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Overcoming Gender Stereotypes in New Venture Board Networks

English title Overcoming Gender Stereotypes in New Venture Board Networks
Applicant Wincent Joakim
Number 201139
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Technologiemanagement Universität St. Gallen
Institution of higher education University of St.Gallen - SG
Main discipline Science of management
Start/End 01.09.2021 - 31.08.2024
Approved amount 187'767.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Science of management
Applied psychology

Keywords (6)

gender bias; new venture boards; venture capital; stereotypes; elite networks; gender diversity

Lay Summary (German)

Dieses Forschungsprojekt untersucht die Bildung von Boards (Verwaltungsräten) junger Wachstumsunternehmen, auch Startups genannt. Es wird untersucht, welche Selektionskriterien in der Bildung von Boards relevant sind und wie Individuen ihren Board-Sitz erlangen. Hierbei rückt die Rolle von Frauen in den Fokus, da bisherige Netzwerkstrukturen in diesem Bereich überwiegend durch Männer geprägt sind. Das Projekt hat zwei wesentliche Ziele: 1) Barrieren zu erforschen, die Frauen bei der Besetzung von Board-Mandaten in neuen Technologieunternehmen behindern und mögliche Strategien zu untersuchen, diese zu überwinden; 2) Ansätze zu ermitteln, wie Frauen einen Mehrwert für das Elitenetzwerk realisieren und wie sowohl Männer als auch Frauen dabei unterstützend wirken können.
Lay summary

Wissenschaftlicher und sozialer Kontext

Ein spezieller Fokus des Projekts liegt in der Untersuchung der Gender-Diversity, wie diese zustande kommt und welche Auswirkungen diese auf junge Firmen hat. Dies ist besonders relevant, da der soziale Studienkontext abseits jeglicher Regularien oder Quotas für Gender-Diversity agiert. Im Vergleich zu börsengelisteten Unternehmen sind Technologie-Startups neu gegründete Firmen, welche sich in einem Netzwerk von professionellen Venture-Capital-Investoren bewegen. Dieses Netzwerk ist stark männlich geprägt, agiert abseits der Öffentlichkeit und benachteiligt tendenziell Frauen in der Akquise von Investitionskapital und beim Zugang zu Netzwerkressourcen. Das Venture-Capital-Netzwerk wird so auch als «Old Boys’ Club» bezeichnet. Gerade diese Gruppe männlicher Investoren besetzt vorrangig die Boards der Technologie-Startups. Das Forschungsprojekt versucht daher einen Beitrag zu leisten, wie derartige Strukturen nachhaltig überwunden und verbessert werden können, um ein Verständnis zu entwickeln, wie der gesamtwirtschaftliche und gesellschaftliche Beitrag neuer Technologieunternehmen erhöht werden kann.  

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 02.08.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Name Institute

Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
196239 Tracking and Managing Economic and Social Impact of COVID-19 through Collective Emotions, Media Traces, and Satellite-Based Remote Sensing Data 01.08.2020 Special Call on Coronaviruses
169426 Learning More when Learning Together: Antecedents and Consequences of New Venture Team Learning 01.02.2017 Project funding (Div. I-III)


Scholars, entrepreneurs, investors and the public have raised consistent concerns regarding the venture capital (VC) scene due to its gender discrimination and stereotyping. Women working in VC environments are disadvantaged because of a historical “boys’ club” culture that instills social categorization and homophilous selection mechanisms in its elite network. The core of the elite network-the interlock network of overlapping board engagements over several ventures-has especially been debated in recent research and practice for its resistance to change. The objective of this three-year research project is to improve our knowledge of the costs and benefits associated with gender diversity in new venture board interlocks backed by venture capital. The proposed inquiry is important because these networks are reported to be highly gender biased in research, and women working in such VC environments are disadvantaged. Representing different stereotypical attributes than what is expected of the elite group prototype makes it difficult for women to gain legitimacy and to interact successfully within these elites. Although research findings appeal to women to find ways to comply with the expected behavior, there is no well-developed and empirically supported theory on how women-and also the men involved-can cope with, address, and potentially change the expected norms and existing stereotypes to enter male-dominant elites. It remains to study what set of strategies can be successful in overcoming barriers to participation and, in particular, how network actors (both men and women) can trigger change or sustain highly criticized stereotyping norms and discriminatory settings. This study aims to fill this gap by building on our preliminary work and by investigating elite networks, that is, board interlock networks, among VC-backed new technology ventures. New ventures provide the unique opportunity to study board-formation processes from its foundations and in the absence of any transparency regulations for women quotas. The overall objective of this research proposal is twofold: (1) to research the barriers impeding board appointments of women on new technology ventures, how women overcome such barriers and what strategies they use, and the responsibilities of men and their contributions to relationship-building for female elite network participation and (2) to study contributive and counterproductive mechanisms to reducing stereotyping and discrimination to understand if and how women add value to the elite network as well as how both men and women can be supportive in explaining performance implications of increasingly gender diverse boards. In this study, we focus on a Swiss-European context. Comparable to Scandinavia (e.g., Finland in our pre-study context), new ventures in Switzerland are required to have a board (“Verwaltungsrat”) when founded as a stock corporation, which enables important and progressive theorizing of a context that may be hard to study elsewhere. Progressive and change-driven theorizing is often considered lacking in gender research because of its focus on the problems with stereotyping and discrimination.A lack of qualitative data that allow theory building causes a limited understanding about how women build their pathways in networks expecting salient male characteristics. Likewise, quantitative data going beyond the binary gender categories are missing to understand performance implications. This project is an initiative of the Global Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Gallen and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation group at Luleå University of Technology. The members of this team have been conducting research in the field for more than a decade.