Tim Berry writes in his blog about the fact that when Palo Alto Software surveys customers, we get results that indicate that more the 2 times the number of men than women buy Business Plan Pro. Why? And does this really mean that twice the number of men as women write business plans?

I have to disagree. I think we are dealing with skewed data. The SBA released a report in Aug of 2006 stating that women are starting businesses at 2 times the rate of men (thanks to Penelope Trunk for finding this information). So why is our survey data so skewed towards men?

I think this is a case where you need to look at how Palo Alto Software got the results it did, and why that may be. We emailed a survey to a group of our customers. More than 70% of the respondents were male. Does that mean that 70% of our customers are male? No. I think it means that men are that much more likely to fill out and complete a survey.

Which of course leads to the question of why would men fill out more surveys? I don’t know the definitive answer—but I found this report from the PEW Internet And American Life Project that found that men are more likely to use the Internet for online “activities” whereas women use the Internet for functional things like communication. Now, of course, this same reasoning could also account for why we have more male customers than female customers. According to the PEW study, men are more likely to purchase software online (we are also in retail stores… but our survey was only sent to online purchasers) if you consider purchasing online an “activity”.

At the end of the day. I think if you manually went through the millions of records in our customer database you would probably find that the percentage of men to women is probably closer to 60-40 and not 70-30. But I still don’t think that means more men plan businesses. I think it may mean that more men buy software online to help them write a plan for their business.

So, I think the more important question for Palo Alto Software is where are all those women, who are starting businesses, going to get help writing their business plans?

AvatarSabrina Parsons

Sabrina has served as CEO of Palo Alto Software since 2007.