Small Business Economics

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 131–151 | Cite as

Where is my partner? The role of gender in the formation of entrepreneurial businesses

  • Yisook Lim
  • Chan S. SuhEmail author


This study examines the ownership structure of nascent businesses with a particular focus on the role of gender. Based on theories of gender and entrepreneurship, we examine how male and female entrepreneurs differentially mobilize their preexisting social and cultural capital to launch new businesses. With their limited social and cultural capital, we expect that female entrepreneurs are more likely to establish either a solo or a family-only enterprise rather than a non-family business in comparison to male counterparts. Moreover, we explore the possibility that female-led solo or family businesses tend to show lower performance compared to the male counterpart. Using a nationally representative data of nascent entrepreneurs in the USA, the results suggest that female entrepreneurs are more likely to found enterprises alone or with family members than their male counterparts especially when they lack social or cultural capital. In addition, our findings show that solo or family businesses run by female entrepreneurs tend to display lower initial performance compared to males. The results have important implications for broadening our understanding of the role of gender in the formation of entrepreneurial businesses.


Gender Family Female entrepreneurship Entrepreneurial team 

JEL classification

J15 L26 



We are grateful to M. Diane Burton, Brian Rubineau, Wesley Sine, Pam Tolbert, and the project members of Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship in the Institute of Social Science at Cornell University for their valuable comments. We also thank anonymous reviewers for their helpful and insightful suggestions.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Organizational Behavior, The ILR SchoolCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyChung-Ang UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea

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