“The time is now to put women’s entrepreneurship into overdrive, and we are excited to launch this valuable initiative to shift it into gear.” – Kathi Vidal
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Wednesday launched the Women’s Entrepreneurship (WE) initiative to “inspire women and tap their potential to meaningfully increase equity, job creation, and economic prosperity.” The initiative is a collaborative effort with the United States Department of Commerce.
“Unleashing the potential of women entrepreneurs is good for business, good for families and good for our economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
WE will focus on connecting women with each other, support networks, and funding sources. Additionally, the USPTO launched a new online hub that provides important information to aspiring women entrepreneurs. The website includes information on how to secure intellectual property rights and secure funding.
The agency is launching WE ahead of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day on November 19, and the announcement coincides with President Joe Biden dubbing November 2022 as National Entrepreneurship Month.
Women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs across the globe, and, according to the World Economic Forum, about half of U.S. startups founded in 2021 were started by women. Additionally, research published in the Harvard Business Review found that Black women are the fastest-growing rate of entrepreneurs with 17% of Black women in the process of starting a business.
However, women are “less likely to be able to secure the capital and the intellectual property protections they need to attract investment and become sustainable,” according to the USPTO.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Business Survey bears out the gender inequality in U.S. business ownership. According to the survey data, men have a majority stake in 63% of U.S. businesses while women have a majority stake in only 21% of businesses. The Harvard Business Review research also found that only 3% of Black women are running mature businesses.
“Women are still vastly underrepresented in leadership positions in the U.S., and the percentage of women who decide to pursue an entrepreneurial career is lower than that of men,” said Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO.
In addition to entrepreneurship and business ownership, women also make up a much smaller portion of IP holders than their male counterparts. Despite decades of growth, only 13% of patents are held by women, according to a USPTO report.
In addition to a focus on women entrepreneurs, the USPTO is also trying to expand innovation opportunities for women in the United States. In July this year, the USPTO announced initiatives to help first-time patent filers and under-resourced inventors.
The private sector has also announced plans to close inequality gaps in entrepreneurship. Also in July, Qualcomm and IP diversity advocacy group Invent Together announced a new e-learning course to teach inventors from backgrounds that are underrepresented in U.S. business and innovation. According to Invent Together, $1 trillion would be added to the U.S. economy if Black/ Indigenous/ People of Color (BIPOC) and women inventors participated in the patent system at the same rate as white males.
The USPTO and Department of Commerce are equally optimistic about the U.S. economy if women receive increased access to business opportunities.
“With this important initiative, our goal is to increase the number of women-led businesses to bolster jobs, consumer choice, and our economic prosperity. The time is now to put women’s entrepreneurship into overdrive, and we are excited to launch this valuable initiative to shift it into gear,” said Director Vidal.
The goal of the WE initiative is to help prospective or current women entrepreneurs to access capital and secure IP protections. The WE web portal includes resources for women looking for small business funding as well as how to start an IP application.
“The WE initiative will serve as a valuable resource to women on their journey to start a business and strengthen the community of women entrepreneurs that continue to power American prosperity,” said Secretary Raimondo.
As part of the initiative, the USPTO will host the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium series in March 2023. The official launch of the WE initiative will be on Wednesday, November 30 from 12–1 p.m. EDT at the USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. More information is available on the USPTO website.