New Study Finds Female Entrepreneurs Do Better with Guidance from Female Mentors

INFORMS Journal Marketing Science Study Key Takeaways:

  • Female entrepreneurs increase their chances of success and improved performance with female mentors.
  • One of the key benefits to female entrepreneurs is a mentoring style characterized as “positive engagement.”


BALTIMORE, MD, March 11, 2024 – In business and in life, the power of mentorship has long been understood, but how important is it that your mentor look like you? This question was at the center of a new study, which specifically found that mentor gender has a powerful impact on female entrepreneurs.

More to the point, in a randomized controlled experiment, researchers found that when a female entrepreneur is guided by a female mentor, her sales increased by an average of 32%. 

The study, published in the INFORMS peer-reviewed journal Marketing Science, is called “Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Empowering Female Entrepreneurs Through Female Mentors.” The authors of the study are Frank Germann of the University of Notre Dame, Stephen Anderson of Texas A&M University, Pradeep Chintagunta of the University of Chicago and Naufel Vilcassim of the London School of Economics and Political Science. 

The study authors conducted a randomized controlled field experiment with 930 Ugandan entrepreneurs. 

“The participants in our study operated from a physical building and were part of a business support program,” says Anderson. “We conducted one-on-one interviews with the participants between July and August 2015, and we also conducted a business audit and baseline survey the same year.” 

The researchers said that 40% of the entrepreneurs were female, and 54% were married. The typical entrepreneur was 31 years old, had two children and had completed high school or higher education.

“At baseline, the entrepreneurs’ firms, on average, were in operation for about four years and employed a very small staff,” says Germann. “Participants were randomly assigned to a Control (i.e., Comparison) group or a Treatment group. Those in the Treatment group were then randomly matched with a unique mentor.” 

“The mentors had a post-graduate degree and at least five years of work experience, and were located in various parts of the world,” added Vilcassim.

The researchers conducted follow-up business audits and surveys in May 2017. What they found was that female entrepreneurs do in fact benefit more from female mentors, because the female mentor- mentee arrangement was said to involve more positive and supportive engagement.

Generally, the researchers found that while the female-to-female mentorship dynamic yielded promising results, female entrepreneurs who were guided by male mentors did not significantly improve their performance relative to those in the Comparison group. 

“In the end, we found that to increase the likelihood of female entrepreneurship success, gender matching with female entrepreneurs is a promising strategy,” says Chintagunta. “Just as important, in cases where female mentors may not be available, male mentors could be more effective by adopting a style characterized by more positive engagement, which is akin to female mentors.”


Link to Study.


About INFORMS and Marketing Science 

Marketing Science is a premier peer-reviewed scholarly marketing journal focused on research using quantitative approaches to study all aspects of the interface between consumers and firms. It is published by INFORMS, the leading international association for operations research and analytics professionals. More information is available at or @informs.

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New Study Finds Female Entrepreneurs Do Better with Guidance from Female Mentors

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