Women's Work: Are Female Entrepreneurs Really So Different?
The biggest honor, 2012 National Small Business Person of the Year, was given to Victoria Tifft, president and CEO of Clinical Research Management in Hinckley, Ohio. The company, which runs clinical drug and vaccine trials for the government and commercial customers, was founded in 1994 and now has more than 300 employees and annual revenue of $40 million.
The top awards for federal contractors also went to women-owned businesses. Denco, a construction and facility management firm based in Las Cruces, N.M., was named Prime Contractor of the Year, and Management Solutions, a project management services company in Knoxville, Tenn., was honored as Subcontractor of the Year.
The fact that women start and operate successful companies is hardly breaking news. But the SBA's recognition of these particular businesses is a timely reminder that gender has no impact on entrepreneurial success.
Or does it? A number of studies have shown there are still distinct, statistically significant differences between companies owned by women and those owned by men. The question is: Do those differences matter?
A report from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Overcoming the Gender Gap: Women Entrepreneurs as Economic Drivers, examined the lack of female entrepreneurs in high-growth industries such as science and technology. Overall, about one-third of start-ups are founded by women, and that number is significantly less in technical fields.
Does that matter? Yes, because it has implications for the broader U.S economy. If more qualified women used their expertise to start businesses in high-growth fields, there would be more skilled, higher-paying jobs available for American workers.
Instead, women with high-level science or tech credentials tend to take positions within large corporations or universities, rather than going off on their own, says the report's author, Lesa Mitchell: "Women have made great strides in breaking through the glass ceiling. Yet there seem to be glass walls, as it were, that keep them from breaking out laterally."