By Karen E. Klein (Contributing Writer, Businessweek)
Women represent only 35 percent of startup owners in the U.S., even though 50 percent of college students and 46 percent of the U.S. workforce is female.

Women’s startup businesses also “tend to experience less growth and prosperity than do firms started by men,” according to a paper released this week by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. “Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers” notes that increasing numbers of highly qualified women work in science and technology, industries that frequently birth high-growth startups, says the paper’s author, Lesa Mitchell.

But while they have broken through multiple glass ceilings, many women still find that glass “walls” keep them from venturing outside of academia or corporate positions into entrepreneurship.

Mitchell spoke about the paper this week with Smart Answers columnist Karen E. Klein; edited excerpts of their conversation follow.

Karen E. Klein: This paper pulls together existing research on women and startups that has not been presented as a whole before. Why write the paper now?
Lesa Mitchell: My rationale is that frankly I want to put the hammer on the table and keep slapping it. I have a sense of urgency because we need new firms in the country and we need to grow existing firms that could immediately add jobs.

There are a lot of competent, existing women business owners out there. If we could actually engage and support them, and they could progress into the fast-growth companies that add lots of new jobs, we could see economic recovery happening much sooner. As I say in the paper, we are not utilizing the economic resource of women who are capable of starting growth companies, and we can’t afford not to support them.

» Read the full article at Businessweek.