Bryant University’s Isil Yavuz has a passion for women’s entrepreneurship. The Assistant Professor of Management, who teaches and conducts research on the topic, is part of GoBeyond’s Rising Tide Europe program, an angel investing group consisting of women investors. With women still experiencing discrimination in the business world, she says, it’s important that individuals have a smooth liftoff when starting a business and a positive market exit when they decide to sell their business to investors or another company.
For the past year, Yavuz and three Bryant colleagues — Peter Nigro, Sonal Kumar, and Leila Zbib — conducted research comparing male-founded businesses to women-founded businesses in terms of their likelihood for positive market exits through mergers and acquisitions or an initial public offering.
According to Yavuz, many studies look at how being a woman influences the type of business an individual starts, which often impacts financing and the company’s size. Women tend to own smaller, low-growth companies, such as retail shops or hairdressing businesses. Meanwhile, more men tend to create high-growth companies, particularly in emerging STEM industries.
“Very few studies look at whether there is a difference between male and female-started businesses and how they exit the market,” says Yavuz, adding that the research paper is in progress.
Yavuz shares that women are less likely to have a positive exit partly because women-founded businesses have less access to venture capital financing.
“Venture capital financing really influences positive exits because they have money and networks,” Yavuz says. “Because women cannot access these financing sources as well as men, they have more difficulty in these types of exits.”
She explains that even when women receive venture capital financing, they are not asking as much as they should for their companies, referencing a study where women were asked to negotiate on behalf of themselves and then negotiate for another person. Out of the two scenarios, women were more successful negotiating for others.
Yavuz, who teaches about women’s entrepreneurship at Bryant, says that women who study entrepreneurship gain knowledge and self-confidence.
“Research shows that entrepreneurship education infuses the success of women more than men,” Yavuz says.
When she’s not in the classroom, Yavuz serves as an angel investor — someone who supports a business financially. Her investment group, the Rising Tide Europe program (which runs through GoBeyond), consists of 99 women angel investors from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States.
Yavuz says the key to increasing the number of successful women-owned businesses is through angel investing and venture capital financing. As women in the newly founded businesses establish themselves, they become role models for others and become angel investors who can support other women entrepreneurs, she says.
As for how to be a successful entrepreneur, Yavuz says women need to take action. And many are: Over the last 20 years, the number of women-founded businesses has grown exponentially; women-owned minority businesses are also on the rise. Today there are approximately 13.94 million businesses owned by women while, in 1997, the United States Census Bureau reported 5.4 million women-owned businesses. According to Yavuz, 42 percent of the 32.5 million businesses in the United States today are women-founded.
As cyclical, women-centric investments increase and more young women receive entrepreneurship education, Yavuz says, the sky’s the limit for women in business.
“I see this upward trend continuing to grow over time,” she says.