The Persistent Gender Gap in Entrepreneurship

women in STEM fields

Earlier this summer, PDE checked in on the issue of gender and entrepreneurship when the media debate about female representation on Silicon Valley boards was heating up. The issue is still getting plenty of ink — note this weekend’s editorial in the New York Times calling on the tech industry to take action now — and a couple of new reports start to look a bit deeper.

Last week, the SBA Office of Advocacy released a study on the issue of women involved in entrepreneurial activity in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. It found that across all STEM fields, female PhDs have lower rates of patenting and entrepreneurship than do male PhDs (5.4 percent versus 7 percent and 15 percent versus 28 percent, respectively) — with the widest gaps in in physics, astronomy and computer science.

The Advocacy report, Understanding the Gender Gap in STEM Fields Entrepreneurship, includes several policy recommendations including:

  • Helping address the number of female faculty mentors in the fields
  • Increasing industry R&D funding and post-doctorate opportunities aimed at women
  • Conducting further comparative research on parenting responsibilities and short-run decreases in patenting and entrepreneurial activities in women with young children

Meanwhile, Babson College put out a new study on venture capital funding for women entrepreneurs that shows a persisting gender gap as the number of women partners in VC firms has “declined significantly” in the past 15 years.

The Babson report, Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital, contains several suggestions to increase  the amount of venture capital received by women entrepreneurs including showcasing the successes of growth-oriented, VC-funded women entrepreneurs to help attract more women to the field; and calling on the VC industry to do more to recruit and promote women investors to partner level roles.


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