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Is it time to stop giving women entrepreneurs extra help? According to bNet columnist Mark Henricks, yes. In making this assertion he cites a report from the Center for Women’s Business Research which states that 40 percent of all U.S. businesses are at least 50-percent-owned by women, and that the number of women-owned businesses is expanding at twice the rate of businesses in general.  Here are some other statistics to consider: the average revenue for majority women-owned businesses is only 27% of the average revenue for men-owned businesses.  About 3% of majority women-owned businesses have revenue over $1M – that’s a quarter of a million women.  On the other hand, about 6% of majority men-owned businesses have $1M+ revenue.
So, how do we know when we’ve reached the tipping point, when women no longer need “special accommodations” to help them get a leg up, or to level the playing field? Are we there already?

If you hold a leadership role that defies gender stereotype, will people accept you?  Yes … unless you make a mistake.  That’s the conclusion of a recent Yale School of Management study, which found that “A gender-congruent leader’s competence is assumed … but for a gender-incongruent leader, salient mistakes create ambiguity and call the leader’s competence into question, which in turn leads to a loss of status … “the specific profession in which the mistake occurs may be less important than whether the target’s gender is congruent with the job.” The study was performed using hypothetical scenarios involving a male (gender congruent) or female police chief, and a male or female (gender congruent) president of a women’s university, each of whom was depicted handling a protest rally that either was safely diffused or resulted in violence and injuries.
(Interesting that the “gender-congruent” university president role for a woman used in the scenarios was for a president at a women’s university, and not a co-ed university. Makes us wonder, did the researchers have trouble coming up with widely accepted leadership roles for women?)

Does hiring intelligent people result in teams that do intelligent work? A new study on “collective intelligence” finds that there’s actually little to no correlation between the intelligence of individual team members and the team’s ability to solve problems, make decisions, or invent solutions. Rather, according to the study, the collective intelligence of a group is determined by “the degree to which group members were attuned to social cues” and “their willingness to take turns speaking.” 
Having read that, then perhaps you won’t be surprised to read this: another predictor of collective intelligence in groups is a higher proportion of women. The study’s authors believe this is because women tend to score higher on tests of “social sensitivity,” which they suggest is “a key ingredient of successful teams.”
We hope you’ll click over and read the summary in the journal Science – especially the last two paragraphs, which explain that “Research on how the gender composition of teams affects their performance has a long and controversial history”.  In particular, think about the statements that “women are more likely to remain quiet and let others have their say in team discussions, sometimes to the detriment of the team,” and “the random makeup of the groups may limit the reach of the findings” because in a typical workplace setting, “individuals would be more familiar with their teammates and know whom to listen to and encourage to speak.” Then think about how these behaviors might be influenced by factors like unconscious bias, mentoring, or supervisory relationships. 
How might you increase collective intelligence and in your workplace?

The 2011 Imagine Cup is underway! Sponsored by Microsoft, the Imagine Cup competition challenges students ages 16 and up to tackle the world’s most complex problems using technical solutions and a solid business plan. Each project addresses one of the UN Millenium goals: Poverty and Hunger, Universal Education, Gender Equality, Child Health, Maternal Health, HIV/AIDS, Environmental Sustainability, and Global Partnership.
Studies show that when students are solving real-world problems, they are more engaged in their learning.  Invite students to change the world, and invite teachers and business professionals to mentor the next technology entrepreneurs.

A recent survey conducted by Science magazine, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and L’Oreal suggests that men and women in the sciences agree on the most significant barriers in their professions: access to grants/funding, a scarcity of job openings, and balancing life and career. However, the survey — which included male and female scientists with doctoral degrees, who are members of AAAS — also uncovered significant differences in the experiences of men and women:

Female respondents were much less likely to have children than their male counterparts (53% of females versus 77% of males).
Female respondents cited gender biases as the reason why female colleagues left the field almost twice as frequently as male colleagues (47% of females versus 24% of males).
Half of female respondents said that mentors could have helped them to overcome barriers, versus 33% of male respondents.

The survey results were cited in the context of a panel discussion on Capitol Hill and mention of the reissued report on U.S. scientific competitiveness and innovation, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5.” Unlike its predecessor, the follow-up “Storm” report actually cites the need to encourage more women and minorities to choose science careers, as they are among the fastest-growing groups in the workforce but the least represented in the sciences. 
What do you think?  What should be the role of government or legislation in decreasing bias, or building the scientific workforce of the future?

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