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By Jordan Chapman

As we look back on a successful Women’s History Month, wrap up National Inventor’s Month, and begin celebrating National Small Business Week, we are proud to shed light on our recently released research on women’s entrepreneurship in high-yield and high growth industries. Led by women-owned consulting firm Kapur Energy Environment Economics, LLC, this project was initiated in 2023 and the final results will be released in October of 2024. The preliminary findings of this research are compiled in an extensive 195-page report entitled, “An Illuminating Moment: Lighting a Pathway for Women STEM Entrepreneurs,” which includes a literature review, data and policy analysis, and preliminary recommendations to support women innovators.

We already knew that women’s participation in STEM, particularly through entrepreneurship, is essential for progress. A woman led the team that pioneered the COVID-19 vaccine at Harvard University, a woman invented Kevlar, a woman first identified the greenhouse effect, a woman created technology that now serves as the basis for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a woman wrote the first computer program, a woman built the Brooklyn Bridge, a woman discovered the composition of the Earth’s inner core, a woman discovered what the Earth’s ocean floor looks like, a woman pioneered new methods for treating cataracts and on top of it all, a woman invented chocolate chip cookies. In other words, we know the names we must share to uplift women’s contributions in STEM, and thanks to this research, we now know the numbers too.

At NWBC, we raise awareness of the obstacles women face, but equally strive to emphasize the potential opportunities that lie ahead as well. With that in mind, below are some of the major highlights of the preliminary findings.

On the one hand…But on the bright side…
There are 733,880 fewer female-owned STEM firms than male-owned firms.When you break this disparity down by employer vs. non-employer firms, the gap is much narrower (less than 200,000 firms) for non-employer firms, which make up the majority of STEM firms as a whole. Women business owners are also more likely to own non-employer firms across industries.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, if current rates of patenting do not significantly increase, the gender patenting gap will not close until 2092 at the earliest. The global STEM gender gap was also recently illustrated in research conducted by LinkedIn, which suggested the STEM skills gap would take 45 years to close, while the STEM employment gap would take 90 years to close.STEM firms owned by Black/African American, Hispanic, and Native American women outnumber their male-owned counterparts. Women of color are clearly making outstanding strides in gender equity in STEM entrepreneurship, which matches what we are seeing when it comes to the recent surge in new business starts.
Women are underrepresented in STEM education and the workforce. As referenced in this report and expounded upon in NWBC’s 2023 Annual Report, women make up nearly half of the workforce but only 27 percent of the STEM workforce and receive the majority of the bachelor’s degrees, but less than 25 percent of those in engineering, computer science, and physics.When looking at business owners under the age of 45, STEM businesses owned by women outnumber those owned by men. It will take generations to bridge disparities in STEM education and workforce participation for women, but in entrepreneurship, the signs of progress are superb.
Veteran male-owned businesses in STEM outnumber their female-owned counterparts by a factor of eight.According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women only make up 10 percent of all veterans, indicating that they may actually be overrepresented as STEM business owners.
There is only one state where the proportion of women-owned STEM firms is close to or greater than that of their male-owned counterparts: Maine.Women-owned firms make up 39.1 percent of all firms in the U.S, as shared in NWBC’s 2023 Annual Report. For many states, the proportion of women-owned STEM firms is higher than this 39.1 percent. Put another way, although the proportion of women STEM entrepreneurs may not be equal to that of men, in many states, the proportion of women STEM entrepreneurs is higher than the average proportion of women entrepreneurs across all industries. While as a country, we have a lot of work to do to close the gap in women’s STEM entrepreneurship, many states have obviously cracked the code.

The economic and societal benefits of increasing women’s STEM participation also deserve repeating. Researchers have previously found that if women, people of color, and people from low-income families invented at the same rate as other groups that do not face comparable discrimination and structural barriers, U.S. innovation would quadruple. A study commissioned by the U.S. Patenting and Trademark Office (USPTO) also found that commercialized patents could increase by 24%, and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita could go up by 2.7% if the gender gap in patenting were closed. Recently published research from USPTO has also found that “women’s participation in patenting… is growing and associated with more diverse teams and patents with higher economic value.” Women-owned firms generate over twice as much per dollar invested as their male-owned counterparts and if the gender gap in entrepreneurship closed, global GDP would increase by 3-6 percent. When it comes to domestic gains, an additional $7.9 trillion in revenue would be added to the U.S. economy if the average revenue gap between women- and men-owned businesses is closed. 

