Women Entrepreneurs Win More Funding

But a recent report finds that they also represent only a fraction of venture competition participants.

A NEW REPORT PRESENTS good news and bad news about women’s representation in venture competitions. The bad news: Women account for less than 18 percent of venture competition participants in the study sample. The good news? They win the majority of the prizes.

The report was released in October by Girls with Impact, a nonprofit based in Greenwich, Connecticut, which sponsors an entrepreneurship program for young girls. The report’s co-authors include Jennifer Openshaw, the nonprofit’s CEO; and David Noble, assistant professor of residence at the University of Connecticut School of Business in Mansfield and the executive director of its Entrepreneurship & Innovation Consortium.

Openshaw and Noble analyzed data from an annual venture competition held at one state university over five years. They found that women made up 17.8 percent of the 900 students who took part in these competitions, which collectively included 328 teams.

Among the winning teams:

  • Nine of the 17 first-, second-, and third-place teams had least one woman founder.
  • Thirty-five percent of these teams had women CEOs.
  • Two of the five first-place teams had women CEOs.
  • Three of the five first-place teams had woman founders.

Furthermore, teams that were founded by women received $90,000 of the $160,000 in prize money.

The study’s sample size might be small, says Openshaw, but venture capitalists, policy leaders, educators, and business leaders still should take note of its findings, because they indicate how much potential could be tapped if more women were encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship.

The report stresses the importance of intervening early in the educational process to connect female college and high school students with women entrepreneurs. The University of Connecticut, for example, has a role model intervention program in which it exposes young girls to women engineers. As a result, it has seen more of these girls go on to major in engineering.

“A 13-year-old girl that is exposed to entrepreneurship will not question whether it is acceptable for her 27-, 34-, or 55-year-old self to become an entrepreneur,” the co-authors write.

Bottom line? For startups, it can pay to have a woman on the team—and for that to happen, society needs to change its assumptions about gender and entrepreneurship, says Noble. “Too many biases exist with the assumption that women aren’t as good as men. This [study] is another nail in the gender bias coffin.”

To read “The Entrepreneurship Talent Gap,” visit girlswithimpact.com/report-2017/.