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Role modeling: Showcase achievements among women faculty

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: July 11th, 2018

The subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle messages that girls receive in their early years can lead to a lifelong aversion to self-promotion — so it may be up to your TTO to do it for them, and create a role modeling forum for your female faculty.

“Historically, women are programmed as girls to believe that self-promotion isn’t a sought-after quality. If a little boy self-promotes or asks for something, it’s fine, but if a little girl self-promotes or asks for something, it’s not lady-like, says Mercedes Meyer, PhD, JD, a partner in the IP group at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP in Washington, DC, and vice chair of the Women in IP Committee at the Intellectual Property Owners Association. “While there are exceptions, that disconnect between how boys and girls are treated and mentally programmed to act and react has downstream consequences for many women.”

As women, “we often take ourselves out of the pool because we don’t self-identify as inventors. We self-identify as scientists,” Meyer explains. “People need to be taught that they can self-identify as being an inventor, an entrepreneur, a general counsel, or a CEO and still be a woman.”

“Promoting women faculty not only gives students and peers role models, it can help position these women to gain access to the additional resources that may even out the playing field,” says Dimitra Georganopoulou, PhD, director of commercialization in the Innovation and New Ventures Office at Northwestern University and leader of the INVOReach innovation diversity program.

She recommends three key, low-cost ways to do that:

  • Nominate women for awards. “We don’t try to mandate that half of the nominations are women, but we do try to ensure that two to three women are promoted as part of every effort we do as an office,” says Georganopoulou. For example, every year INVOReach recommends several star female faculty for election into the National Academy of Inventors.
  • Boost women faculty’s bios. “If you look at the online biographies of Northwestern faculty, the majority of female bios focus on their science and education,” says Georganopoulou. “However, the majority of male bios have a different slant, promoting their awards and recognitions.” So last year INVOReach worked with a small nucleus of female faculty to prepare new bios, she reports. “We almost forced them to see themselves in a different way so they could promote themselves more in that sense. This had such a positive impact with female faculty that we’re planning an initiative to do more this summer.”
  • Get women faculty to the podium. “We also partner with other organizations to provide Northwestern women faculty as speakers and panelists,” says Georganopoulou. “For example, we collaborated with the AUTM Women Inventors Committee to develop the ‘Boardroom Bound’ webinar, which included female faculty at Northwestern, an alumnus of Northwestern who is a CEO, and a start-up executive who is also an alum.”

A detailed article on role modeling for women inventors appears as part of the special June issue of Technology Transfer Tactics focused on addressing the gender gap in research commercialization. To subscribe and access the special issue – along with the publication’s 11-year archive of best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.  

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