A few weeks ago I ran a social experiment. I asked my dinner companions - two white guys - to name 5 successful entrepreneurs.
The names started rolling off their tongues: Bezos, Musk, Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates... It took them less than 10 seconds to come up with an all-star list.
Then, I gave them the same prompt with a twist: the entrepreneurs they named had to be female.
Suddenly, they were silent. A few seconds later, one of them had an answer.
"Elizabeth Holmes", he volunteered.
"She's not exactly successful", I countered. "We're looking for successful entrepreneurs here."
A few seconds later he offered another name: Cathy Woods.
"Great", I said. "Who else?"
More awkward silence followed. No more successful female founders came to mind.
At a time when more women are running companies and several have taken them to IPO at a very young age, why do our first associations for successful entrepreneurs still looks like the gentlemen above?
We should be able to name successful founders from all walks of life just as easily. But can we really? Let's find out.