Still an Uphill Battle for Female Entrepreneurs

Is there an entrepreneurial gender gap? Maybe so, according to some research from the Kauffman Foundation. The State Science & Technology Institute offers this summary:

A recent paper on women entrepreneurs finds that while women are making significant strides in advancing to high rank within corporations, several barriers are keeping them from breaking out to start their own high-growth firms.

Pointing to the untapped potential of women’s contributions to the economy, the author correlates support for women’s entrepreneurship with significant economic expansion and job creation. The types of high-growth firms described in the paper ideally would become prominent niche firms, creating jobs prolifically and serving global or national markets.

Deterring this type of economic growth, however, is an entrepreneurship gender gap. The author finds stark differences in women’s entrepreneurial participation compared to men, especially given their current and projected participation in the workforce. The gap widens even further when looking at growth measures in number of women-owned firms and by revenue. For example, census bureau data indicate that women-owned firms with paid employees grew only 7.6 percent from 1997-2007. In terms of revenue, an American Express OPEN report found women own 1.8 percent of firms with more than $1 million in revenue while men own 6.3 percent.

The paper also describes a study that finds women tend to produce research equal to or slightly better than men’s on average, but female faculty patented their research only about 40 percent of the rate of their male colleagues. Women also tended to rely on formal university conduits to help commercialize research, while more men used connections in private industry. Inviting women to join science advisory boards of high-tech companies would provide more regular exposure to industry that breeds such contacts, according to the author.

Other recommendations include support of networking and collaborative events between startup founders and big companies and greater funding for nonprofit initiatives advancing opportunities for high-growth women entrepreneurs. Additionally, successful women entrepreneurs or inventors should make themselves visible and available.