Skip to main content
About HEC About HEC Faculty & Research Faculty & Research Master’s programs Master’s programs MBA Programs MBA Programs PhD Program PhD Program Executive Education Executive Education Summer School Summer School HEC Online HEC Online About HEC Overview Overview Who
We Are Who
We Are
Egalité des chances Egalité des chances HEC Talents HEC Talents International International Campus
Life Campus
Sustainability Sustainability Diversity
& Inclusion Diversity
& Inclusion
Stories Stories The HEC
Foundation The HEC
Coronavirus Coronavirus
Faculty & Research Overview Overview Faculty Directory Faculty Directory Departments Departments Centers Centers Chairs Chairs Knowledge Knowledge Master’s programs Master in
Management Master in
Master in
International Finance Master in
International Finance
& Masters MS
& Masters
Ecole Polytechnique
-HEC programs Ecole Polytechnique
-HEC programs
programs Dual-Degree
students Exchange
Certificates Certificates Student
Life Student
MBA Programs MBA MBA Executive MBA Executive MBA TRIUM EMBA TRIUM EMBA PhD Program Overview Overview HEC Difference HEC Difference Program details Program details Research areas Research areas HEC Community HEC Community Placement Placement Job Market Job Market Admissions Admissions Financing Financing Executive Education Executive Masters Executive Masters Executive Certificates Executive Certificates Executive short programs Executive short programs Online Online Companies Companies Executive MBA Executive MBA Infinity Pass Infinity Pass Summer School Youth Programs Youth Programs Summer programs Summer programs HEC Online Overview Overview Degree Program Degree Program Executive certificates Executive certificates MOOCs MOOCs Summer Programs Summer Programs


Gender Difference on Crowdfunding Platforms: What Pitches Work?

Human Resources
Published on:

On prosocial crowdfunding platforms such as Kiva, which benefit low-income entrepreneurs, women-led campaigns tend to be significantly more successful than men's. To find out which specific gender dynamics explained this difference, HEC Paris professor Santosh B. Srinivas sought to sort out gender differences in the justifications for funding requests entrepreneurs made on the site.

crowd and pitch - adobe

©Kasto on Adobe Stock

Ellen in Mount Barclay, Liberia, is seeking $325 to buy fish and other food products to sell in her market. Amphai, who lives in an area in Thailand with few banks, is seeking $1,875 for her silk weaving business. Abed Al Azez, a refugee living in the West Bank, is asking for a $3,000 loan to build a car park.

The profiles of Ellen, Amphai and Abed Al Azez appear on the microfinancing site Kiva, along with their requests for loans. Donors (or “lenders,” as the site puts it) can loan amounts as little as $25, and when it is paid back, as it is in 96 % of cases, according to the site, donors can lend their money to a different entrepreneur or withdraw it.


Prosocial crowdfunding platforms play an important role in providing equitable access to capital to early-stage entrepreneurs, particularly women.


Though there is a demonstrated gender gap in access to finance, a 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers study reached the surprising conclusion that in 2015-16, women-led crowdfunding campaigns were 32 % more successful in obtaining financial backing than those led by men. I sought to find out what differences there might be in how men and women present their loan requests on prosocial crowdfunding sites, the effect of different pitches and — from the opposite end — how male and female donors may react to entrepreneurs’ requests on the site.

The importance of how people justify their actions

Much of the work in my dissertation is based on French sociologists Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s research on the way individuals justify their actions to others. They find that people’s justifications fall into six categories.

1.    Inspired justifications might center on an entrepreneur’s passion for a project. 
2.    Domestic justifications put an emphasis on family, perhaps how a craft or business has been handed down over generations, how the venture is part of a family heritage and that it will help the family. 
3.    Civic justifications will emphasize the positive effect a project will have on a community.
4.    Justifications based on fame might focus on the entrepreneur’s public recognition and success, that the person has been featured in the media or is popular on social media.
5.    Market justifications emphasize financial aspects, such as buying, selling and profits.
6.    Finally, industrial justifications attempt to show the efficiency of a venture, the professionalism of the entrepreneur and/or how funding will help improve productivity.


The choice of words used to justify requests for funding is important.


Three studies to determine gender differences

According to information on its website, the prosocial organization Kiva has funded more than $1.6 billion in loans in 77 countries, and has attracted 1.9 million lenders. Based on 1.2 million pitches provided by Kiva, I conducted three studies.

The first examined entrepreneurs’ use of different justifications, by gender. Using a sample of U.S. pitches, I found that justifications generally followed gender-role expectations. Women entrepreneurs were more likely than men to use inspired and domestic justifications and less likely to use market and industrial justifications in their pitches. Somewhat surprising, women were less likely to use civic justifications than men.

The second study, perhaps the most interesting, used pitches from multiple countries to look at the effectiveness of justifications used by women and men. I found that women and men are both more likely to be successful in quickly obtaining funding if they counteract certain stereotypical gender expectations. 


I found that women and men are both more likely to be successful in quickly obtaining funding if they counteract certain stereotypical gender expectations.


Potential donors are more likely to see women entrepreneurs as facing more structural barriers, and therefore to have a legitimate need for financial resources. At the same time, prosocial donors — who are not looking to make a profit but to make a social contribution — want to make an impact. Therefore, women entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful in attracting investment when they emphasize their desire to create change — to be proactive — and justify the potential of their venture (by using, for example, inspired and market justifications).

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to improve their chances when they can demonstrate a legitimate need (by emphasizing that their projects aim to contribute to the collective welfare rather than their own economic betterment, using civic justifications).

Male and female donors show no major differences

In the third study, using a random sample of 38,907 Kiva investors, my results showed, contrary to expectation, that male and female prosocial investors on crowdfunding platforms do not differ much in their preferences for certain justifications. In addition, women investors do not prefer to fund women entrepreneurs, for example.

While past crowdfunding research has focused on the attributes of entrepreneurs and the characteristics of successful campaigns, there has been a lack of attention to how the nature of justifications employed in crowdfunding pitches influences potential backers. These studies attempt to address this issue.

Moreover, this research adds to other studies that suggest that gender dynamics in crowdfunding are different from those in a traditional funding context.


Using 1.2 million crowdfunding pitches made available by Kiva, I developed a dictionary composed of words that indicate six different justifications, based on French sociologists Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot’s work. I first evaluated the six justifications’ validity using a sample from crowdfunding platforms, including and, and then scored each pitch for each of the justifications. I evaluated the success of the pitches based on the speed in which they received funding and the role different justifications played in a pitch’s success.


My research confirms that prosocial crowdfunding platforms, such as, play an important role in providing equitable access to capital to early-stage entrepreneurs, particularly women. In addition, it shows that the choice of words used to justify requests for funding is important. It is therefore recommended that entrepreneurs seek inspiration for their pitches by looking at successful past ventures for the language that was used.

Related content on Human Resources

Human Resources

Why Brilliant Multidisciplinary Academics Are Discriminated Against – And How To Fight Back

By Julien Jourdan

Human Resources
Management in Africa: Think Local!
Françoise Chevalier HEC Paris
Françoise Chevalier
Associate Professor
Human Resources

AI in HR: How is it Really Used and What are the Risks?

By Françoise Chevalier