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Laura Doering - Rotman School of Management. Toronto, ON, CA

Laura Doering

Assistant Professor of Strategic Management | Rotman School of Management

Toronto, ON, CANADA

Laura Doering's research examines how micro-level decisions and circumstances affect economic outcomes in developing countries



Laura Doering is an Assistant Professor of Strategic Management. As an economic sociologist, her research examines how micro-level decisions, relationships, and circumstances affect economic outcomes in developing countries. Substantively, she focuses on entrepreneurship and capital access in low-income areas. A former Fulbright Scholar, Professor Doering’s research has received a number of awards, including the Burt Outstanding Paper Award from the Economic Sociology Section of the ASA. She teaches Entrepreneurship for Social Ventures at Rotman.

Industry Expertise (3)



Writing and Editing

Areas of Expertise (5)

Qualitative Analytics

Qualitative Research

Data Analysis



Accomplishments (4)

Burt Outstanding Paper Award-Economic Sociology; American Sociological Association (professional)


Dissertation-Year Grant; Mellon Foundation (professional)

2013 - 2014

Dissertation Grant; Kauffman Foundation (professional)


Fulbright IIE Scholar; Fulbright Foundation (professional)


Education (4)

University of Chicago: Ph.D., Sociology and Business Administration 2014

Dissertation Title: The Social Determinants of Emerging Market Growth: Microenterprise and Microfinance in Latin America Dissertation Committee: Elizabeth Pontikes (co-chair), Mario Small (co-chair), Rodrigo Canales, Richard Taub

University of New South Wales: M.A., International Social Development 2008

Dartmouth College: B.A., Psychological & Brain Sciences 2005

Phi Beta Kappa, Magna cum Laude

University of Chicago: M.A., Sociology 2009

Languages (2)

  • English
  • Spanish

Media Appearances (4)

Impact investing’s not inefficient; your money’s working double duty

The Globe and Mail  online


Laura Doering is assistant professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. If your investments were a person, who would they be? Perhaps a bespectacled accountant tallying pennies in a cubicle. Or maybe an exhausted analyst with shoulders hunched over an Excel spreadsheet. If you’re like many Canadians, you aspire to be a different kind of investment: one who stays late at the office, but also volunteers on the weekends.

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Consejos prácticos para poner en marcha tu negocio

La Estrella de Panamá  online


Tener tu propio negocio es una alternativa atractiva si eres una mujer emprendedora: te ofrece flexibilidad en el horario, te permite fijar tu propio salario y, dependiendo del tipo de empresa, te da la posibilidad de trabajar desde tu casa, lo que es una ventaja cuando tienes hijos. Pero aunque independizarte tenga muchas ventajas, encaminarte en este proyecto no está libre de riesgos. Los retos son particularmente difíciles si empiezas de cero y no cuentas con suficiente capital semilla. Antes de montar tu negocio considera estos 5 tips que te ayudarán a tener más éxito en los primeros meses de operación.

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Attacking Poverty to Foster Creativity in Entrepreneurs

The New York Times  online


Laura Doering was at a rest stop in Panama about five years ago, waiting for her bus to refuel, when she saw six vendors clustered together selling almost exactly the same snacks. She wondered: Why doesn’t anyone sell something different? Then a Fulbright scholar doing research for her Ph.D. in sociology and business administration, she knew that novel ideas had the most potential for growth. Her curiosity that day over the lack of innovation at those food stalls later led her to extensively explore the relationship between poverty and entrepreneurship.

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Why low-income entrepreneurs fail to sustain their new ventures

The Globe and Mail  


New research from the University of Toronto gives insight into why low-income communities can breed strong entrepreneurship, but often lack the time and capital to make new, novel businesses sustainable. A forthcoming paper by Laura Doering, an assistant professor of strategic management at the university’s Rotman School of Management, attempts to parse two seemingly conflicting themes in entrepreneurship literature: that poverty has the ability to help market creativity, and that it has the power to do just the opposite.

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Articles (5)

Necessity is the Mother of Isomorphism: Poverty and Market Creativity in Panama

Sociology of Development

Forthcoming 2016 Does poverty hinder or encourage market creativity? Businesses that offer novel, creative products have greater growth potential than businesses that conform to market norms. Yet the literature offers conflicting views on the relationship between poverty and market creativity. Some research suggests poverty restricts entrepreneurs’ capacity to offer novel products, whereas other work suggests poverty facilitates creativity in the marketplace. This paper addresses that tension by examining the shifting relationship between poverty and market creativity across stages of business development. Drawing on survey and interview data from Panama, this paper shows how entrepreneurs are both catalyzed and constrained by conditions of poverty. Poor individuals actively generate novel venture concepts in the early stages of business development. In later stages, however, they struggle to sustain those novel businesses. Ultimately, poverty limits entrepreneurs’ capacity to profit from the creativity they bring to the marketplace. This paper elucidates the dual relationship between poverty and creativity, and helps explain why economic mobility via self-employment proves elusive for the poor.

