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Where Are The Power-Brokers in American Women Entrepreneurs

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By Geri Stengel (Founder & President, Ventureneer)

The Forbes list of the World’s Most Powerful Women includes no American-born entrepreneurs. Yes, it includes corporate execs, high government officials, and celebrities who leveraged their fame into businesses but no one who started a small business that became a huge business.

Where are the Billie Jean Gates and Marcella Zuckerbergs? I’m an entrepreneur and a woman. Where are my role models on this list?

Around #20 that you see a female entrepreneur — hat’s off to her! She is HTC’s Cher Wang – Taiwanese and — another tip of the hat — in high tech. But American-born entrepreneurs? Not so powerful it seems.

Celebrities start with their fame then build their businesses; that gives them an edge and a source of funds most women don’t have. Immigrants come with their own cultural values. Note that most of the top women entrepreneurs on the list, from Wang to Xin (#48) are Asian.

Does America have the cultural values that support women who create, innovate, and lead a business from start-up to major player to power-broker? We have men-aplenty: Gates, Page, Bloomberg, Buffet, Bezos.

Up-and-coming women entrepreneurs are out there, but you have to get away from the quantitative methodology of the Forbes list to Fortune Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, which allows people to nominate candidates for the list and, by definition, only looks at entrepreneurs. It doesn’t presume power.

So what’s missing? Is it a matter of not having what it takes? Or do American women have issues — family care, lack of assertiveness — that prevent them from super success?

Or is it still bias? Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers, a report from the Kauffman Foundation makes a good point for the bias argument.

Women, it seems make up a high percentage of graduates from biological and physical sciences but not so high a percentage in computer science, where many of the fast-growth enterprises now originate.

But in those sciences where women are well-represented, they are publishing high-quality research at least as often as men. Yet they have far fewer patents, which are the first step on the road to competitive advantage and attracting funding.

Who’s advising these women? Why aren’t women applying for patents? That’s one big questions.

The other problem, as Kauffman points out, is that these highly qualified women with rich research portfolios sit on only 4% of the science advisory boards at high-tech firms. Men sit on 93% of those boards. In other words, men have investors and mentors on speed dial. Women are standing outside in the rain.

So who cares? Is this just a throw-back complaint to the feminist movement? Nope. It’s not about gender; it’s about economics.

In a succinct and powerful economics lesson, the Kauffman report shows how not using the research and smarts of women is hampering economic recovery, costing jobs, and depleting the economic vigor needed to sustain a growing economy.

It’s not the women, folks. It’s the jobs.

So what’s a country to do? Kauffman suggests three things:

  • Get women academics on those science advisory boards.
  • Women who have broken the glass ceiling in government and corporate America need to reach out to other women and help them find the right connections to further their work, fund their start-ups, and encourage their research.
  • Non-profits and philanthropists need to support networking and collaborative events that give women access to the support they need.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Geri Stengel is Founder and President of Ventureneer, connecting non-profit execs, social entrepreneurs, and socially responsible small business owners with the knowledge they need to make the world a better place and to thrive as sustainable organizations. She is a graduate of the corporate world and a serial entrepreneur having launched a consulting business that serves entrepreneurs and co-founded Women’s Leadership Exchange. Follow her on Twitter at @Ventureneer.