Under the surface : Revealing how gender imbalance is created in governmental venture capitalists’ work processes

Abstract: Like other developed countries, Sweden has experienced gender ratio stagnation in entrepreneurship, where women entrepreneurs are underrepresented. According to a large body of literature, the ability to engage in entrepreneurial endeavors depends on entrepreneurs’ access to financial resources. However, research repeatedly shows that women often do not have the same access to funding as men and that male entrepreneurs are overrepresented in the financial support system for new ventures. In contrast with traditional lenders and investors (banks, venture capitalists, business angels, etc.), governmental venture capitalists (GVCs) have to adhere to national and EU regulations; thus, they must comply with gender equality requirements. However, national reports suggest that women and men entrepreneurs do not have the same access to governmental venture capital. Accordingly, to understand this imbalance in governmental finance distribution, the overall purpose of this thesis is to explore Swedish GVCs’ gender constructions in their external and internal communication, as well as in their cognition.To understand how gender differences may occur in GVCs’ social constructions, I draw upon gender role congruity theory, which provides insights into perceptions and beliefs about women’s and men’s expected roles in society. Accordingly, to explore GVCs social construction at the three levels (external and internal communication, and cognition) I employ a mixed-method approach. By doing so I use a variety of data and research analyses to provide both depth and width on the issue at hand.The empirical findings of the thesis reveal constant duality and dichotomies, and the construction of two distinct personas; they provide insights into the way the symbolism of entrepreneurship as a masculine endeavor is performed within GVCs’ work processes. The overall conclusion is that although GVCs are expected to be gender neutral in their work processes, an exploration of gender constructions in external and internal communication as well as cognitions confirms the existence of gender biases regarding both women and men entrepreneurs that undermine women and favor men. Considering the overall gender-neutral role GVCs are expected to play in providing gender equality in access of governmental venture capital, the thesis highlights the unconsciousness of gender bias as well as the difficulties of executing gender neutrality in practice.