Women have climbed to top positions within corporate and academic hierarchies; they make up 46% of the workforce and 50% of college students. Still, only 35% of startup business owners are female. Women have made it into positions of authority in the realm of science and technology, and have contributed to the growth of high-net companies. In a new paper titled “Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers,” Lesa Mitchell, Kauffman Foundation vice president, explains that “More women are entering these fields that ever before. However, while women have broken through the glass ceilings, they seem to encounter ‘glass walls’ that keep them from venturing out of big companies or structured academic setting to launch their own firms at the same rate men do.”
In a 2006 study titled “Gender Differences in Patenting in the Academic Life Sciences,” which tracked over 4,000 science researchers at U.S. universities over 30 years, it was found that men, compared to their female counterpart, were more likely to patent their research and serve on advisory boards (93 percent compared to 6.5 percent). While women looked for more of a work/life balance, men looked to establish new networks.
In the Kauffman article, Mitchell suggests that women entrepreneurs are key to reviving the U.S. economy. She suggests three steps to boost female entrepreneurship: first, increase the non-for-profit opportunities for women to receive funding from high-powered women in addition to networking events; second, successful female entrepreneurs need to be approachable, visible models; third, women need to be encouraged to join science/tech advisory boards, which will help further tech entrepreneurship.
It is not the first time, and certainly not the last time, women have been deemed an “untapped” resource in the entrepreneurial world. Slowly but surely, more female engineers are emerging and starting their own companies. This has been accompanied by an increase in female tech incubators, such as the Female Founder Fellowship (started by The Founder Institute), which has set out a goal to double the number of women in the program. These programs successfully retain talent, and produce female founders across the startup spectrum (post launching their Female Founder Fellowship they saw a 30% increase in female graduates from their program). I believe these solutions are a great opportunity for women to get more involved, and are a step forward in addressing the “three steps” suggested by Mitchell.