Female Inventors: Tracking participation in the commercialization process
Metrics Subcommittee Chair
The positive impacts of female participation in leadership roles of corporations are well-documented. Despite this evidence, women remain consistently under-represented in business ventures, especially in STEM fields. For the U.S. economy to expand and produce jobs at an accelerated rate, women MUST become a much higher percentage of entrepreneurial leaders across all business segments.
One important aspect of this paradigm begins in our research universities. As Stephan and El-Ganainy (2007) reported, “Beginning with disclosure, a substantial gap exists between women and men in each stage of technology transfer and entrepreneurial activity”. Reports have found that the rate at which men disclose is 43 percent higher than for women (Thursby and Thursby, 2005). The AUTM Women’s taskforce is a group of volunteers passionate about generating and implementing ideas that will empower more women to participate and take leadership roles in transferring new discoveries to the marketplace.
How can you help?
One important area that we are asking for help with is metrics. Our preliminary research indicates that very few technology transfer offices currently track disclosures or patents by gender. We would like to include some basic questions on future AUTM surveys so that we can more accurately assess the current landscape. This data can help to assist in the taskforce’s greater goals such as: develop replicable programs that encourage more women faculty, post docs and grad students to submit their new discoveries to their respective TTO; develop greater awareness among TTO staff about inherent biases that may exist when they are working with women inventors; identify and collaborate with organizations that promote women entrepreneurs to encourage more women-led startups; collaborate with organizations that have synergistic missions and wherein our core competencies can provide value add to what they are already doing.
We are asking for volunteers to be the point person within their technology transfer office to help start tracking this important metric. The good news is, many of the software programs used in research institutions already have gender track capability built in! (KSS/TechTracS®; Inteum, and InfoEd all include gender tracking and IPManager can be customized). We have found that the process is relatively easy to implement from a technical and effort perspective, however, successful implementation of this new metric requires a university-specific champion for the cause (see reverse).
At our pilot university, a gender question was added to the invention disclosure form. They used KSS/TechTracS® software, so the system was already in place. The primary hurdle was going through the university HR department to ensure that the question could be included. Once approval was received, the office began tracking gender immediately on their invention disclosure form (and even decided to go back to the beginning of the fiscal year and fill in the gender category so that they would have data for the full year to report. Another pilot institution has worked with their HR department to “pull” data into their KSS/TechTracS® system on a regular basis.
If you are interested in serving as a point person for your university or organization to help further this important mission please contact us with any questions! And please do let us know if your university/organization does begin to track this information so that we can track our progress on this front!
Contact info: Kathy Sohar, University of Florida, firstname.lastname@example.org
Forough Ghahramani, EdD, MBA, MS
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey