Lesa Mitchell, VP of Advancing Innovation with the Kauffman Foundation, has an interesting piece out today: Women Entrepreneurs Are Trapped Within Glass Walls. In it she discusses the gender gap in science and technology based startups.  She points out that traditional explanations for a lack of women entering these sectors don’t seem to apply quite the same anymore.  For example: 45% plus of the undergraduates at MIT are women.  However, men continue to become entrepreneurs starting high-growth technology companies much more often than women.  In the attempt to determine why this disparity exists, Ms. Mitchell points to some “clues” including:

  • Women faculty patent their university lab results much less often than their male counterparts, resulting in far fewer spinouts based on their research; and
  • Women in science fields tend to have less exposure to the commercial aspects and business contacts in their fields because they spend more time within the academic realm, or with non-profits or government entities.  Male research faculty more often serve on advisory boards of for-profit companies and interact with commercial firms within their field.

Ms. Mitchell concludes that re-framing the problem is a good start: “Instead of asking ‘Why aren’t women becoming high-growth entrepreneurs?’, start asking ‘What will it take?’  Surely there is a woman in your circle who could do it.  Find out what she needs to shift into growth gear.”  Maybe you know (or are) one.