Skip to main content
Home » Empowering Women at Work » How We Can Fuel American Innovation
Empowering Women at Work

How We Can Fuel American Innovation


Computing is critical to American innovation. It is a key driver of economic growth and is fundamental to advances in healthcare, national security, and nearly every STEM field. In fact, in 2022, 64% of U.S. patents were related to software.[13] However, it’s noteworthy that the rate of women receiving IT patents has been slow, rising from a mere 2% in 1980 to only 10% by 2020.[15]

Some computing fields are growing faster than others, including artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and semiconductor chip design. For example, there are now 50 quantum technology master’s degree programs and 180 universities with quantum-related research groups in the United States.

The number of students pursuing these fields is sure to rise given the expected quantum computing market size of $106 billion by 2040.[12] Nonetheless, there’s a looming concern that these domains will be male-dominated as they grow.

This trend is not new; historically, lucrative opportunities in fast-evolving fields have tended to attract more men, as observed during the computer science enrollment surge starting around 2013.[8]

Why diversity matters

Diversifying representation in computing is critical to advancement and innovation. Scholarship is clear: When managed well, diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams on a wide range of metrics.[1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 16, 17, 19, 21] Conversely, low diversity stifles research advancement, constraining the range of research topics and methodologies, and in turn impacting societal outcomes.

One of the underrepresented groups in computing is women. Every woman has multiple intersecting identities, including race, ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation, adherence to beauty ideals, religion, family status, ability status, and more. Yet, women share common challenges in a society with negative stereotypes and prejudices about women.

These biases translate into workplace disparities, such as lower promotion rates, wage gaps, discrimination, and elevated turnover rates.[6, 9, 18, 20] Moreover, the intersection of various identities worsens these challenges, further limiting access to opportunities and resources for women.

For example, the “mommy penalty” negatively affects women’s promotion with career-spanning consequences; ageism is far worse for women than for men; women with disabilities are paid 20% less than men with disabilities; LGBTQ+ women earn 2% less than their non-LGBTQ+ women peers; and Black and Hispanic women earn 5% less than Asian women.[11]

Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts on multiple fronts. Organizations must adopt strategies to disrupt inequities within social systems through policy revisions, altering practices, and challenging biased beliefs and norms. At the same time, understanding the factors that influence women’s participation in computing is crucial. Early exposure to coding, expressed interest in computing, and belonging to supportive communities throughout educational journeys emerge as key influencers.[14]

By implementing systemic changes and providing necessary support and experiences for people marginalized by gender, we can bolster their meaningful and influential participation in the tech industry. Our nation’s ability to compete in computing and its rapidly advancing subfields depends on it.

References Cited:

[1] Badal, S., Harter, J.K. 2014. Gender Diversity, Business-Unit Engagement, and Performance. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies. 21, 4 (Nov. 2014), 354–365. DOI:

[2] Curtis, M., Schmid, C., Struber, M. 2012. Gender diversity and corporate performance. Credit Suisse Research Institute.

[3] Doz, Y., Santos, J., Williamson, P. 2004. Diversity: The key to innovation advantage. European Business Forum. 17 (Spring 2004), 25–27.

[4] Ensmenger, N.L. 2010. The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise. The MIT Press.

[5] Hanleybrown, F., Kania, J. and Kramer, M. 2012. Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work

[6] Hewlett, S.A., Sherbin, L., Dieudonne, F., Fargnoli, C. and Fredman, C. 2014. Athena Factor 2.0: Accelerating female talent in science, engineering & technology. Center for Talent Innovation.

[7] Hoogendoorn, S., Oosterbeek, H., van Praag, M. 2013. The impact of gender diversity on the performance of business teams: Evidence from a field experiment. Management Science. 59, 7 (Mar. 2013), 1514–1528. DOI:

[8] Jacobs, J.A. 2001. Evolving Patterns of Sex Segregation. Sourcebook of Labor Markets. I. Berg and A.L. Kalleberg, eds. Springer US. 535–550.

[9] Korn Ferry. 2019. Korn Ferry Analysis of Largest U.S. Companies Shows Percentage of Women in C-Suite Roles Inches Up from Previous Year. Retrieved December 20, 2023 from

[10] Krishnan, H.A., Park, D. 2005. A few good women—on top management teams. Journal of Business Research. 58, 12 (Dec. 2005), 1712–1720. DOI:

[11] Lucifora, C., Meurs, D., Villar, E. 2021. The mommy track in the workplace. Evidence from a large French firm. Labour Economics. 72, (Oct. 2021), 102035. DOI:

[12] McKinsey & Company. The rise of quantum computing. Retrieved December 20, 2023 from

[13] Millien, R. 2023. Software-related U.S. patent grants in 2022 remained steady while Chinese software patents rose 8%. IPWatchdog. Retrieved December 20, 2023 from

[14] National Center for Women & IT. 2020. Learning From Young Women: A Multi-Year NCWIT Research Study from

[15] National Center for Women & IT. 2022. Who Invents IT: Women’s Participation in Information Technology Patenting. Retrieved December 20, 2023 from Center for Women & IT-patenting-report-2022-update/.

[16] Page, S.E. 2007. The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. Princeton University Press.

[17] Phillips, K.W., Medin, D., Lee, C.D., Bang, M., Bishop, S. and Lee, D.N. 2014. How diversity works. Scientific American. 311, 4 (2014), 42–47.

[18] Thomas, R., Cooper, M., McShane Urban, K., Cardazone, G., Borher, A., Mahajan, S., Yee, L., Krivkovich, A., Huang, J., Rambachan, I., Burns, T. and Trkulja, T. 2021. Women in the Workplace. 2021. McKinsey Company and

[19] Turner, L. 2009. Gender diversity and innovative performance. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development. 4, 2/3 (2009), 123. DOI:

[20] U.S. Department of Labor. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2023. Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation and sex 2020: 2021. Retrieved December 20, 2023 from

[21] Wolff, T., Minkler, M., Wolfe, S.M., Berkowitz, B., Bowen, L., Butterfoss, F.D. and Lee, K. S. 2017. Collaborating for equity and justice: Moving beyond collective impact. Nonprofit Quarterly. 9, (2017), 42–53.

Next article