Starting a business with a male partner? You may want to make sure everyone’s roles are firmly established before jumping in.


Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered that women who co-found ventures with men are significantly less likely to get chances to assume leadership roles within those newly-formed companies.

And for women who think it will be easier to enter into such a business relationship with the man they married, sociologists had worse news: those who started companies with their husbands were offered even fewer chances to be in charge.

“This work raises awareness of the conditions that limit women’s access and also makes us aware of what might be done to increase the likelihood that women will attain positions of authority,” graduate student Tiantian Yang, who led the study, told

Howard Aldrich – a Kenan Professor of Sociology and chair of the sociology department at UNC – worked with Yang on what is said to be one of the first studies that explores gender roles in newly-formed businesses.

A total of 362 entrepreneurial teams of mixed genders were observed for the study, with a total of 880 individuals participating. Of those mixed-gender teams, 70 percent were husbands and wives. And if no formal guidelines had been established prior to the formation of the business, researchers found that women were 85 percent less likely to be in charge.

That number reduced drastically when partners signed an ownership agreement, however – in fact, when such an agreement was in place, women were said to be just as likely to assume leadership roles as men.

“It levels the playing field,” Aldrich noted, adding that such formalities should become standard practice for entrepreneurial teams.

He continued: “One of the things we hope this will do is provoke a conversation so that the next time a couple or a mixed-sex team starts talking about forming a business, they can ask, ‘Who should be the boss? Who is better at this? Let’s talk about the basis by which we’ll decide that.'”

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