Sizing Up Entrepreneurial Potential: Gender Differences in Communication and Investor Perceptions of Long-Term Growth and Scalability

Laura Huang, Harvard Business School; Priyanka Joshi, San Francisco State University; Cheryl Wakslak, University of Southern California; and Andy Wu, Harvard Business School

Academy of Management Journal, Published online April 2020

Abstract: Female entrepreneurs have been found to face disadvantages as compared with male entrepreneurs, especially in acquiring the financial resources they need to sustain and grow their ventures. Across three studies, we examine how disparities in funding outcomes may be due to differences in how entrepreneurs communicate their ventures, whereby female entrepreneurs have a tendency to use more concrete language when describing their ventures than do their male counterparts. We find that use of abstract speech affects investors’ perceptions of which ventures are oriented towards long-term growth and scalability—which in turn, affects the likelihood that a venture will receive investment. We conclude with a discussion of the important role of communication style as a key mediating mechanism in influencing the cognitions of investors.