Doctor of Philosophy
Parker, Simon C.
This dissertation explores the impact of gendered language in start-up job advertisements on the perceived attractiveness of start-ups among individuals (‘joiners’) interested in working for new firms. While entrepreneurship research has established the prominent role of entrepreneurial joiners in start-ups and the importance of building a gender-diverse team, we know relatively less about how start-ups can attract more women joiners. This dissertation seeks to investigate whether women’s ratings of the attractiveness of joining start-ups increases significantly when start-ups use more feminine language in place of male-centric gendered language. Compared to men, I theorize that women are more sensitive to the use of gendered language due to their heightened sensitivity to cues of belonging in the context of entrepreneurship where women are negatively stereotyped. Conducting three independent randomized experiments, I find empirical evidence supporting my main hypothesis: Masculine gendered language in start-up job advertisements decreases women’s ratings of the attractiveness of joining start-ups, while more feminine language has the opposite effect. In line with my theorizing, men were scarcely influenced by the language used. In addition, the results from the experiments demonstrate that the effect of gendered language on women’s ratings of the attractiveness of the start-up is stronger for start-ups in male-dominated industries, highlighting the importance of industry context in understanding the effect of gendered language. Finally, I also establish anticipated belonging as a unique mechanism by which gendered language operates and rule out alternative explanations. By applying a gender lens, these findings contextualize and enhance our understanding of entrepreneurial joiners.
Summary for Lay Audience
Despite the well-known benefits of gender diversity in entrepreneurial teams, most start-ups are founded and staffed by men. So, how can start-ups attract more women joiners to increase the diversity of their venture teams? Hiring is a notoriously challenging task for start-ups, which compete with better-resourced incumbent firms for a finite pool of talent. Attempting to attract a gender-diverse group of applicants presents start-ups with an even greater challenge. What, then, can start-ups do to successfully attract more women joiners? This dissertation explores one possibility: replacing gendered language in start-up job advertisements with more inclusive language. I theorize that masculine gendered language reduces the perceived attractiveness of joining start-ups among women, especially for start-ups in male-dominated industries, with weaker effects on men. Three independent lab experiments provide empirical support for the hypotheses, suggesting that gendered language in start-up job advertisements disproportionately impact women’s ratings of the attractiveness of joining start-ups. In addition, the results shed light on the underlying mechanism by which gendered language operates. This mechanism turns out to be women’s heightened sensitivity to cues that inform their anticipation of whether they would belong in a start-up (‘anticipated belonging’), which may be attributed to the negative stereotyping of women in entrepreneurship.
Seong, Mihwa, "Gendered Language and Entrepreneurial Joiners" (2022). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 8550.
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