The Role of Psychological Factors and Gender for IT Start-ups

Woman with laptop

The second in our series of entrepreneurship reports is now online. On behalf of NCWIT and The Kauffman Foundation, we have been exploring what the social science literature tells us about why there are so few women entrepreneurs in the IT field. This review considers psychological factors.

Our review identifies an extensive psychological literature on gender and entrepreneurship. Topics include personality traits, motivations, psychological foundations of leadership and management style, adolescent predisposition to entrepreneurship, the impact of stereotypes, positive illusions such as overconfidence, and stress. We found, however, that for the most part this literature does not yet extend to an Information Technology context. As it is, we are most confident with the following conclusions:

  • Risk-taking propensity is the psychological trait most likely to distinguish between men and women who become entrepreneurs and those who do not.
  • Stereotypes about women and about entrepreneurs have little overlap, and women's self image seldom includes entrepreneurship.
  • When motivated to become an entrepreneur, women are more likely than men to do it out of desire for work-life balance.
  • When women become entrepreneurs, their management and leadership styles are likely to differ somewhat from men's by being more consensual and empowering.

Further research is needed to determine whether any or all of these conclusions extend to the IT domain. Even if they do, their implications for the gender imbalance among IT entrepreneurs require further analysis.

To read this literature review, and the previous one on firm growth and persistence, visit the NCWIT Publications page.