HBS Professor Alison Wood Brooks, Wharton Professor Laura Huang, MIT scholar Sarah Wood Kearney, and MIT Associate Dean Fiona Murray have conducted three intriguing new studies about the effect of gender in entrepreneurial pitches. They found that investors are more likely to favor male entrepreneurs rather than female entrepreneurs. Attractive men do better than unattractive males.
In the first study, angel investors watched videos of real pitches and rated the attractiveness of the entrepreneurs. According to HBS Working Knowledge, "Male entrepreneurs were 60 percent likelier to receive a funding prize than were female entrepreneurs. Among those male entrepreneurs, investor-deemed attractiveness led to a 36 percent increase in pitch success. But for female entrepreneurs, their looks had no apparent effect on the success of their pitches."
In the second study, each participant watched two pitch videos, one of which was successful while the other was not. 50% of the participants were women. Roughly 2/3 of the participants preferred the pitches from males. Interestingly, the preference for male entrepreneurs existed both for the male and female participants who were judging the pitches.
In the final study, 194 participants watched a pitch video. The voices on the video could be either male or female. The voice-overs were accompanied by a photo, some of which had been independently rated as highly attractive and others that had been evaluated as less attractive. According to HBS Working Knowledge, "As with the previous studies, participants awarded higher ratings to pitches with male voices—deeming the male pitches more "persuasive," "fact-based," and "logical" than otherwise identical female pitches. Additionally, the participants preferred pitches from the "high-attractiveness" male entrepreneurs over those from "low-attractiveness" men. But looks had no significant effect on whether female-voiced entrepreneurs fared well."