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SSE researcher Mark A. Conley has received the Academy of Management Journal’s Best Paper Award for his research on motivation and gender bias in startup funding. This is the first time the prestigious award has been presented to a researcher at a Nordic institution.

Mark A. Conley is an Assistant Professor at House of Innovation at the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) and holds a PhD in Psychology from Columbia University, in the US. The paper was co-authored by Dana Kanze, Laura Huang and E. Tory Higgins and is titled We Ask Men to Win and Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding. This research is already being incorporated into entrepreneurship curricula at Stanford, NYU, Columbia, Duke, SSE, and other leading business schools.

“You know, hardly a week has gone by for over a year that we haven't heard from entrepreneurs who have been helped by reading this work,” says Mark A. Conley. “I'm proud to have been a part of this research team who found how motivations can be expressed in a Q&A exchange. My favorite part of this work is the experiment of course, where we tested our idea about how to use motivational language to make those Q&A exchanges more fair and to give every entrepreneur a fighting chance to grow and build business. This won't be our last meaningful contribution to the Academy of Management or for the study of motivation and entrepreneurship!” 

This is the first time that a researcher at a Nordic institution has received the Academy of Management Journal Best Paper Award. Previously, researchers at institutions such as Stanford University, University of Cambridge, Harvard Business School, University of Oxford and Yale School of Management have received the award.

“At SSE House of Innovation, we are all very proud of Mark and his tremendous achievement,” says Professor Magnus Mähring, Chair of House of Innovation. “Our aim is to produce excellent research like this with important practical implications. Not only have Mark and his co-authors shown that gender bias in venture capital distribution stems in part from the way investors ask questions of entrepreneurs — they have also crafted and tested actionable solutions to the problem.”

About the article

The article sets out to explain why male entrepreneurs are known to raise higher levels of funding than their female counterparts. Mark and his collaborators propose that the gap originates with a gender bias in the questions that investors pose to entrepreneurs. The study reveals that investors tend to ask male entrepreneurs promotion-focused questions and female entrepreneurs prevention-focused questions. Furthermore, entrepreneurs tend to respond with matching promotion-focused or prevention-focused answers. The research team finds that those asked promotion-focused questions raise significantly higher amounts of funding than those asked prevention-focused questions. Every additional prevention-focused question significantly hinders the entrepreneur’s ability to raise capital, fully mediating the effect of gender on funding. The research team also finds that entrepreneurs can significantly increase funding for their startups when responding to prevention-focused questions with promotion-focused answers, rather than with a prevention-focused answer.

The winner of the Best Paper Award was announced at the Academy of Management Meeting in Boston in August 2019.

Kanze, D., Huang, L., Conley, M. A., & Higgins, E. T. (2018). We Ask Men to Win and Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding. Academy of Management Journal, 61(2), 586-614. Link

More information about House of Innovation can be found here.

Curious to know more? To get in involved with entrepreneurship research, please contact Assistant Professor Mark A. Conley (mark.conley@hhs.se) or Research and Outreach Manager Jakob Rudberg (jakob.rudberg@hhs.se, +46739813611).

House of Innovation