Fetsch: Debating gender

Editor’s note: This post was republished with permission from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Growthology blog.

Last night in Chicago, Kauffman Vice President of Research and Policy Dane Stangler participated an Inc. Debate asking the question “Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made”? He was joined by Tom Gimbel of the LaSalle Company and Riana Lynn, a Google entrepreneur-in-residence, who both believe that entrepreneurs are born. Stangler, along with Craig Wortmann from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, argued that entrepreneurs are “made.”

The debate featured many arguments about entrepreneurs: their success, education, and genetic disposition. For example,  The “born” side argued that research shows genetic personality traits (like creativity) that are tied to entrepreneurship, and therefore, particular individuals are genetically hardwired for entrepreneurship.

The “made” side countered the creativity argument by saying:

Another argument from #TeamMade included an argument that entrepreneurship is not representative, with women and people of color less likely to become entrepreneurs. This disparity suggests that entrepreneurs are impacted by societal barriers. So, if we accept that entrepreneurs are born, are we accepting the uneven distribution of entrepreneurial activity?

This question captures a key interest of the Kauffman Foundation. Underrepresentation by women in entrepreneurship is a concern, not only from a fairness perspective, but from an economic perspective. With American women half as likely to become entrepreneurs compared to their male counterparts, the U.S. economy is missing out on potential innovation and economic growth.

A new resource, Kauffman Compilation: Research on Gender and Entrepreneurship, assembles an assortment of our work related to the entrepreneurial gender gap. The compilation highlights a range of Kauffman resources featuring gender research including:

  • State of the Field: a summary of gender and entrepreneurship research written by experts in the field.
  • Kauffman Index of Startup Activity: the report which examines new business creation activity, which highlights the difference in entrepreneurial rates by gender.
  • Policy Digest: a summary of policy recommendations related to women entrepreneurship that will inform and educate lawmakers.
  • Growthology: a Kauffman blog which strives to be the premier resource for exploring entrepreneurship research, making complex findings accessible to entrepreneurs, policymakers, media outlets, and fellow researchers.
  • Research papers: Labor After Labor outlines the challenges facing working mothers, in both traditional work and entrepreneurship, and the policy solutions that can help them succeed. Sources of Economic Hope highlights the economic potential related to women entrepreneurship is high-growth fields.
  • Grantee work: a recent article written by Kauffman grantee Sarah Thébaud which summarizes her work examining how work-family policies connect with women entrepreneurship.

While the debate as to whether entrepreneurs are born or made will remain, entrepreneurship’s value to the country is unquestionable. As Kauffman continues to explore how to boost entrepreneurship, especially among underrepresented populations, we will continue to assemble our resources. Stay tuned for more compilations focusing on how race and immigration relate to entrepreneurship.

Emily Fetsch | Courtesy of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Emily Fetsch | Courtesy of the Kauffman Foundation

Emily Fetsch is a research assistant in Research and Policy for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and assists in the processing of new grants including grant research, grant write-ups, setting deadlines, and reviewing financials. She also assists in writing literature reviews and informative briefs, and conducts quantitative and/or qualitative analysis on the economy, policy, and entrepreneurship.


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