In closing, Lydia Villa-Komaroff identified some of the issues raised by various speakers and workshop participants. She began by reflecting that the younger generations have grown up differently than those previous, and therefore one can anticipate changes in the data presented throughout the workshop regarding women’s involvement in various entrepreneurial careers and fields as the women who are in their 20s and 30s make decisions as to where to go in their career pathways.
She noted that while a great deal of data was presented and more is always helpful, there are sufficient data upon which to begin to act. Specifically, in order to ensure that individuals of all backgrounds utilize their talents, it may not be enough to show people the data about how it is beneficial to have women actively involved, we may need to mandate change in behavior first and then buy-in will follow. Villa-Komaroff reminded everyone that we also need to be aware of our own biases and, perceptions of ourselves, and how these biases and perceptions can interfere with the ability to use our own talents. Courage, she stated, is not an absence of insecurity or fear, it is action in the face of those insecurities and fears.
Villa-Komaroff concluded by suggesting actions that could follow from the workshop:
• sharing the presentations and data presented at the workshop
• informing our own activities based on what we have learned
• remaining a group that can continue to remind people of the importance of these issues
• developing incentives and disincentives that can change behavior in the short term
• bringing people to the table to demonstrate how the inclusion of women will benefit our entire collective efforts
Members of the audience then offered their personal and professional experiences that enriched this session. Some of the points made by various participants include the following.
• Significant commonalities exist between women in technical fields of academia and entrepreneurship, e.g., the positive impact for women of the presence of females on hiring/tenure committees or funding interview boards, the exclusion from formal and informal networks that women experience; and the lower dollar amounts for grants and funding levels sought by women.
• There is a need to emphasize the value of productive mentors and networking.
• It is important to include careers as entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and social entrepreneurs in graduate and postdoctoral education and training.
• Promotion of training programs of shorter length that allow women to gain new skills and experiences on a relatively short timeline that complement more formalized programs.
• Although national data on gender issues do exist, more regional data on female technical entrepreneurial activities may help focus policy-making efforts on this subject.
• It would be valuable to explore effective ways to incorporate venture capitalists into the discussion of gender inequality and women in entrepreneurship.
• The impact of lifestyle and family configuration on gender differences warrants further investigation.
• Effective change can occur by promoting public benchmarking of larger firms and creating policies to tie mentoring to promotional advancement and economic gain.
The final discussion highlighted the wide range of career opportunities available to women in scientific and technical areas beyond traditional academic careers. Through meetings and workshops such as this one, these careers can be better understood and many important lessons can be learned from those who have been successful in entrepreneurial careers. Further, as many of the presenters articulated, careers vary and change over time, so women entrepreneurs should feel free to exit and enter a variety of opportunities as they arise over the span of their professional lives.