Gender Bias Research Inspires App for Female Entrepreneurs

October 24, 2016
How research into the Second Glass Ceiling sparked a national phenomenon.

What started as research into gender bias in the entrepreneurial landscape quickly changed with an email from Silicon Valley.

“Out of nowhere, we get this email from this startup company that is applauding us for helping inspire them to create a company that is going to directly affect the second glass ceiling,” said Porcher Taylor III, who has a joint appointment as associate professor of management at the Robins School of Business and professor of paralegal studies in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

Taylor and his research partner Doug Bosse, also an associate professor of management, spent 2009-2011 researching what they call the “Second Glass Ceiling.” Bosse described it best.

“There’s a pattern of very highly skilled, knowledgeable, wise women who face struggles in corporate America, and then bail,” Bosse said. “They think, ‘I hit the glass ceiling in that organization,’ and so they say, ‘Well maybe I can do this myself, I’ll start my own business.’ And then they experience [the glass ceiling] again in a slightly different form as entrepreneurs.”

The “Second Glass Ceiling” refers to the gender bias female entrepreneurs face when trying to secure funding to start and grow their own companies.

In their research, Bosse and Taylor suggested that women business owners need to strengthen their professional relationships in order to help each other start new companies, and prevent the second glass ceiling phenomenon. That call to action is just what developer Marynn Garabedian was looking for.

“We had started researching women-owned business statistics and data to find out what women business owners needed the most,” Garabedian said. “In other words, what was their biggest hurdle or challenge when starting or scaling their companies. That is how I came across Dr. Bosse and Porcher Taylor III's eye-opening research.”

She and her co-founder Jeannine Torres make up a resident team at Chapman University Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship Launch Labs Accelerator in California.

“We wanted to create a single platform where women seeking advice, mentorship, or support could easily connect with each other,” Garabedian said. And so, their app, SWYK™, or Sharing Wisdom and Your Knowledge, was born.

“It’s an on-demand mobile platform that connects female founders with the wisdom of peers, experts, and resources to help them launch and grow their businesses,” Garabedian said.

Taylor was shocked, and humbled to hear their app was live and actively being used by female entrepreneurs.

“A dream fulfilled, if you will,” he describes. “Most professors dream that their research might have a society changing impact in some way, and I think based on this, we’re stepping down that path.”

He also mentioned how accurately a mobile app will address the problem of the Second Glass Ceiling in today’s society.

“It’s very timely, relevant and necessary to use technology like an app to educate business owners and entrepreneurs, and make them aware of resources out there to acquire the capital that they deserve,” Taylor said.

Taylor and Bosse’s research mentions that more than one trillion dollars of the U.S. economy is generated by women-lead firms. And they suggest that if the number of female entrepreneurs doubles over the next ten years as scholars have predicted, and they each run into the second glass ceiling, it’s possible two trillion dollars of the U.S. economy could be lost as a result.

“The stakes are very high,” Taylor said.

Doug Bosse is planning on becoming a mentor within SWYK, to directly collaborate with budding entrepreneurs and business owners to help stop the phenomenon where it starts.

“The fact that the app is live, the fact that they’re actively building the network, I can’t think of any down sides to what they’re doing,” Bosse said. “It can only be benevolent and helpful to address this bias.”

You can download SWYK for your smartphone here.