By Camille Crittenden
Consider women’s underrepresentation in patenting, an indicator of participation in tech commercialization. Although the situation is somewhat murky, since the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) collects no demographic information, a report released in November by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that patents with at least one woman inventor reached only 18.8% in 2010. This marks an increase over the rate in 1977, when 3.4% of patents listed at least one woman inventor; but at current rates, it will be 2092 before women reach parity (i.e., half of all patents will have at least one female inventor).
Women also face challenges in raising external equity for their startup companies. Women-owned businesses receive limited funding from venture capital investments—in 2016, 17% of total Series A rounds nationwide were for companies led by women. In the competitive Bay Area, women-led companies raised just 10% of Series A rounds, an uptick of two percentage points over the previous year. In a recent study on term-sheet negotiations, the authors considered factors influencing the amount of external funding raised, the percentage of overall goal this represented, and the amount of equity companies gave up. Two factors positively influenced raising at least 90% of capital sought: using the internet to research the negotiation process…and having a man serve as lead negotiator.
Perhaps most poignant among recent studies is one published in Science last week, showing that shortfalls in girls’ self-image regarding their intellectual aptitude begins as early as 6 years old. At age 5, children don’t differentiate by gender who they predict will be “really, really smart,” but by age 6 a significant difference emerges among both boy and girl respondents, with both attributing the characteristic of “being smart” to boys/men more than girls/women. These aren’t endogenous developments, of course, but rather are shaped by cultural attitudes from caregivers, family, and the media. A New York Times article by the study’s authors adds an illuminating example: in 2014, Google searches for “is my son a genius” outnumbered searches for “is my daughter a genius” by two to one.