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The Effects of Gendered Occupational Roles on Men's and Women's Workplace Authority: Evidence from Microfinance

Under Review

Research in sociology and social psychology has documented how the gendering of occupational roles can affect a variety of outcomes for workers and organizations. Although laboratory experiments offer insights into the processes by which occupational roles become gendered and lead to systematically gendered outcomes, there is a relative dearth of evidence from field settings. Such field-based evidence is scarce because existing occupations are rarely gender balanced and workers’ tasks often change with new occupants. In the present paper, we fill this gap by utilizing unique data from a commercial microfinance bank in Central America. We examine how the occupational role of a loan manager becomes gendered, and how such initial gendering affects the authority of subsequent role occupants. Our findings both confirm and extend existing research. On average, male loan managers are more likely to obtain borrower compliance (i.e. on-time loan payments) than female managers. However, the gender of the initial manager continues to shape clients’ compliance even when clients are transferred to a second manager. Overall, this paper offers a unique empirical test of existing theories and demonstrates how a single individual can inscribe gendered expectations onto an occupational role, thereby generating divergent outcomes for male and female managers.

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Personal Ties and Financial Outcomes: Embeddedness in Microfinance

Under Review

Research in the social sciences proposes dramatically different views of the value of personal relationships in the financial sector. Research from social psychology emphasizes the costs associated with personal relationships, suggesting that lenders who feel committed to their clients run the risk of “escalating commitment” to poor performers. Yet research from economic sociology highlights the advantages lenders accrue when they develop personal relationships with clients, including greater trust, information-sharing and collaboration. This paper uses quantitative and qualitative data from a microfinance bank in Latin America to adjudicate between these perspectives. It first shows that, as social psychologists predict, lenders with personal relationships are more likely to escalate commitment to struggling clients than lenders with arm’s-length ties. However, among lenders who remain committed to poor performers, those with personal ties are more likely to get troubled clients back on track and secure better long-term outcomes. This study elucidates how embedded relationships generate short-term liabilities—but long-term gains—for financial intermediaries. More broadly, it clarifies the temporal contingencies of embedded relationships and contributes novel conceptual tools to the new economic sociology of development.

Doing Well by Doing Good? The Hidden Burdens of Inclusive Business

Under Review

Increasingly, for-profit firms are engaging in social initiatives to promote human welfare and environmental sustainability. Research suggests that employees who participate in such initiatives have higher rates of retention. In this paper, I examine the link between social initiatives and employee retention in a commercial microfinance bank where loan officers lend to poor clients as part of an inclusive business strategy. Contrary to theoretical expectations, I find that officers’ likelihood of exiting the organization increases when they perform inclusive work with poor clients. I explore this tendency with qualitative data, showing that officers encounter hidden burdens—like physical exhaustion and insecurity—when working with the poor. I also find that officers’ inclusive work with poor clients does not align with their goals and expectations for a job in financial service. These unseen burdens make officers’ inclusive work more difficult and may contribute to their likelihood of exit. This paper advances our understanding of firms as prosocial actors and demonstrates how social initiatives can inadvertently generate problematic organizational outcomes.

Entrepreneurs in the Making: The Causal Effect of Micro-Geography on New Business Formation

Under Review

Research on entrepreneurship emphasizes the importance of geographic locations. However, much of this literature focuses on regions and cities, overlooking the potentially important impact of neighborhood configurations. We refer to these configurations as micro-geographies and theorize that proximity to local pedestrian flows has a causal effect on individual rates of entrepreneurship. To test this notion, we use data from a multi-story, public housing complex in Colombia where residents are randomly assigned to live close to or distant from ground-floor pedestrian flows. We find that individuals assigned to the ground floor are more likely to become entrepreneurs and that their entrepreneurial ventures earn significantly more than those on upper floors. For the entrepreneurs in our context, operating a small business on the ground floor versus an upper floor means the difference between living above or below the poverty line. This study reveals that minor differences in spatial location have a powerful, causal effect on new business emergence and performance. More broadly, it extends the literature on entrepreneurial location choice to highlight the important effect of local, neighborhood configurations.