim to understand the income gap in Brazil, identify whether women are more or less likely to be successful entrepreneurs. 

Androgynous Names: Good for Women-Owned Businesses?

Principal Investigator: Amy Nguyen-Chyung, University of Michigan

Using a previously collected seventeen-year panel dataset that includes actual gender for 40,000 self-employed individuals, many of whom are business owners, and data to be acquired on perceived gender and ethnicity of agents, this research aims to expose how the use of androgynous names by women impacts her business.

Uncovering Challenges and Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs in St. Louis and Boston: An analysis of regional ecosystems and support organizations

Principal Investigators: Banu Özkazanç-Pan, University of Massachusetts; Susan Clark Muntean, University of North Carolina, Asheville

The researchers will evaluate gender-based patterns in access to and use of entrepreneurial support resources to assess any barriers for female entrepreneurs that may exist within individual behaviors and experiences, social network connections, and organizational support mechanisms.

Women’s Entrepreneurship and the Role of Accelerators: Challenges and Opportunities

Principal Investigators: Peter W. Roberts, Emory University; Sarah Kaplan, University of Toronto

This project takes data being collected through the expanding Entrepreneurship Database program at Emory University, which focuses on collecting information about startups that apply to a wide range of accelerator programs, and then tracks them over time. This project looks directly at the role of accelerators in women’s entrepreneurship.

Understanding and Increasing Women’s Participation in Pre-Entrepreneurial Activities

Principal Investigators: Bryce Ward, University of Montana; Kathy Kuipers, University of Montana; Paul Gladen, University of Montana

This project focuses on explaining and eliminating gender disparities in early stage, or pre-entrepreneurial, activities among university students and alumni by looking at the Blackstone LaunchPad and how entrepreneurs track through early stages of the startup process.

Women Founders of STEM Firms and Success Dynamics

Principal Investigator: Jennifer L. Woolley, Santa Clara University

This research will compare women and men entrepreneurs as individuals, compare their backgrounds, and look at the entire founding team to determine if the team composition varies by work or education if women are included, and the success of their firms.


A very special thank you to all who submitted proposals to this request and the outside reviewers we utilized to assist us in judging the proposals. We look forward to following up on this forthcoming research in future posts, and at a conference on women’s entrepreneurship in the fall of 2017.



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