Did you know that women own somewhere around 50 percent of all small businesses, but when it comes to creating high-tech startups, they are still in the single digits? Or that less than 10 percent of venture-backed companies have female co-founders, despite research suggesting that women-backed startups perform better? And what about this-That women make up only 25 percent of the science and technology workforce in the United States? From Silicon Valley to the Boston I-495 Tech Corridor, women are under-represented in technology: on university campuses, in large and small businesses, in higher-paying tech jobs, and among fast-growing startup firms. Developing this potential source of untapped talent could jumpstart the economy, improve the lives of women, and advance technology development. And why shouldn't West Virginia be able to tackle this challenge successfully? We have the advantage of familiarity, an established network, and in this effort--a common goal. In fact, a diverse and talented group of dedicated people is already working on a number of initiatives to improve the numbers of women in technology in West Virginia, from early childhood STEM programs at Marshall University to the collegiate statewide business plan competition to technology initiatives all across the Mountain State. In West Virginia, we have a number of women leaders in our state's technology and R&D sectors who serve as role models. Here are just a few of these "tech Divas":
Linda Wellings, President/Owner of MPL Corporationand the only female Chairperson of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Buckhannon.
Casey Cid and Lynn Dombrowski, co-founders of STEMPLOY.com, a website helping women find jobs in STEM fields, Morgantown.
Charlotte Weber, Director and CEO of the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing, Huntington.
Jan Fox, Ed.D., Senior Vice President for Information Technology at Marshall University.
Gale Given, the state's Chief Technology Officer, Charleston.
Jan R. Taylor, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Science and Research at the W.Va. Higher Education Policy Commission, Charleston.
Diane Leslie-Pelecky, Ph.D., Director of the WVNano Initiative, WVU
Tarabeth Brumfield, Director of the Early Education STEM Center at Marshall University.
Tracy Miller, Director of the West Virginia Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex, Inc., Bridgeport.
Elizabeth Kraftician, Award-winning Scientist, Researcher and Inventor. Co-Founder of Touchstone Laboratory, Wheeling.
Loretta Martin, Vice President of Operations at CreateTank.
Zeny Cunanan, Executive Vice President at TMC Technologies, Fairmont.
Jamie Miller, Founder of TRAX BioDiscovery, LLC, Fairmont.
Dr. Valerie Mattimore Fuller, Co-Inventor, Maven Analytical, Huntington.
Maura McLaughlin, Ph.D., WVU Astronomer.
Moreover, West Virginia's colleges and universities are helping to spur the next generation of female technology leaders and entrepreneurs. Among innovative women who are breaking new ground on campus with exciting ventures include:
WVU junior Katherine Bomkamp, who recently won one of 10 2012 Popular Mechanic's "World Changing Innovation Awards!" for her phantom limb pain reduction technology.
Meg Grzeskiewicz, a WVU student who won the 2011 Statewide Collegiate Business Plan for her "Bulls-I Cattle Breeding technology," which will improve success and lower costs for cattle breeders.
TechConnect West Virginia is pleased to be among the partners in this important initiative. We will host a two-day conference in Wheeling on Oct. 18 to 19 to inspire and support women working in technology fields, whether in higher education and research, the public sector, as a new entrepreneur, or in private industry. We hope every year the list of "tech Divas" in our state will be larger and larger.
Barth is executive director of TechConnect West Virginia, For more information about the "Women in Technology: A Formula for Success" conference at Oglebay Resort and Conference Center, visit techconnectwv.org.