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Gender role (in-)congruity and resource-provider gender biases: a conceptual model

Vartuhi Tonoyan (Management, California State University Fresno, Fresno, California, USA)
Robert Strohmeyer (Entrepreneurship, University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany)

International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship

ISSN: 1756-6266

Article publication date: 1 September 2021

Issue publication date: 23 September 2021




Existing entrepreneurship literature has provided mixed evidence as to whether resource providers discriminate against female-led innovative start-up ventures in their resource commitment decisions either in terms of the likelihood or conditions of resource provision. While some studies revealed evidence indicative of negative discrimination against female entrepreneurs, others have provided evidence suggestive of positive discrimination. In light of these divergent findings, the purpose of this paper is to develop a more nuanced and integrative approach to studying gender biases in entrepreneurial resource provision with greater attention paid to both moderating contingency factors and mediating mechanisms.


The authors develop a conceptual model and empirically testable propositions describing whether, how and when entrepreneurial resource providers are likely to under-, over- and equivalue female-led innovative start-up ventures relative to equivalent male-led start-up ventures. The model applies not only to institutional or private investors as providers of financial capital to start-up ventures as discussed extensively in extant entrepreneurship literature but also to prospective employees as providers of human capital and prospective consumers as providers of money in exchange for an entrepreneurial product or service. The authors discuss the gender-typing of the entrepreneur's core product/service offering as a key contingency factor likely to moderate the proposed relation. The authors further delineate the importance of what they refer to as the “first”- and “second-order” mediating mechanisms underlying the hypothesized relation between resource provider evaluations of the male versus female founder-CEO, the attractiveness of his/her start-up venture and the (conditions of) resource provision to their start-ups.


Building on social-psychological theories of descriptive and prescriptive gender stereotypes and extant entrepreneurship literature, the authors establish that gender biases are likely to occur because of resource providers' perceptions of women entrepreneurs at the helm of male-typed start-up ventures to be less competent and agentic, as well as less warm and other-oriented than equivalent male entrepreneurs leading male-typed start-up ventures. The authors discuss the implications of such gender-biased evaluations for the application of stricter performance standards to female-led-male-typed start-up ventures and the likelihood and conditions of resource provision to their companies. The authors further discuss why and when female founder-CEOs of a female-typed (gender-neutral) start-up venture are likely to be overvalued (equivalued) compared to equivalent male founder-CEOs. The authors also develop propositions on additional contingency factors and mediators of the gendered evaluations of founder-CEOs and their start-up ventures, including resource providers' “second-order” gender beliefs, the high-cost versus low-cost resource commitment, individual differences in gender stereotyping and the perceived entrepreneurial commitment of the founder-CEO. The authors conclude by suggesting some practical implications for how to mitigate gender biases and discrimination by prospective resource providers.


Discussing the implications of descriptive and prescriptive gender stereotypes on evaluative decisions of entrepreneurial resources providers, this study advances not only the women's entrepreneurship literature but also the more-established scholarship on the role of gender stereotypes for women's advancement opportunities in the corporate world that has traditionally viewed entrepreneurship as the solution for women fleeing the gender-stereotype-based discrimination in the corporate setting to advance their careers.



The first author thanks Larry and Patti Johanson for funding a research fellowship that supported her research. She would also like to thank the Dean of the Craig School of Business, Dr. Julie Olson-Buchanan, for the dean's generous support of her research. The authors thank the two journal anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback and suggestions. They are grateful to Drs. Jennifer Jennings and Karen Hughes for their encouragement to write this article. They also thank Abinaya Jegadhesan for the excellent copyediting and Thomas Lesney for the excellent proofreading.


Tonoyan, V. and Strohmeyer, R. (2021), "Gender role (in-)congruity and resource-provider gender biases: a conceptual model", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 225-242.



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