Geri Stengel

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Women Entrepreneurs: Under-utilized Drivers of Economic Growth

I thought I saw a problem and a recent report from the Kauffman Foundation confirmed it: Women are under-represented in high-growth, job creating entrepreneurship.

women entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial successI wondered why American women are making it as government and corporate power-brokers but not as powerful entrepreneurs.

Kauffman came up with some interesting answers as well as compelling reasons to change the way things are, namely, that we need all the entrepreneurial power we have to start up and grow businesses if the economy is to prosper.

This isn’t a feminist issue; it’s an economic issue.

In fact, Kauffman views women entrepreneurs as “the nation’s secret weapon for achieving sustained economic growth.”

Small business start-ups generate jobs; we need everyone, not just the male half of the population, generating jobs. Or as Kauffman says,

“The nation has fewer jobs -- and less strength in emerging industries -- than it could if women’s entrepreneurship were on par with men’s. Women capable of starting growth companies may well be our greatest under-utilized economic resource.”

The statistics cited by Kauffman show that women lag in starting businesses; they lag in generating jobs; and they lag in making the big time.

Those stats make me angry because the companies making it big are mostly in technology and science, and the same stats show that the quality and amount of research produced by women is equal to or better than that of men. Yet women get only 40% as many patents as men do.

What’s with that?

Kauffman attributes the gap between women’s technological/scientific achievement and women’s start-up enterprise to lack of connections with corporate mentors and venture capitalists. One of the most telling statistics, Kauffman reports, is that women -- remember, more of them are doing great research -- sit on only 7 percent of the science advisory boards of high-tech companies. Men sit on 93 percent.

In other words, men have connections to the money needed to start up a high-tech, high-growth business. The glass ceiling has been cracked open in corporations and in government but glass walls still pen in women entrepreneurs.

To leverage the entrepreneurial power and smarts of women, Kauffman has three suggestions:

  • Corporate women and philanthropic leaders need to support networking and collaboration for   women.
  • Successful women entrepreneurs and inventors should make themselves visible and available as   role models.
  • Women must be invited to join the science advisory boards of high-tech companies.

The Kauffman report also has some good lesson in economics. It lays out very clearly why start-ups matter and why policy-makers should focus on those who create jobs, not on those who employ the most people. It also lays out the importance of helping those start-ups stay alive and keep growing.

Altogether, a great report, well worth reading.

Now, how are we, women entrepreneurs, going to do to flex our economic muscles?

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