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Last modified: Thursday, October 30, 2003

IU report highlights the important role women play in growing high-tech economy

NOTE: Kurtz' Indiana Business Review article appears online in its entirety at In addition to her report, there also is a sidebar article, "Hoosier Women in High-Tech Jobs," by Carol Rogers, associate director of the Indiana Business Research Center.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Along with the shift toward developing more scientific and technological firms in Indiana and elsewhere has come an increasingly vital role for women in realms traditionally dominated by men, according to a new report published by Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

Author Jennifer Kurtz, a research fellow in the Indiana Business Research Center, noted that the gender gap in compensation has been steadily decreasing in technology fields over the last 20 years. She attributed this trend to a combination of factors, including growth in the number of women in senior management positions, women with advanced degrees and women holding patents.

"Young women have had relatively few role models to encourage their pursuit of scientific and technological adventures," Kurtz wrote in her article, "Mothers of Invention: Women in Technology, " in the fall issue of Indiana Business Review. "That pattern has begun to change as women are increasingly present in all dimensions of the innovation life cycle: knowledge creation, technology transfer, commercialization and clusters/networks."

The Indiana Business Review is a quarterly research publication of the Indiana Business Research Center.

She said women must increasingly pursue science and technology to ensure that the future needs for a skilled U.S. workforce are met. Average employment growth for all professions is expected to reach 15.2 percent through the year 2010, but similar employee demand is projected to range from 52 percent to 100 percent for medical assistants, database administrators, network/systems administrators and software engineers.

"The significance of the projected job boom is not just quantitative -- more job opportunities -- but qualitative -- more opportunity within jobs," she said.

While more women are being represented in engineering and scientific fields, more progress needs to be made at senior management levels. Kurtz found that just 11 percent of the top 100 U.S. technology companies have women corporate officers. Only 1.4 percent of Standard and Poor's 500 stock index companies are led by a female chief executive.

"Women in senior management also tend to serve corporate functions, such as human resources and marketing/communications, rather than leading business product/service units," she said.

According to a National Science Foundation report, the percentage of science and engineering doctoral degrees awarded nationally to women increased dramatically between 1966 and 2000, from 8 percent to 36.2 percent. In the agricultural and biological sciences, these statistics were even more impressive: the percentage of women earning agricultural doctorates grew from 1.4 to 29.1 percent over the same 34-year period; the percentage of women earning biological doctorates went from 14.8 percent to 44.8 percent.

"Female scientists and engineers still earn less than male colleagues, although the salary gap may close as a higher percentage of women obtain doctoral degrees," she said.

Patents are another indicator for innovation. Kurtz said the percentage of women holding patents is still about half of what it could be, based on the percentage of women in science and engineering jobs generally.

"One factor is the rate of application: more men than women apply for National Institutes of Health awards, for example," she said. "Although the average award rate was comparable, men applied twice as frequently for NIH First Awards between 1988 and 1997. Similarly, women made only one-third as many applications as men for individual investigator research project grants in 1997."

One public policy observation in Kurtz's report was that there is a general correlation between total state expenditures on research and development and the number of female patent holders.

Patenting tends to lead to further patents, and companies perceived to be friendly to female engineers were headquartered in nine states that spent more on R&D. Neighboring states Illinois, Ohio and Michigan were on that list, while Indiana was not.

The nine states account for about two-thirds of the national research and development effort. Two-thirds of the U.S. patents held by women originated from these states, according to NSF studies.

But the outlook is changing and can be a positive one, she concluded.

"Changes in university policies regarding women's eligibility for tenure and research positions, increased graduate-level educational attainment by women in science and engineering, more leadership opportunities for women in high-tech companies, and the anticipated growth in employment demand are converging to make science and technology attractive for women," Kurtz said.

Indiana Business Review is available online at and in print. To inquire about receiving a printed copy, call the Indiana Business Research Center at 812-855-5507.