There are women missing: from many scientific disciplines, from academic leadership roles, and now from commercializing the fruits of their research. Prof. Sue Rosser, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at SFSU, and a researcher on gender in science, tells the story of a researcher in tissue engineering. Even armed with a solid project, she couldn’t secure venture capitalist funding to move it forward. Finally, someone told her, “You’re the wrong gender, you’re not tall enough and you don’t play golf.” She found a guy matching that description to partner with, and the scientist’s funding woes were solved. Only, really, the problem has not gone away at all.
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Prof. Rosser has identified a number of ways in which corporations and VCs can be part of the solution to this worrying situation:
- - Be conscious of who is patenting: collect data, disaggregated by gender
- - Think outside the gendered tech transfer box: Explore new ideas for commercialization that have traditionally been ignored, due to discounting of female initiatives.
- - Knowing that women scientists may promote themselves less than men, make efforts to seek out their work for commercialization. Actively expand recruitment to include women.
- - Include women on your corporate advisory boards for science. Diverse points of view can only multiply your available resources.
- - Make tech transfer companies more family-friendly: Consider on-site day care, video conferencing to allow work at a distance…
- - Express your goals for commercialization in a way that highlights a direct link with helping people and improving society.
Women, overall, are often more motivated by work that will help other people and other living beings, Sue Rosser notes. Men, in general terms, can be more focused on the tech itself. There is room—and quite clearly a need—for both in society. Anyone interested in commercializing research has an obvious interest in bringing both onboard.