The startup world has long been a tightly-woven, self-perpetuating male-dominated network, with females making only 5 to 10 percent of venture capital partners and 15 percent of angel investors. Men are thought to be more aggressive and risk-taking -- two skills necessary (but not sufficient) for startup success. However, a recent study from the Center for Venture Research shows that women are less risk-adverse than previously thought.
The study looked at data from 183 angel groups between 2000 and 2006, and showed that angel groups with more women had more investment activity. When women comprised of more than 10% of the group, their presence led to more and larger investments (they did not mention in whom they invested).
The Center for Venture Research explains this behavior with the "stereotype threat." When fewer women are in an angel group, women theoretically behave in ways which accentuate gender stereotypes -- namely, they are more cautious investors. However, as more women become investors, the threat is minimized, and women shed stereotypical behaviors. Jeffrey Sohl, director of the Center for Venture Research said, "As the number of women increases, there is less of a stereotype -- there are more women so they are more recognized for their ability as investors and less because of their gender."
Angel groups, which collectively source deals and co-invest, are notoriously homogeneous. Thus, having more women in the group adds to the diversity and network of deals. Not only are groups with more women seeing more diverse deals, but they're able to evaluate these deals with a richer perspective.
While the study did not mention any correlation to funding of female founders, it's likely that a more diverse set of angels can better attract and support female founders. The lack of female role models is an often cited barrier to gender equality in entrepreneurship. And investors -- who are usually more seasoned veterans of an industry -- often serve as mentors to their portfolio companies. With more women at the table, female entrepreneurs have a better chance at success.