Dev Dutta is fascinated by “high-tech ecosystems” comprising entrepreneurial startups, large established businesses, angel investors, venture capitalists, research institutions, universities and government arms—all involved in business innovation.
He has studied innovation and entrepreneurial success in the biotech industry ecosystem for years, with his research focusing on important performance characteristics in these ecosystems: survival, innovation, and commercialization of technology. Who thrives and who dives? And why?
His research findings show the benefits and challenges of knowledge partnerships, specifically the impact on the venture’s product development cycles, invention and commercialization success and acquisition prospects.
Dutta’s most recent study compared the survival and growth rates of men versus women-led startups in high-tech ecosystems.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests women-led ventures fare more poorly,” said Dutta, associate professor of strategic management at Paul College. “The reasons offered include mostly lack of female interest, family draw, and work-life balance issues. I wanted to test this against actual data.”
Drawing upon liberal feminist theory, Dutta and his co-researchers examined the Kauffman Foundation records of nearly 5,000 US-based startup firms from 2004 to 2011, in terms of their survival and growth prospects. What they discovered intrigued Dutta.
“Survival is not affected by gender difference,” Dutta said. “The problem arises later, when women-led ventures aim for growth in revenues and staffing, and look for support from ecosystem partners.”
To identify a primary reason for the disparity, Dutta and his team examined gender inequality data across U.S. states. They found a strong negative relationship between economic attributes of gender inequality (specifically, women’s median incomes, access to Small Business Association loans, involvement in managerial and administrative positions, and so on) and firm growth, and only for women-led ventures. And yet, when these barriers were removed, i.e. in states with comparatively higher levels of gender equality, on average female-led ventures outperformed their male-led counterparts.
Dutta’s findings hold enormous implications, both for creating a climate of gender equality and national prosperity.
“Can we create contexts where everybody can thrive?” Dutta said. “I think we can, but it will take concerted action by federal and state governments to help create ecosystems that offer a fair playing field for everyone.”