Women less likely to hold leadership roles in mixed-sex businesses

Women who start new businesses with men experience limited opportunities to move into leadership roles. Similarly, women who co-found a business with their husbands have fewer chances to be in charge, according to study results published in the American Sociological Review.

Researchers used a national representative sample of 362 mixed-sex small, everyday businesses still in the startup stages, comprising 880 entrepreneurs and 70% husband-wife teams.

Study results showed gender inequality was reduced when entrepreneurial teams adopted organizational templates, such as signing a formal operation agreement and developing a business plan in the early stages of the company. These steps helped entrepreneurial teams evaluate men’s and women’s competence more equitably.

Men and women had about the same chance to lead a team when that team adopted a formal ownership agreement, but without such an agreement, men were 85% more likely to be in charge than women.

“This work raises awareness of the conditions that limit women’s access and also makes us aware of what might be done to increase the likelihood that women will attain positions of authority,” Tiantian Yang, a graduate student in the department of sociology in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s college of arts and sciences, stated in a press release. “Our explanation for more pronounced gender inequality in spousal teams is that when husband and wife work together, they carry with them the cultural expectations for the male breadwinner and the female homemaker roles into the business setting. And the more children there are at home, the more it amplifies the expectation that the women will also take on the role of leader of the household.”

For more information:

Yang T. Am Sociol Rev. 2014;79:303-327.

Disclosure: The researchers have no relevant financial disclosures.

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