Representation of women in business has skyrocketed, especially within academia.
For example, women are at near-parity in business school enrollment, representing 44.3% of all students in undergraduate programs, 40.5% of MBA programs, and 41.3% of doctoral programs. This suggests women are increasingly willing to take on risk and venture into entrepreneurship as a career.
The data also bears out that women are just as capable of finding success in that arena as men, as women excel at college venture competitions. Among winning teams, more than half had at least one female founder, and one in three teams had a female CEO.
Perhaps more and more women are recognizing that there’s no need to wait around and hope that their superiors recognize their talents and contributions. That’s not the only means to get ahead; instead, leveraging their skills and talents to become business leaders is the fast track to achieve equity. With entrepreneurial initiative, women can open their own doors.
However, other factors suggest there may be something different going on.
Existing Gap in Leadership Roles for Women
A further examination of data reveals a completely different take on the situation. While female participants fare well in college venture competitions, participation is low; barely one in five participants are female.
Similarly, while more women may be pursuing business education, they represent only 18% of students in theory-focused entrepreneurship studies.
When looking at STEM education, the outlook is pessimistic. According to a latest survey , only 20% of engineering degrees went to women, and women represent just 13% of the workforce in engineering fields.
Clearly, we have a problem here. Women in leadership roles are important to market competitiveness and innovation, especially in highly-competitive and fast-moving fields like tech. If women avoid entrepreneurial and STEM-focused training on their career path, they could miss out on opportunities to level the playing field.
What You Can Do to Push STEM & Business Leadership
So, this begs the question: what can women do? Fortunately, it’s far from a hopeless situation. In fact, there are several educational and corporate initiatives we can put in place to help promote the advancement of women in business and technology.
It’s not going to be a quick process, though. We’re going to need to start with young women and girls, and we’ll need extensive cooperation from both educators and the private sector.
Universities can play a role by working with middle and high school educators. For example, there’s the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Institute at California State University – Channel Islands, who hosted an event back in February called the STEM Innovation Challenge. This saw female mentors studying STEM at the university pair with middle school girls, and then collaborate to develop a prototype device to support UN sustainable development goals.
By sponsoring, or even hosting events like the STEM Innovation Challenge mentioned above, business leaders can nurture confidence in young women and promote an interest in technology and innovation. In turn, they’ll play a part in creating a whole new generation of female tech leaders.
Embracing the Entrepreneurial Mindset
These are just a few specific ways we can address the core problems that keep women from reaching their potential.
In a broader sense, an entrepreneurial mindset is the foundation that motivates individuals to explore opportunities. Sure, knowledge and education are important, but the key to developing the right mindset is confidence.
A lot of girls and young women experience a crisis of confidence when it comes to tech. They’re not traditionally encouraged to pursue these paths, and the lack of encouragement reinforces the idea that the tech business is not for them.
That’s why entrepreneurial education, competitions and other opportunities to develop skills are incredibly important. We need to normalize this mindset and make young women understand that business and tech leadership is for them.
We can’t afford to simply write this issue off any longer. It does a disservice to girls, women, and to the country as a whole.