This is Not a Game: Massive Simulation Experiments on Entrepreneurial Gender Bias

37 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2019 Last revised: 9 Sep 2019

See all articles by Valentina Assenova

Valentina Assenova

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Ethan R. Mollick

University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School

Date Written: September 6, 2019

Abstract

We propose that using simulation experiments with random assignment of players to roles presents a useful way to test and expand organization theory and elucidate the interplay between micro-processes and macro phenomena. In this paper, we discuss the advantages of using these simulations to conduct organizational experiments at scale and illustrate the usefulness of these experiments by looking at theorized causes of entrepreneurial gender bias using The Startup Game, a role-playing simulation of capital raising in Silicon Valley. In this game, we randomly assigned 27,082 players in 259 organizations to founder and investor roles involving fictional companies. We thereby generated multiple “worlds” with different features, which enabled us to look at how player role assignment influenced organizational outcomes. We found that assigning identical startups to female (vs. male) founders systematically resulted in 11 percent lower valuations from investors. We looked at variation across game runs using data from multi-founder teams to understand why. We found that assigning one percent more female players to the investor role resulted in lowering the gender gap in startup funding by 272 percent. These results suggest that equalizing the investor pool potentially holds the key to reducing entrepreneurial gender bias. We discuss the implications of our findings for the value of using simulated experiences to design more equitable organizations and markets.

Keywords: startup, gender, equity, simulations, games, entrepreneurship

Suggested Citation

Assenova, Valentina and Mollick, Ethan R., This is Not a Game: Massive Simulation Experiments on Entrepreneurial Gender Bias (September 6, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract= or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3305349

Valentina Assenova

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania ( email )

3620 Locust Walk
SHDH Suite 2000
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

Ethan R. Mollick (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Wharton School ( email )

The Wharton School
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

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