Women Hold Key to Success in Innovation Economy

Women Hold Key to Success in Innovation Economy

According to a recent report by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), gains in female participation in science and engineering occupations are not leading to broad increases in the number of patent-holding female inventors.(1) Monica Eaton-Cardone—an entrepreneur and IT executive specializing in risk management and fraud prevention—says the continuing underrepresentation of women among the ranks of patent holders is indicative of a larger problem that can and must be solved. As the world moves to an innovation-based economy, says Eaton-Cardone, the full range of women’s creativity and business acumen will be essential to future growth and prosperity.Innovation economics, increasingly a component of mainstream economic thinking (2), places knowledge, technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Innovation economists believe that what primarily drives growth in today’s economy is not capital accumulation, the basis of traditional neoclassical economics, but innovation. They are focused on spurring economic activity—from the individual to the firm or organization, and to broader levels such as industries, cities or even entire nations—to be more productive and innovative. In this model, patents are an index—and a key driver—of economic growth.(3)

Unfortunately, the U.S. underrepresentation of women in developing patented inventions is a reflection of a worldwide pattern. A recent CNBC survey of 12,000 women developers across 100 countries showed Shanghai and Bangalore to be the world’s leading emerging technology hubs, showing promise to rival or even surpass Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, Asian-based innovation centers, specifically China, South Korea, and India, now dominate patent filing globally. These Asian inventors file counterpart patents in the U.S., which means that the key finding of the recent PTO report—only 12% of patents held by women—reflects not just a U.S. problem, but a global one.(4)

“Women have clearly demonstrated their ability not only to innovate, but to leverage innovation to create value,” says Eaton-Cardone, who serves as Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Global Risk Technologies and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Chargebacks911. “The Kaufman Foundation, for example, has released a study showing that tech companies led by women are more capital-efficient; they achieve, on average, a 35% higher return on investment than firms led by men.(5) Meanwhile, unfortunately, only about seven percent of venture capital funding goes to women-led startups, a number than hasn’t changed in years. VC firms that invest almost exclusively in male-led companies aren’t just doing a disservice to women, they may also be limiting their own return on investment.”

Given this possibility, Eaton-Cardone offers two pieces of advice to venture capital firms:

  • Hear the pitch. Commit to meet with female entrepreneurs, whether you #StartWithEight or go even bigger.
  • Put up some money. Allocate a set amount to invest in female-led businesses. This can help you break male-centric investing habits and seek out promising new opportunities.

Overall, says Eaton-Cardone, the lack of women patent holders mirrors the lack of women in STEM. Here too, she says, female physicists, chemists, biologist, engineers, and technological innovators have conclusively demonstrated that women are the equal of men in these fields. “There are and will continue to be,” she says, “obstacles to female advancement in entrepreneurship and scientific/technical fields. Women, however, should not and need not wait for some outside agency to remove those obstacles. Both as inventors and entrepreneurs, women simply need to take the initiative in leading the innovation economy.”

  1. “Finding STeM’s ‘Gone Girls’: Why Women Innovators Need a New Deal”, Knowledge@Wharton, May 2, 2019.
  2. West, Darrell M., “How the innovation economy leads to growth,” Brookings Institution, April 25, 2018.
  3. Robles, Dan, “A Definition for Innovation Economics,” The Ingenesist Project, November 26, 2009.
  4. “Why female innovators need a new deal,” World Economic Forum, May 9, 2019.
  5. Newmark, Craig, “Let’s get real about supporting women in tech,” Vox, June 2, 2016.