A sector-by-sector guide to the gender gap among startup founders

A sector-by-sector guide to the gender gap among startup founders

Author: Kevin Dowd
Read time:  4 minutes
Published date:  17 January 2024
Women accounted for just 13.2% of all startup founders in 2023. This founder gender gap was larger in some sectors than others.

Over the past several years, men have outnumbered women among the population of new startup founders by a ratio of nearly six to one. In 2023, that disparity got even worse.

Just 13.2% of founders last year were women. That’s down from 15.1% in 2022, and it’s the lowest annual figure on Carta dating back to at least 2018

Founder Gender

(There was not enough data regarding non-binary people to reach statistical significance, so this sample includes only men and women.)

Dig a little deeper, and it’s clear that this trend is widespread. Women made up a smaller portion of the new founder population in 2023 in nearly every major sector of the startup ecosystem, with medical devices serving as the lone exception.

Founder Gender+Ind

Here’s a closer look at five of the sectors where the data on women who are founders changed the most in 2023: 


In every year from 2019 to 2022, education was the sector where women claimed the highest percentage of all founder roles. But that changed in 2023. The percentage of founders in education who are women fell to 18.8% last year, down significantly from 24.9% in 2022.

Given larger workforce trends, it makes sense that more women are founders in education than in other sectors: Nearly 70% of all workers in the education services sector are women, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of course, that number also suggests that women are vastly underrepresented among education founders.


The proportion of all healthtech founders who are women has been steadily increasing over the past several years, rising from 18.8% in 2018 to 23.5% in 2022. That trend reversed course in 2023, with women’s share of all healthtech founder roles declining to 22.3%. But given the larger declines in other sectors, women now make up a larger percentage of founders in healthtech than any other sector.

The rising prominence in recent years of many tech startups focused on women’s health may be one reason that women are gaining ground as founders in the healthtech space. This nascent femtech sector might still have plenty of room for growth in the rest of the 2020s.  

Medical devices

Medical devices was the only industry where women became more likely to be founders in 2023, with women’s portion of the founder base climbing from 9.7% to 15.9%. In terms of percentage change, that’s the second-largest annual increase undergone by any sector dating back to the start of 2018, trailing only advertising tech in 2022.  

The volatility of data relating to medical device startups is due in large measure to the relatively small population of companies: Medical devices startups raised just 3.2% of all capital on Carta through the first nine months of 2023. A smaller sample is more likely to vary from one year to the next. 


On the opposite end of the spectrum from medical devices, SaaS is the most common sector for startups on Carta, with 28.4% of all capital raised in the first nine months of 2023. This makes it all the more notable that women made up just 11.1% of all founders in the space last year. In the sector where VCs are most likely to invest in new startups, barely one in 10 new founders was a woman.

The proportion of women among founders has historically been lower in SaaS than in many other sectors, but that comparison grew even more unfavorable in 2023. At the aforementioned rate of 11.1%, women made up a smaller share of SaaS founders last year than in any year since at least 2018. 


The combined hardware and electronics space saw the largest gender gap of any industry in 2023: Men made up 92.6% of founders, while women accounted for just 7.4%.   

This is a notable change from 2022, when hardware and electronics had 12.2% women founders, with a smaller disparity than four other major sectors. And given the size of the space, it’s a notable change: Hardware and electronics startups raised 8.9% of all capital on Carta in 2023, fifth most of any sector.

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Kevin Dowd
Author: Kevin Dowd
Kevin Dowd is a senior writer covering the private markets. Prior to joining Carta, he reported on venture capital and private equity at Forbes, where he wrote the Deal Flow newsletter, and at PitchBook, where he wrote The Weekend Pitch.