“Woman-Owned” Business Label Increases Perceptions of Competence

Under 2nd round review at the Journal of Consumer Research.

It is widely acknowledged that gender bias has negative effects on women in business, ranging from hiring and promotion to pay and access to venture capital funding. Here we identify a strategy that women founders can employ to boost business outcomes. Specifically, we theorize and empirically demonstrate across five preregistered studies (N = 2500), including a field study, that affixing an owner attribute label such as “woman-owned business” can engender positive business outcomes, including perceptions of business competence and service quality (Studies 1-2). These effects are driven by an increase in perceptions of the business owner’s agency (Study 3). Affixing an owner attribute label is especially effective in situations that lack other credible cues of competence (Study 4) and in industries that are perceived as competitive (Study 5). The present work advances our understanding of stereotypes, discrimination, and identity in the consumer marketplace, and offers practical implications for business owners in traditionally marginalized groups who face—and must combat—stereotypes.