As a leading voice in women’s entrepreneurship, we have a few ideas for what could bring clearer skies and gender parity in STEM entrepreneurship, including supporting women’s STEM entrepreneurial education, investment, and outreach, leveraging ongoing efforts encompassed in the Investing in America agenda to connect women to 21st century opportunities, bolstering workforce entry and re-entry initiatives to get and keep women in the STEM pipeline, improving the incubator and accelerator system, and maintaining a viable pathway to commercialization and intellectual property for women entrepreneurs. You can read more about those in our 2023 Annual Report, connect to the conversations we are having today by learning more about our Access to Opportunity roundtable and uncover new potential gamechangers in the preliminary findings research report. But if necessity is the mother of invention, then we all have a part to play in ensuring women entrepreneurs have the access to the capital, opportunities, and resources they need, so we can all bask in the warm glow of their lightbulb moments.

Baltimore, MD

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 28, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 25, 2019, to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M).

The Baltimore roundtable convened local women business owners in S.T.E.M. to share their perspective on the educational pipeline and barriers to accessing capital. The conversation also included educators, investors, organizational representatives, and government officials.

NWBC Council Member Shelonda Stokes welcomed attendees and set the stage for the discussion noting, “As advocates for the nation’s estimated 12.3 million women-owned businesses, NWBC strives to encourage women to start and grow their businesses in S.T.E.M., an industry with proven high-growth potential.”

NWBC Chair Liz Sara prompted the local women entrepreneurs to share the trials and tribulations of starting and growing their businesses All participants recognized the difficulties of establishing credibility as the subject matter expert in a room full of men. One participant transformed a regional software engineering firm into a global software  company and noted that access to equity capital was her toughest charge along the way.

The need for mentorship was a prominent theme around the table. Some found counsel within their client base, while others forged connections with personal role models in their industry. Representatives from a local state university noted that tech entrepreneurs had trouble finding properly tailored advice, so the university is hoping to utilize alumni in specialized fields for better guidance. A non-profit organization focused on computer science education stressed a need for relevant curriculums that cater to the interests of young girls and expressed that early, consistent exposure is key when attracting females to these underrepresented fields.

Council Member Monica Stynchula wrapped up the roundtable discussion and reiterated the Council’s commitment to employ the feedback received as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Council appreciates the participation from diverse business owners and stakeholders from the Baltimore area.

St. Petersburg, FL

WASHINTON, D.C., August 13, 2019 – As part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series,’ the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) held a roundtable in St. Petersburg, FL on August 6, 2019, to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship in S.T.E.M.  Florida is ranked number one in the country for the fastest growth rate of women-owned businesses according to the 2018 AMEX State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.

The event began with NWBC Chair Liz Sara welcoming the roundtable participants and attendees, including founders in various business sectors in S.T.E.M., from technology to manufacturing to health. Chair Sara highlighted the Council’s efforts to convene women business owners on topics related to the Council’s three issue areas: Women in S.T.E.M., Rural Women’s Entrepreneurship, and Access to Capital.

The highlight of the Roundtable was a fireside chat with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and NWBC Council Member Marygrace Sexton, Founder & CEO of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juices. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Senator Rubio discussed current legislation pertaining to women’s business enterprise such as the Women & Minority Equity Investment Act, which allows women-owned firms to accept venture capital and equity investments that would constitute more than 50 percent of the ownership of a firm and still maintain ownership and control of the business for purposes of WOSB or 8(a) contracting program certifications, so long as the venture capital or equity firm is also woman-owned. The Senator also highlighted his Supporting Veterans in S.T.E.M. Careers Act, noting, “We have a wealth of talent leaving the service, and they are equipped with unique skills. It is particularly important for our women in uniform to utilize their skills for S.T.E.M. careers or to start their own businesses.”

NWBC Council Member Monica Stynchula, Founder & CEO of REUNIONCare, Inc. and a local of St. Petersburg, then moderated a lively discussion among women business owners in S.T.E.M. fields. The importance of early S.T.E.M. education and business mentorship were prominent themes around the table. A business consultant advised, “Surround yourself with a circle of influence and recognize that you could be in someone else’s circle too.”

