The State of Social Science Research on Gender and IT Entrepreneurship

This brief paper concludes the Gender and IT Entrepreneurship project that we conducted for NCWIT with support from the Kauffman Foundation. In this final paper, we present a high-level overview of our four summaries of social science scholarship on women’s underrepresentation and the conditions that promote women’s success as IT entrepreneurs, and we conclude with suggestions for a research agenda.

Our four summaries covered research on the influence of psychological issues, financial capital, social capital, and growth and persistence of firms. Another important consideration in gender and entrepreneurship – education and human capital – was not covered, primarily because the relevant literature about this theme as it relates to women or gender and IT entrepreneurs is so scant. Even the literature related to the major themes is thin, and it has another potential problem: the relevance of findings for the IT industry is questionable when studies were conducted in other industries. In sum, the social science research on gender and IT entrepreneurship is in its infancy.

To focus attention on questions that capitalize on related scholarship but address the unusual circumstances in IT, we recommend that the highest priority be given to investigations of the following issues:

1. Founder goals. How achievable are different founder goals in the IT industry? Are there gender differences in founder goals related to IT innovation? Are there consequences from founder goals that can be seen in employee turnover, or social or environmental impact of IT products? What factors or conditions affect gender differences in founder goals?

2. Social capital. How do gender differences in social capital affect achievement of founder-defined success in IT companies? How do the social networks of men and women in academia influence their chances of IT entrepreneurship?

3. Human and financial capital. How do gender differences in technical education and experience affect access to financial capital for, and outcomes from, IT entrepreneurship?

William Aspray and J. McGrath Cohoon are NCWIT social scientists conducting research on women and IT entrepreneurism as part of a projectsupported by the Kauffman Foundation.

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