Are men better entrepreneurs than women? Many of you are probably nodding your head right now. Men are traditionally portrayed as being more successful than women in starting and maintaining a business. Men dominate the list of famous entrepreneurs. The few women who do show up on the list such as Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray are known for running businesses that cater primarily to women. So there’s your answer. Men are better entrepreneurs.

Or are they?

The real answer lays not in the size of the businesses that women run but in the type of business. According to the National Women’s Business Council, the economic impact of women-owned businesses in the United States is just shy of the $3 trillion mark, a number that is far too large to be ignored. The reality is that women often own and operate smaller businesses. Businesses that fulfill a local need and are more goal-oriented than profit driven. (source)

Many men enter adulthood with both the belief and expectation of success. They are groomed from their earliest years to think and act big. Women are expected to be more subdued and to define success not in dollars and cents but in relationships and familial achievements. The values taught during youth follow us into adulthood. In an article written for the SBA, Kepler and Shane note that “Female entrepreneurs have lesser expectations for their businesses than male entrepreneurs. … They expect to generate lower profits and employ fewer people than male entrepreneurs because they are less highly motivated to make money and more motivated to achieve other goals.” (source)

While a man may start a business with the dream of being the next Bill Gates or Mark Cuban, a woman may start a business merely to gain financial independence and nothing more. Kathy Caprino of, in an interview with Susan Sobott of American Express, noted that women become entrepreneurs for entirely different reasons than men. She may not be concerned with owning a large house and having thousands of employees. She may simply want to carve out her niche in the world and leave it at that. (source)

Looking beyond simple upbringing, the reasons why women business owners often fly below the radar can also be found in the types of businesses they choose to start. A woman who runs a scrapbooking store for two decades is obviously an intelligent and capable businesswoman. However, it is the equally intelligent and equally capable man who starts a manufacturing firm that will get the headlines. Because men tend to think and act on a larger scale, their businesses have those same characteristics. While both the man and the woman are a success, the key measure that society uses to measure them by – money – will be larger on the man’s side simply because of the type of industry.

So the real answer is most likely that neither sex is “better” at entrepreneurship. Each gender has their own motivations and desires that they are trying to fulfill. Women are more grounded, focused and have more personal reasons for wanting success. Men may be driven by societal expectations that they will be powerful businessmen. There are successful entrepreneurs on both sides of the XY chromosome fence so most likely, neither gender is “better” than the other.

Read more: In Business, Still ‘Very Much a Man’s World’