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While this study moves beyond comparing female entrepreneurship on a country-level by studying the proportion of female founders in the 20 most successful startup ecosystems, the approach simultaneously impedes discussion of the relationship between the success of an ecosystem and the high proportion of female founders. Future research might encompass other ecosystems or metropolitan areas, not only to validate the identified patterns but also to investigate a potential tradeoff between female entrepreneurship and the economic success of a metropolitan area. A larger sample size would then also permit testing the predictive validity using a holdout sample (Woodside, 2013). Despite clear differences between the proportions of female founders across the most relevant startup ecosystems, the level is still rather low with regard to a potential equal distribution based on the population. However, one strength of fsQCA lies in the calibration of the data based on case knowledge (Berger, 2016). Chicago, for example, is a full member of the group of ecosystems boasting a high proportion of female entrepreneurship, and therefore serves the pattern identification of its subset although the proportion of 30 % is still relatively low. Additionally, this study focuses on technology startups, which could be part of the reason for the low representation of female founders and not be
17 representative of the entire startup community. On the other hand, Marlow and McAdam (2012) suggest a possible pipeline effect, affecting women in the technology sector caused by gender-specific constraints on promotion, which supports the importance of detecting patterns of female entrepreneurship. 6. Conclusion The current study is one of the first to link entrepreneurial ecosystems and female entrepreneurship by asking which combinations of micro-, meso- and macro ecosystem characteristics explain high proportions of female founders in technology startups. An ecosystem that features a large number of startups and high valuations does not mean that ecosystem is benefiting fully from the potential offered by female founding entrepreneurs. The results of the fsQCA imply that the most influential parameters are at the local level in the ecosystems, rather than at the national level. Local public policies could address the female labor participation rate, especially in startups and thereby increase the pool of entrepreneurial talent. Designing gender-specific public policies appears especially promising, as in ecosystems with a high proportion of female founders, the approval ratings of the local government are low and policy makers have room to improve these approval ratings. However, the analysis also suggests that greater gender equality in combination with a favorable micro environment fosters female entrepreneurship. In summary, this study encourages the discussion around employing ecosystems to achieve and sustain the goal of an entrepreneurial society and offers practical implications for policy makers on how to develop metropolitan areas by raising levels of female entrepreneurship.