Does the gender pay gap apply even when women set their own salaries?

Female founders are paying themselves significantly less than their male counterparts are paying themselves, The Wall Street Journal reports. The average female entrepreneur pays herself an annual salary of $179,444, compared with the $232,659 that the average  male founder pays himself, according to a study from J. Thelander Consulting, a San Francisco-based company that studies compensation data. The study analyzed data from more than 160 private companies with less than $15 million in funding.

So why are women entrepreneurs paying themselves less than their male peers do? Venture capital firms are partly to blame, as women-led businesses received just 2.2 percent of all VC funding last year, according to PitchBook. With less capital available, founders look to invest their limited resources in what will make their company grow, like hiring top talent, and will sometimes forgo a paycheck or pay themselves just enough to make ends meet. Another reason has to do with women founders wanting to show investors they are budget-conscious and not spending capital extravagantly, WSJ reports.

The results of the J. Thelander study mirrored the findings of another survey from accounting company FreshBooks, which found that self-employed women earn about 28 percent less than their male peers. When choosing how much money to pay yourself, experts suggest you start with a conservative number but research what other entrepreneurs in your field are earning and consider adjusting your compensation accordingly.