Gender differences in firm performance: Evidence from new ventures in the United States

Prior studies examining the performance of female- and male-owned firms have generally reported that female-owned firms underperform male-owned firms. However, it is conceivable that the performance measures used by previous studies and/or their inability to control for key demographic differences may have contributed to this finding. For example, few studies use size adjusted performance measures and yet we know that female-owned firms tend to be smaller than their male counterparts. Similarly, risk is typically not considered even though evidence suggests that women tend to be more risk averse than men. We use a longitudinal (five-year) database of more than 4000 new ventures that began operations in the U.S. in 2004 to determine whether potential differences in the performances of female- and male-owned firms disappear when appropriate performance measures are used and important demographic differences are controlled for in the models. The performance measures we examine include: 4-year closure rates; return on assets (ROA); and a risk-adjusted measure (Sharpe ratio). Univariate test results confirm our expectation (based on both liberal and social feminist theory) that there is no difference in the performance of female- and male-owned new ventures provided performance is appropriately measured. Further, these results are supported by our multivariate analyses, which control for demographic differences such as industry, experience and hours worked. Our findings should be of interest to researchers, financiers, advisors and policy makers. Perhaps more importantly, our findings should also ensure that women who are contemplating starting a new venture are not discouraged from doing so by a false belief that new ventures initiated by women are less likely to succeed than those initiated by men.

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