USPTO Steps Up Efforts to Promote Women Entrepreneurs

“Now is the time to give female entrepreneurship a boost, and we are excited to launch this valuable initiative to kick things into high gear. –Kathi Vidal

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched on Wednesday the Women’s Entrepreneurship (WE) initiative to “inspire women and harness their potential to significantly 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 to each other, support networks and funding sources. Additionally, the USPTO has launched a new online hub which provides important information for aspiring 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 Dubbing of President Joe Biden November 2022 as National Entrepreneurship Month.

Inequality

Women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the world and, according to the World Economic Forum, about half of US startups founded in 2021 were created by women. In addition, research published in the Harvard Business Review found that black women are the fastest growing rate of entrepreneurs with 17% of black women starting a business.

However, women are “less likely to be able to secure the capital and intellectual property protections they need to attract investment and become sustainable,” according to the USPTO.

The data of the U.S. Census Bureau Annual Business Survey confirms gender inequality in the ownership of American businesses. According to survey data, men hold a majority stake in 63% of US companies, while women hold a majority stake in only 21% of companies. Harvard Business Review research also found that only 3% of black women run mature businesses.

“Women are still vastly underrepresented in leadership positions in the United States, and the percentage of women who decide to pursue entrepreneurial careers is lower than that of men,” said Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for the intellectual property and director of the USPTO.

Besides entrepreneurship and business ownership, women also make up a much lower proportion of IP owners than their male counterparts. Despite decades of growth, only 13% of patents are held by women, according to a USPTO report.

In addition to focusing on women entrepreneurs, the USPTO also tries to expand innovation opportunities for women in the United States. In July of this year, the USPTO announced initiatives to help first-time patent applicants 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 announcement a new e-learning course to teach inventors from underrepresented backgrounds in business and innovation in the United States. According to Invent Together, $1 trillion would be added to the US economy if Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC) inventors and female inventors participated in the patent system at the same rate as white men.

Future Solutions

The USPTO and the Department of Commerce are equally optimistic about the US economy if women enjoyed increased access to business opportunities.

“With this important initiative, our goal is to increase the number of women-led businesses to strengthen jobs, consumer choice and our economic prosperity. Now is the time to give female entrepreneurship a boost, and we are excited to launch this valuable initiative to kick it into high gear,” said Director Vidal.

The goal of the WE initiative is to help potential or current women entrepreneurs access capital and secure intellectual property protections. The WE web portal includes resources for women seeking small business financing as well as how to start an IP application.

“The WE Initiative will serve as a valuable resource for women on their journey to start a business and strengthen the community of women entrepreneurs who continue to fuel American prosperity,” Secretary Raimondo said.

As part of this initiative, the USPTO will host the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium Series in March 2023. The official launch of the WE initiative will take place on Wednesday, November 30 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. EDT at the USPTO Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. More information is available on the USPTO website.

Image by Alec Pronk