Who Gets Venture Funding? Handsome Men

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It helps to be attractive if you want funding for entrepreneurial ventures. But only if you’re male. A paper published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirms gender bias in assessing entrepreneurial pitches and also finds that attractive men are more likely to get financial backing than their less-attractive male colleagues.

“The fundamentals of the entrepreneur’s business proposition and the previous experiences of the entrepreneurs themselves are regarded as the main criteria for investment decisions,” the paper asserts. However, there is “a profound and persistent preference for entrepreneurial ventures pitched by men, particularly attractive men.”

Identical pitches for venture funding were made by men and women, both attractive and unattractive. While physical attractiveness was a strong plus for men, attractive women fared no better than did unattractive women. “Male entrepreneurs were 60% more likely to achieve pitch competition success than were female entrepreneurs. There was a significant interaction between gender and attractiveness on the likelihood of pitch success,” the author report. “Among the male entrepreneurs, there was wide and significant variation across levels of attractiveness on pitch success. Among women, variation in pitch success across levels of attractiveness was not significant.”

When participants heard pitches but did not see the presenters to remove the influence of physical attractiveness, 68.33% of participants chose to fund the ventures pitched by a male voice.

The paper concludes, in part, “To the extent that female entrepreneurs are disadvantaged in entrepreneurial pitching simply by virtue of their gender, then women may remain underrepresented in the entrepreneurial economy. Moreover, the power of male attractiveness to persuade evaluators to select one pitch over another suggests that entrepreneurial opportunities may also be unevenly distributed even within the male population.

The paper, “Investors prefer entrepreneurial ventures pitched by attractive men,” was written by Alison Wood Brooks (Harvard Business School), Laura Huang (Wharton School), and Sarah Wood Kearney and Fiona E. Murray (MIT Sloan School). Their paper can be read here.

The paper confirms a gender bias that puts women at a disadvantage in entrepreneurship. Join the conversation at GlassCeiling.com and share your experiences, opinions or suggestions about how to eliminate or minimize this bias.

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  • kate

    How did they decide who was/wasn’t attractive?