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Women more likely to start biotech companies than other kinds of tech firms

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I just came across an interesting Slate article on women in biotechnology, and I read with interest that women start biotech firms at higher rates than women working in other areas of high-tech. Why might that be?

Partly there are more women in biotech fields than there are in other technology sectors. Women hold 46 percent of all positions in the biological and life sciences. In 2008-09, women received about half of all Ph.D.s in the discipline, compared with about 20 percent in engineering and 27 percent in computer science. "Biology has a much greater representation of women than other areas of high-tech and so if the CEOS and founders are coming at least in part from a biology training then there are many more of them to participate," said Fiona Murray, a professor of technological innovation and entrepreneurship at MIT's Sloan School of Management, in an e-mail.

Writer Jill Priluck goes on to say that biotech is a relatively new industry "without an entrenched boys' club," and women also benefit from the field's "less hierarchical, team-based structure."

Of course, everything is relative - and Priluck rightly notes that the percentage of female-founded biotech companies (12 percent) is impressive "only in comparison to other high-tech fields." (I shudder to think what those figures are!) But she strikes a hopeful tone, pointing out that women-owned companies are a fast-growing sector.

Photo by Argonne National Laboratory
Via The Medicine Show

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