By Mark Golden
Women in technology face a gender gap much wider than that faced by women in other U.S. sectors, and that is no different for female entrepreneurs in sustainable technology.
While the situation has improved somewhat in the past couple decades, there is a long way to go, according to participants in the Women Entrepreneurs in Sustainability seminar organized by the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy. Five female inventors and a pioneering investor shared their insights for overcoming the barriers, especially given that finding investors has been challenging for all cleantech entrepreneurs the past few years.
“This industry doesn’t look like America in terms of diversity, but you don’t solve a problem until you own it and turn a light on it,” said keynote speaker Nancy Pfund, managing partner of venture capital fund DBL Partners.
Diverse venture fund teams attract a diverse group of startups, said Pfund, and women-led, venture-backed companies have higher revenues than those operated by men. Of nine startups recently backed by DBL, six are run by women entrepreneurs, she said.
Still, according to one 2012 estimate, female-led ventures start with about an eighth of the funding of male-owned ventures, noted Stacey Bent, director of the TomKat Center. Individual investors, foundations, non-profit organizations and the government can offer a more level playing field. They are often committed to diversity as well as sustainability and the financial success of the ventures they support.
Eight of the 24 Stanford startups backed by the TomKat Center’s Innovation Transfer Program have at least one woman on the founding team. And, of the 68 students who have gone through the program to date about 25 percent are women.
To read the full article, visit TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford University.