Expanding access to entrepreneurship training programs can be a method to increase female involvement in technology commercialization only if these programs adequately address the specific challenges facing female faculty and graduate students. In the context of the US National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (NSF I-Corps) program, this study examines gender differences in prior experience and attitudes towards the training in order to propose improvements to the program design.
This quantitative study uses Pearson’s Chi-Square and ANOVA tests on survey data from the I-Corps national program (n = 2,195), which enrolls faculty members, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and industry experts.
In comparison to male participants, female I-Corps participants reported less entrepreneurial experience prior to the program, poorer team relationships during the program and lower entrepreneurial intention and technology commercialization readiness at both the beginning and the end of the program. However, no gender differences were found in positive or negative perceptions of the instructional climate or perceptions of program usefulness.
This study is unique as it is based on a large-scale dataset drawn from sites across the United States. The results support potential changes to I-Corps and similar programs, including providing more explicit instructions for tasks with which female participants have less prior experience than males (e.g. in applying for patents), offering guidance for team interactions, and providing mentorship to assess whether low self-efficacy is leading women to underestimate the potential success of their projects.
Epstein, A., Duval-Couetil, N. and Huang-Saad, A. (2021), Gender differences in academic entrepreneurship: Experience, attitudes and outcomes among NSF I-Corps participants. International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJGE-10-2020-0166