Gender Dynamics in Crowdfunding (Kickstarter): Evidence on Entrepreneurs, Backers, and Taste-Based Discrimination

  • Hadar Gafni, Dan Marom, Alicia Robb, and Orly Sade
  • Review of Finance
  • A version of this paper can be found here
  • Want to read our summaries of academic finance papers? Check out our Academic Research Insight category

What are the Research Questions?

Does the gender gap extend to the crowdfunding arena?  We have reason to believe that it does not or at least is not as severe as observed in other capital raising arenas. The relative anonymity of these platforms may indicate women may be more involved in raising capital via crowdfunding.   The authors argue a persuasive case.

The Internet enables practically barrier-free entry to these platforms, thus there are fewer gatekeepers who may be biased against women and, hence, restrict access to a wider variety of entrepreneurs. In addition, the Internet allows people to be involved in a much more anonymous fashion. There is often little or no in-person or face-to-face interaction between project leaders and funders; thus, women might feel more comfortable launching a project or idea in this space, even in industries that are typically male-dominated. The introduction of such platforms may well attract greater female participation.

The authors test 4 hypotheses:

  1. The level of participation of female entrepreneurs on the platform is different from the level of participation of male entrepreneurs.
  2. Female entrepreneurs participate in different project categories at a different rate than male entrepreneurs.
  3. Female entrepreneurs set lower funding goals than male entrepreneurs.
  4. Female entrepreneurs will, ceteris paribus, achieve lower success rates than male entrepreneurs.

What are the Academic Insights?

  1. YES. Hypotheses 1 and 2 focus on the level of participation of women vs. men in crowdfunding. Specifically,  women were 34.7% of project leaders and 36.4% of the subset of funded projects. Also, women were identified with specific categories in which they tend to participate.  Female entrepreneurs were clustered in some categories of projects and not others. For example, see the category Comics, Design, Games, and Technology (Panel A in Table I), where male entrepreneurs represent 76% to 92%.  A similar result occurs when comparing the Dance, Fashion, and Food, where women entrepreneurs represented 77%.  Definitely a stereotypical result that mimics the patterns observed across industry sectors for US firms. In order to perform a more rigorous demonstration, the authors examined an industry that exhibited similar gender differences in the general economy and compared it to the same category on a crowdfunding platform.  It turns out that the Film and Video category fit the bill.  The results confirmed the basic hypothesis regarding participation by women.  The Film and Video category on Kickstarter, for example, exhibited 29.9% women as compared to 17.3% for the sector in the general economy for the director role.
  2. YES and NO for Hypothesis 3. There are noticeable differences in the average funding goals between men and women.  Referring to Table I, Panel A, women report an average of $3,200 in Dance and almost $19,000 in Technology categories.  On the other hand, men report a low of $3,000 in Dance to $66,000 in Games. The numbers are significant in an economic sense, but the difference in the overall averages ($6,468 for female-led projects and $9,468 for men) was not statistically significant.
  3. NO on Hypothesis 4.  The women in the Kickstarter sample produced a success rate of 82% compared to 76% for men.  Referring to Panel A, Table I again, the female-led projects exhibited a larger representation in terms of success in all categories with the exception of Games and Technology. 

Why Does it Matter?

This paper not only introduces us to different approaches and business categories in which Males and Females seek capital, but also the success rate of each, based on gender. Counter to results in other studies this research found that women are succeeding as well as men in raising capital in the crowdfunding arena.

The Most Important Chart from the Paper

The results are hypothetical results and are NOT an indicator of future results and do NOT represent returns that any investor actually attained. Indexes are unmanaged, do not reflect management or trading fees, and one cannot invest directly in an index.


This study focuses on the launch phase of the leading reward-based crowdfunding market—Kickstarter. It documents the behavior of male and female entrepreneurs in raising early stage capital. We find that women share as entrepreneurs in the platform (34.7%) does not equal to their share in the overall population, and they are concentrated in stereotyped sectors, both as entrepreneurs and as backers. We also find that women do not set lower funding goals than men, they enjoy higher rates of success than men, even after controlling for project categories and funding goals, and that backers of both genders have a tendency to fund entrepreneurs of their own gender. Our survey of Kickstarter backers finds evidence of taste-based discrimination by male backers.

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About the Author: Tommi Johnsen, PhD

Tommi Johnsen, PhD
Tommi Johnsen is the former Director of the Reiman School of Finance and an Emeritus Professor at the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. She has worked extensively as a research consultant and investment advisor for institutional investors and wealth managers in quantitative methods and portfolio construction. She taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels and published research in several areas including: capital markets, portfolio management and performance analysis, financial applications of econometrics and the analysis of equity securities. In 2019, Dr. Johnsen published “Smarter Investing” with Palgrave/Macmillan, a top 10 in business book sales for the publisher.  She received her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, with a major field of study in Investments and a minor in Econometrics.  Currently, Dr. Johnsen is a consultant to wealthy families/individuals, asset managers, and wealth managers.

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For informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as specific investment, accounting, legal, or tax advice. Certain information is deemed to be reliable, but its accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. Third party information may become outdated or otherwise superseded without notice.  Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nor any other federal or state agency has approved, determined the accuracy, or confirmed the adequacy of this article.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Alpha Architect, its affiliates or its employees. Our full disclosures are available here. Definitions of common statistics used in our analysis are available here (towards the bottom).

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