Study: In Business Pitches, Men and Women Tend to Receive Different Types of Questions

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
May 14, 2018

A recently published study by the Academy of Management found that, when it comes to pitching a business, men and women tend to receive different types of questions that, while not deliberate, have the effect of making it seem like women are on the defense while men are on the offense, according to Inc. The study, undertaken by researchers at Harvard Business School and Columbia University, looked at videos from 189 different company presentations at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference from 2010 to 2016. They found that 67 percent of the questions directed at men were what they called "promotional" questions, such as how big the market for the product is, while 66 percent of the questions directed at women were what they called "prevention" questions, such as how they will defend market share or protect their intellectual property. While both types of questions are important for investors to ask, the researchers said that answering the prevention questions has the effect of making it seem like women only care about not losing money and all the different ways things could go wrong. These questions, however, tend not to be the types of questions that excite investors, and that shows when it comes to how much capital entrepreneurs tend to raise. The study found that, for each additional prevention question that's asked by investors, entrepreneurs raise $3.8 million less in aggregate funding. Conversely, because male entrepreneurs are not asked as many prevention questions, investors don't as easily see the downsides of the venture they're backing. 

The researchers said that investors must be able to see the business case in asking both sorts of questions to both men and women, and that entrepreneurs should reframe prevention-type questions by giving promotion-type answers. 

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