Filling the Innovation Gap for Women’s Empowerment

by Erin Andrew | Aug. 4, 2015

Did you know that U.S. women create and control a vast and growing amount of wealth? Women control $11.2 trillion, or 39% of our nation’s $28.6 trillion investable assets. Every year, more and more women join the cluster of the world’s wealthiest: a record-breaking 172 women made it to Forbe’s Billionaires List in 2014, up from 138. Although women have continued to make great strides, they tend to underinvest their assets, and their financial power remains largely untapped.

We don’t see many women angel investors or venture capitalists. Even fewer women are partners and senior managers in these firms that can influence investment decisions. Consider these numbers:

  • Women angel investors accounted for only 26.1% of the angel market in 2014.
  • In the same year, only 6% of partners in venture capital firms were women, a decline from 10% in 1999.
  • In the 10 largest private equity firms, an average 10.9% of senior managers are women.

The current investment ecosystem is not favorable to products and services tailored to women’s needs.

Women investors, more so than their male counterparts, understand the unique challenges facing working women today and are more likely to invest in products and services that help women balance their work and family responsibilities. Women now make up nearly half of the labor force and play a critical role in our nation’s economic prosperity:

  • 57% of working age women participate in the workforce.
  • 70% of working women have children under 18 years old.

As more women are entering the labor force and the professional workplace, there is a bigger need to balance their work and family.

Given the shortage of women investors, how can we foster the development of more innovative products in the market that support working women and their families and help encourage the progress of gender diversity in the workplace? The President is using Demo Day to draw attention to this challenge, and as part of the Demo Day announcements, the U.S. Small Business Administration is launching the second round of InnovateHER, a business challenge to unearth innovative products and services that can impact the lives of working women and their families. This second challenge follows the success of InnovateHER 2015. The 2015 InnovateHER top three challenge winners, LIA Diagnostics, The SHOWER SHIRT™, and Trusst Lingerie, demonstrated how innovation can simplify and improve women’s lives.

The success of the first InnovateHER challenge highlighted the high demand for innovative products and services that positively impact women’s lives and encouraged us to launch the second challenge on a bigger scale. The SBA’s goal is to expand this opportunity to twice as many organizations in 2016. We have also partnered with Microsoft to provide prize money totaling $70,000 to the Top Three winners, more than double the winnings from the 2015 challenge.

We hope that the 2016 InnovateHER challenge provides a platform for even more great products and  services that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, have the potential for commercialization, and fill a need in the marketplace. Interested entrepreneurs can participate through local competitions that will be hosted throughout the country from August to November 2015 in partnerships with SBA’s Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers, SCORE chapters, accelerators, incubators, and other organizations. Visit to learn more and to find a local competition in your area.

Up to ten Finalists will be invited to come to Washington, D.C. during Women’s History Month in March 2016 and participate in a live pitch competition for the Top Three winners and cash prizes. If you have a smart product or service that can make a difference, use this platform to showcase your innovation, win prize money and uncover new opportunities to take your product or service to the next level.

A better breast pump, an app easily identifying approved childcare providers in the community, a post-surgical garment designed for women — innovation can make a difference in women’s social and economic empowerment. So, join us as we bring together creative ideas to support women’s efforts to push the limits, break the glass ceiling and create long-term, positive changes in gender equality.

Originally published at by Erin Andrew in SBA Blog, “Filling the Innovation Gap for Women’s Empowerment”. Published on Aug. 4, 2015, Accessed on Aug. 10, 2015.

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