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Vivek Wadhwa has a strong article in BusinessWeek today titled Addressing the Dearth of Female Entrepreneurs. He makes the argument that “There are too few women running high-tech companies; that’s too bad, considering evidence shows female-led businesses outperform those run by men” and concludes “[I] hope that when I revisit this topic in subsequent years the percentage of women launching IT companies rivals the percentage of women going into law, medicine, and higher education. The outcome would benefit us all.”
Vivek worked with the National Center for Women & Information Technology – an organization that I’ve been chairman of for five years – to analyze data on the background and motivations of 549 successful entrepreneurs that he had previously published research on in the article Anatomy of an Entrepreneur: Family Background and Motivation. Only 8% of the sample was female and there were some very interesting conclusions from it that Vivek summarizes in his BusinessWeek article.
The fundamental assertion that Vivek makes – that the dearth of female entrepreneurs is a societal issue – is consistent with the ideas I’ve developed around this over the past five years of my involvement with NCWIT. My assertion around the importance of this issue is simple – in the US we need more women involved in computer science, IT, and entrepreneurship to maintain our country’s long term leadership position in innovation.
When I sit in a room, like I did last night at the Colorado Open Angel Forum (which was spectacular), and see only one woman out of about 30 people, this issue is just reinforced. It’s not that the event wasn’t open to women, or that we filtered against women, it was just that very few applied. As we like to say at NCWIT, “it’s a pipeline issue.” As a society and a country we’ve got to start working today to get more women into the pipeline for 20 years from now.
While there will always be people who say this is a gender equality issue (and come out either for or against this dynamic as a result), I think they are missing the real issue. This is about innovation, competitiveness, and entrepreneurship. I’m glad Vivek highlights this issue and am especially proud of all the work that NCWIT is doing.