‘Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers’ is a new study presented by the Kauffman Foundation, Kansas City exploring the reasons behind lower business startup rates among women and proposing actions that would help to realize the promise of female entrepreneurs in escalating the economy.
Research shows that startup companies – particularly high-growth startups – are the most fruitful source of new U.S. jobs and offer the economy's best hope for recovery. However, despite the fact that about 46 percent of the workforce and more than 50 percent of college students are female, they represent today only about 35 percent of US startup business owners. Their firms also tend to experience less growth and prosperity than do firms started by men.
When launching the study Lesa Mitchell, Vice President Kauffman Foundation and author of the study stressed: "More women are entering these fields than ever before. However, while women have broken through the glass ceiling, they seem to encounter ‘glass walls' that keep them from venturing out of big companies or structured academic settings to launch their own firms at the same rate men do."
Research confirms that while women tend to produce research that was equal to or slightly better than men's, on average, female faculty patent their research at only about 40 percent of the rate of their male colleagues.
Women also tend to rely on formal university channels to help them commercialize their research, rather than making connections and seeking guidance from private industry.
Another major difference is women’s far less involvement in building networks: while 93 percent of men serve on science advisory boards of high-tech companies, only 6.5 percent of women are involved.
On average, women have also greater difficulty raising investment capital than men do.
Nevertheless, Mitchell says, these gaps do not represent innate gender differences. They are subject to change and already may be changing.
Lesa Mitchell points out that 'Women's entrepreneurship is an economic issue, not a gender-equity issue. As more women engage as entrepreneurs to build on their discoveries, new jobs and economic prosperity will follow."
Mitchell recommends three steps to boost female entrepreneurship in the United States:
- Not-for-profit initiatives that advance opportunities for high-growth women entrepreneurs need greater funding and support from women executives, philanthropy leaders and industry. Networking and collaborative events between startup founders and big companies are critical to provide women entrepreneurs access to networks that can produce potential customers.
- Role models are critical to young women considering entrepreneurship. Successful women entrepreneurs and inventors should make themselves visible and available.
- Women must be invited at a much higher rate to join science advisory boards of high-tech companies.
Download the complete study: