Mind the gap: The role of gender in entrepreneurial career choice and social influence by founders

Vera Rocha*, Mirjam van Praag

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Research summary: Women continue to be disproportionately underrepresented in new venture creation. We investigate whether and how founders can differently influence future entrepreneurial career choices of their male and female joiners. Using a large sample of startup firms with personnel where founders interact closely with joiners, we demonstrate that founders have a strong influence on a joiner's entrepreneurial career choice if both are female. We find empirical support for role modeling as a key underlying mechanism, accounting for alternative explanations such as selective matching based on gender and push-driven factors. These findings increase our understanding of the roles of socialization and organizational context in shaping the career outcomes of employees, and provide evidence of a multiplier effect of female entrepreneurs. Managerial summary: Women are less likely to be entrepreneurs than men. We investigate whether working in a startup founded by a woman instead of a man influences individuals' decision to become an entrepreneur later. We find this to be the case for women. This result is best explained by female founders acting as role models for their female employees in male-dominated domains. Female founders able to break gender stereotypes seem to have an influence on the career choices of their female employees, especially among those who have lacked contact with entrepreneurs. Moreover, this influence is stronger if the female founder and employee have similar backgrounds. These findings confirm the importance of social interactions at work and suggest new ways to inspire more women to launch startups.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)841-866
    Number of pages26
    JournalStrategic Management Journal
    Issue number5
    Early online date17 Jan 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


    • entrepreneurship
    • female leadership
    • gender gaps
    • organizations
    • role models


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