Improving Access for Women in Business and Innovation

Improving Access for Women in Business and Innovation

By Jessica Milli, Ph.D.

Previous IWPR research has indicated that fewer than 20 percent of all U.S. patents have at least one woman listed as an inventor. In July, IWPR released two new reports which built on this earlier work, examining the gap in innovative activities more broadly among businesses owned by women and men and the implications for business outcomes, and profiling programs aimed at promoting women’s greater participation in patenting and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship has become increasingly common among women. The number of businesses owned by women grew at nearly four times the rate of men between 1997 and 2015, and this growth was driven almost entirely by women of color. Yet despite these gains, women-owned businesses still lag behind men. Previous research has shown that intellectual property rights are associated with greater success in raising start-up capital as well as increased market value, yet women-owned businesses are less likely to hold intellectual property and engage in research and development activities. Women owned businesses, for example, are only half as likely to hold a patent as men.

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Recognizing the gender gap in innovation and its economic and social consequences, a number of programs across the country have been developed to address women’s underrepresentation. Among them, IWPR identified Improving Access for Women in Business and Innovation seven promising programs and conducted in-depth interviews with program leaders and participants to learn more about how they operated in different settings, served different audiences, and tackled the barriers women face from a variety of angles. The interviews highlighted the importance of education about patenting and commercialization, network building and mentorship, and working with stakeholders in local communities.

Both reports highlight the importance of promoting greater diversity in the innovative ecosystem. Diverse groups of people experience the world differently and encounter different challenges, and when those groups don’t have a seat at the table, problems can easily be overlooked, and the solutions developed may not work for everyone.


The Gender Wage Gap and Work-Family Supports: Women’s Choices or Policy Choices?

The Gender Wage Gap and Work-Family Supports: Women’s Choices or Policy Choices?

By Emma Williams-Baron and Ariane Hegewisch

Progress towards closing the wage gap has stalled over the past fifteen years. Despite women’s higher educational attainment, the earnings ratio between women and men who worked full-time, year-round was just 79.6% in 2015, only marginally higher than it was ten years earlier (77.0% in 2005). In discussions about the gender wage gap, the impact of women’s choices is often brought up. For example, some commentators say that earnings differences are due in part to women choosing lower-paying occupations, such as teachers, while men are choosing higher paid occupations, such as airline pilots, and/or that women are more likely to cut back paid work while caring for children, while men choose to work full-time. But such choices are not made in a vacuum. Options and choices are shaped by policy decisions—such as the public funding for preschool education or the availability of paid parental leave.

A recent article published in the Saint Louis University Public Law Review by IWPR researchers Ariane Hegewisch and Emma Williams-Baron uses state-by-state data on earnings, employment, and work-family supports from IWPR’s Status of Women in the States project to draw attention to the links between the work-family policy infrastructure and the gender wage gap. The article shows that:

  • The gender wage gap differs substantially between states. The ratio of women’s to men’s earnings is highest in New York, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, at 87.6, 87.4, and 87.0 percent, respectively, and is the lowest in Wyoming, Utah, and Nebraska, at 67.9, 70.0, and 73.1 percent.
  • States vary significantly by availability of work-life balance policies offered; only 16 states have at least one type of paid leave legislation, including paid sick leave, paid family leave, and temporary disability insurance at the state or local level. In 10 states more than 60 percent of children are enrolled in public pre-schools, and in 12 states, fewer than 20 percent.
  • The five states that score highest on work-family supports (according to IWPR’s Work-Family Index)—New York, California, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and Rhode Island—are among the states with the lowest gender wage gap. The five states with the worst scores on the Work-Family Index—Indiana, Utah, Montana, Mississippi, and Wyoming—are all in the bottom ten states when it comes to the gender wage gap.

For more data and analysis, see the full article:

Hegewisch, Ariane and Emma Williams-Baron. 2017. “The Gender Wage Gap and Work-Family Supports: Women’s Choices or Policy Choices?” Saint Louis University Public Law Review 36 (July). <> (accessed July 26, 2017).