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The perfect pitch? Get a handsome man to do it

Does gender play a role in the success of a business pitch?
Does gender play a role in the success of a business pitch?

For those that have struggled to swim in the shark tank, or have lost their way in the dragon's den, new research shows that the odds might have been stacked against you from the beginning.

Investors are more likely to put money into a business idea pitched by a man than a woman, according to a study published by researchers from Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Wharton School. And are even more so if that man happens to be good-looking, it said.

"We identify a profound and consistent gender gap in entrepreneurship," the researchers said in the report which was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(Read more: It'll take 75 years for women to match men in management)

"Attractive males are particularly persuasive, whereas physical attractiveness does not matter among female entrepreneurs."

Three entrepreneurial pitch competitions in the United States were used for the study along with two controlled experiments. Even with the content of the pitch being the same, the investors still preferred pitches presented by male entrepreneurs, it said.

Tim Robbins | Mint Images | Getty Images

Typically, when pitching to investors or venture capitalists it is the entrepreneur's business proposition and previous experience that are regarded as the main criteria for investment decisions. But the report suggests that a decent idea and an experienced presenter might not be enough.

(Read more: Is the tech sector more welcoming for women?)

The results might have a particularly relevance in the U.S, known for its flourishing mix of startups and business ventures. 43 percent of Americans believe there are good opportunities in entrepreneurship, according to a report last year by Babson and Baruch Colleges. This is up by more than 20 percent since 2011 and the highest level recorded in the 15-year history of the study.

Entrepreneurship is seen as a central path to job creation, economic growth, and prosperity and Monday's findings shows a bias and a "profound" gender gap. Babson and Baruch launched a global economic monitor looking at female involvement in entrepreneurship. Its findings said that the United States generally does not suffer from "overt discrimination" in regards to opportunities or resources related to women starting and growing businesses.

(Read more: Where were all the women in Davos?)

"At the same time, covert discriminatory practices are sometimes found, particularly in obtaining higher-level resources such as equity capital or corporate procurement contracts. " it said in the report last July.

By's Matt Clinch. Follow him on Twitter @mattclinch81.