The country is in a recession, and Washington is tangling over how to create new jobs, but, according to a new paper from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, there’s a fairly simple potential source of them sitting right under our noses.
Women start high-growth companies, like those in high tech, at lower rates than men do, Kauffman-supported research has found. But the reason for this is systemic, rather than due to women’s innate capacity for entrepreneurialism, says the paper, titled “Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers.”
The paper, released today, is authored by Kauffman vice president Lesa Mitchell. With a few key changes, we can encourage more women to start companies and, in turn, unleash a slew of new jobs, Mitchell tells Fast Company.
“If we’re looking for an answer to jobs,” Mitchell says, “it’s right in front of our face.”
While there are plenty of women in science and technology–the fields that spin off high-growth companies–the paper says, and while women form 46% of the workforce and over 50% of college students, only 35% of startup business owners are women.
In fields like science and technology, that’s due to the fact that women in those fields don’t take the same steps that men do to position themselves to one day start their own companies, the paper says. They don’t patent their research as much as men do–only at 40% the rate of their male colleagues. They don’t serve on the scientific advisory boards of private companies the way men do–93% of men serve on boards in private industry while only 6.5% of women do. And women tend to commercialize their research through university channels, rather than striking out on their own.
The paper chalks up some of this to women not having the same kind of role models and networks as men to inspire them and guide them in the steps they should take to lay the groundwork to start their own companies.
The paper lays out a few steps it says will result in more women starting their own companies: Women should be invited to participate on scientific advisory boards in private companies at a higher rate than they currently are. Successful women entrepreneurs and inventors should make themselves more visible to provide the necessary role models. And private industry and philanthropists should provide greater funding to non-profit initiatives that advance opportunities for high-growth women entrepreneurs.
“Research has shown that startups, especially high growth startups, are the keys to job creation and leadership in new industries,” the paper says. “With nearly half the workforce and more than half of our college students now being women, their lag in building high-growth firms had become a major economic deficit…Women capable of starting growth companies may well be our greatest under-utilized resource.”
[Images: Flickr user Randy Kashka; Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation]