Set Up to Fail: Explaining When Women-Led Businesses Are More Likely to Fail


Journal Article

© The Author(s) 2017. Drawing on role congruity theory, we examine whether and when women-led ventures are more likely to fail than men-led ventures. We investigate the relationship between the gender of the leading entrepreneur and business failure and three important moderators of this relationship: whether the leadership assignment is consistent with merit, whether the venture operates in a female-dominated industry, and whether the venture is operated by a spousal team. Drawing on a unique, nationally representative data set of entrepreneurial firms sampled from the U.S. population in 2005 and followed yearly until 2011, we demonstrate that female entrepreneurs’ businesses are more likely to fail than those of their male counterparts. Regarding the moderating effects, our results show that female entrepreneurs’ businesses are more likely to fail when their merit-based competence is inferior to that of their cofounders. However, in the same scenario, male entrepreneurs are still able to lead their businesses successfully. We also find that women entrepreneurs’ disadvantages in leading new businesses are amplified in contexts that many have expected to be supportive of women, including in industries dominated by women and within spousal teams. Together, our results suggest that women’s disadvantages in leading their businesses may be perpetuated by gender beliefs that discount women’s leadership. Based on our findings, we discuss our contributions to theory and practice, and we offer implications for future research.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Yang, T; del Carmen Triana, M

Published Date

  • March 1, 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 45 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 926 - 954

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1557-1211

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0149-2063

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0149206316685856

Citation Source

  • Scopus