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Does Academia have a Bias against Female Entrepreneurs?

Does Academia have a Bias against Female Entrepreneurs?
Friday, 13 July 2018

It is well recognised that university spin-offs play an important role both in innovation and economic stimulation. However, we can see a lack of women scientists and engineers participating in the development and formation of university spin-offs. [1] In fact, although the proportion of woman researchers is increasing across Europe, they still publish fewer research papers, are less internationally mobile, and form part of fewer start-ups than men. [2]

While this doesn’t negatively affect the number of downloads and citations of papers written by women and women in general have a tendency to have a slightly larger proportion of interdisciplinary research, it is important to consider the entrepreneurial effects [2]. For example, although women represent around 40% of researchers, among patent applications, women inventors were less than 15% in 2015. In addition, men seem to prevail in management positions of spin-off companies. For example, in a study of 131 companies, of 309 directors, only 49 were women. [1]

With more gender equality activism than ever before, one might ask how this is still possible. And the answer is disappointing: gender bias, lack of appropriate support, and limited access to the right networks. [1] These results can be seen when identical inventions proposals were given to Technology Transfer Offices, submitted under female and male identities, and the males were more likely to receive support [3]. And it is seen again when looked at from the perspective of venture capitalists, where research shows that women are perceived as lacking necessary qualities for success [4].

Therefore, we must conclude that there is still some preference for males in the world of academic entrepreneurship. Hopefully, little by little, we will be able to reach a world where a person’s gender doesn’t define their ability to start a business.