An owner of an engineering and manufacturing company recounted her experience as the only woman in her college science program and recalled how the professor could not remember her name and would return her papers last. She noted the importance of teaching entrepreneurial skills at an early age and engaging young women in S.T.E.M. fields. A representative from a local college highlighted that the majority of the school’s natural science majors were women, but they consistently identified as scientists and not necessarily entrepreneurs. Several participants echoed these sentiments by acknowledging the need for business education to be interwoven throughout basic education courses. Others stressed that while S.T.E.M. education was important, S.T.E.M. degrees were not as essential to a start-up’s success as the ability of the founder to learn and adapt to ever-changing technologies.

NWBC Chair Sara wrapped up the roundtable discussion by highlighting the overarching themes and reiterated the Council’s commitment to employ the feedback received as a springboard for the Council’s policy recommendations to Congress, the President, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The Council appreciates the participation from diverse business owners and stakeholders in the St. Petersburg area.

A white board with a lot of drawings on it.

“We work with the federal government to give female founders and the organizations that support them the opportunity to give live testimony with influential legislators at the table.”

Monica Stynchula


Temren Wroge

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 12, 2019 – The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) is hosting a roundtable in Baltimore, MD on June 25, 2019, from 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM EST as part of its ‘Women in Small Business Roundtable Series’. The Council seeks to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities for women’s entrepreneurship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M).

The June 25th roundtable will convene local women business owners in S.T.E.M to share their perspective on the educational pipeline, barriers to accessing capital, and workforce recruitment issues. Hosting this discussion in Baltimore provides NWBC with the opportunity to collaborate with the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s National Conference.

The conversation will also include educators, investors, and government officials. NWBC Chair Liz Sara, Council Members Shelonda Stokes, Monica Stynchula, Nicole Cober, Pam Prince-Eason and Vanessa Dawson will be in attendance.

Women business owners have a tremendous impact on the U.S. economy; however, they continue to be underrepresented in the S.T.E.M fields. In fact, while women constitute 47% of the overall workforce, they make up just  28% of the science and engineering workforce.

“NWBC’s ‘Profile of Millennial Women: The Future of Entrepreneurship in America’ found that millennial women are the most likely generation to hold a degree in S.T.E.M. NWBC wants to encourage women in these fields with innovative and scalable ideas to start and grow their business, increase their receipts, and create jobs.” – NWBC Chair Liz Sara


Temren Wroge

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 06, 2020 – S. 737, the Building Blocks of STEM Act, was signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on December 24, 2019. Sponsored by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), the bill instructs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to more equitably allocate funding for research with a focus on early childhood education. It also directs NSF to support research on factors that discourage or encourage girls to engage in STEM activities, including computer science.

The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) is encouraged by the passage of this legislation and will continue to identify pipeline barriers for women entrepreneurs in the STEM fields. “Just four days prior to the passage of this bill, NWBC released its 2019 Annual Report, which provides policy recommendations in three key areas of importance to female founders including women in STEM. The passage of this bill is very encouraging and both NWBC and its staff remain resolute in working to advance policies that provide greater insight and support for female engagement in STEM,” said Nina Roque, Executive Director, National Women’s Business Council.

NWBC expressed support for the key provisions of S.737 in its 2019 Annual Report:

  • NSF Grants Should be Utilized for Research Regarding Female Students’ Engagement in STEM: The Council agrees that NSF grants to increase the participation of underrepresented populations in STEM fields should be leveraged and utilized for in-depth research into various subjects regarding female students—students in prekindergarten through elementary school—including: (1) the role of teachers and caregivers in encouraging, or discouraging, participation by female students in STEM activities; and (2) the types of STEM activities that encourage greater participation by these students.
  • NSF Computer Science Education Grants Should be Utilized for Development of Gender-Inclusive Learning and Teaching Tools: NSF grants marked for ‘computer science education’ and ‘computational thinking’ research should be utilized to support development and implementation of various teaching and learning tools and models, including: (1) developing and offering gender-inclusive computer science enrichment programs; and (2) acquainting female students in prekindergarten through elementary school with careers in computer science.