Two of the highest profile women in tech have had a tough year. Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, saw her company sold to Verizon. Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the experimental blood testing company Theranos, was banned from her own labs by regulators for two years.
Though male founders and CEOs fail all the time, it may have different implications when women mess up, says Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University.
"There are so many other male leaders that ... failure doesn't really create expectations about other men's leadership capacities or capabilities," she says.
When former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was indicted for securities fraud or Angelo Mozilo, the former chairman of Countrywide Financial, was associated with bringing on the housing crisis nobody suggested it was because they were men.
Because there are so few female CEOs, especially in tech, Cooper says when a Marissa Mayer or Elizabeth Holmes fails it can feed stereotypes. "It not only can damage her career just individually for herself," says Cooper, "but it can actually serve to reconfirm broader cultural beliefs that are out there that women aren't quite the right fit for senior leadership or certain kinds of senior leadership positions."