Juneteenth: Celebrating Black Inventors
Lisa L. Mueller
Casimir Jones S.C.
Juneteenth, also known as also known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day, commemorates the end of slavery in 1865 in the United States and celebrates Black culture. Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.
This year, to honor Juneteenth, I wanted to highlight the stories of two incredible Black American inventors.
Laser Eye Surgery Pioneer: Dr. Patricia Bath
Dr. Patricia Bath received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 1964 from Hunter College, followed by a medical degree from Howard University in 1968. Bath was the first Black female physician to complete a residency in ophthalmology, the first woman to chair an ophthalmology residency program in the U.S., and the first black female physician to receive a patent. Over the course of her career, Bath was awarded five U.S. patents [U.S. Patent Nos. 4,744,360, 5,843,071, 5,919,186, 6,083,192 and 6,544,254]. It was U.S. Patent No. 4,744,360 that protects Bath’s invention, the Laserphaco Probe, a minimally invasive device and technique that performs all the steps of cataract removal, from making the incision, to destroying the lens, to vacuuming out fractured pieces. The Probe allowed eye surgeons to use lasers to restore or improve vision for millions of patients suffering from cataracts worldwide.
It was while she was a young medical intern that Bath observed that about half of the patients at Harlem Hospital’s eye clinic, who were predominantly Black, were blind or visually impaired, while at Columbia Hospital, very few exhibited such eye issues. Based on her observations, she concluded that the high rate of blindness among Blacks was the result of a lack of access to ophthalmic care. As a result, in 1976, she proposed the discipline of community ophthalmology, which combined public health, community medicine and clinical and day care programs to provide eye care to underrepresented populations. Additionally, she co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness as well as the Ophthalmic Assistant Training Program at UCLA, whose graduates work on blindness prevention.
Bath has been recognized as a laser pioneer, and she has been recognized by the National Science Foundation, the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, the American Medical Women’s Association, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the American Academy of Ophthalmology Museum of Vision & Ophthalmic Heritage, the Association of Black Women Physicians with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Ophthalmology Contributions, and by Alpha Kappa Alpha with its Presidential Award for Health and Medical Services. Bath passed away in 2019.
Voice Data and AI Champion: Dr. Marian Croak
Dr. Marian Croak received an undergraduate degree from Princeton University and went on to the University of Southern California where she earned her doctorate, which focused on statistical analysis and social psychology. Currently, Croak serves as Vice President of Engineering at Google where she leads Google’s Research Center for Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Human Centered Technology. She has more than 200 patents to her name, such as U.S. Patent No. 7,599,359, which centers on Voice over Internet Protocol (VolP), which is focused on converting voice data into digital signals that can be transmitted over the internet rather than through phone lines and advanced the capability of audio and videoconferencing. This technology was essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, for remote work and conferencing.
During her career, Croak and her team created a text-to-donate system for charitable organizations that first saw widespread use and raied $130,000 after Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans in 2005. Five years later, after a powerful earthquake devastated Haiti, the tech raised a whopping $43 million in donations.
Croak is included in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Collectible Cards series and was featured in the USPTO’s SUCCESS ACT (Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science Success) Report in 2018. Croak won the Edison Patent Awards in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, she was also inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame.
Fittingly, both Bath and Croak were inducted into The National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2021.
Global Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Technology Transfer Starts with You
By Tom Hockaday
Technology Transfer Innovation, UK
University technology transfer has a huge role to play in promoting equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in many, many ways. But not enough people are seeing this, and certainly not enough are acting on it. Leadership is key, and that doesn’t only mean the person running the tech transfer office. We are all in leadership roles of one sort or another and can act to bring about change.
The 2022 AUTM Annual Meeting in New Orleans was the first technology transfer conference I’ve been to where EDI was so prominent, front and center. There was an EDI track, an EDI breakfast, and throughout a range of presenters that truly reflected efforts to diversify by gender and race and provide access to those who needed it. Gone is the previous stereotype of panels of all middle-aged white men proclaiming from stage.
I had the privilege of joining Anji Miller, LifeArc UK, on the panel, “Global Equity Diversity and Inclusion in Technology Transfer.” Miller organized the session, featuring panelists Clovia Hamilton, SUNY Korea; Fabiola Moreno, Binghamton, USA; Gilberto Medeiros Ribeiro, UFMG, Brazil; Natalie Cozier, ICAST Bath, UK; and Tim Boyle, ANSTO Australia.
Hamilton described her work increasing diversity in university technology management with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and her work starting to collect data on their technology transfer activities, highlighting the importance of overcoming the reticence over data collection and reporting, to enable presentation of HBCU aggregate data and comparison amongst HBCUs.
Moreno described her work and successes looking into how Universities can engage the community with realistic long-term goals, expanding the reach of university resources, forming relationships with local community leaders, particularly those from underrepresented minority groups, bringing them to the table when discussing economic development initiatives, and making University resources become accessible to the community.
Medeiros Ribeiro talked about how to increase women and under-represented minorities academics in STEM careers, looking at critical race and gender gap issues in Brazil and inclusion strategies at undergraduate level in Computer Science, and the tech transfer office experience at the leadership level. UFMG provides day-long Computer Science workshops for high-school girls in partnership with Google, and is part of the national "Programa Meninas Digitais / Digital Girls Program."
Cozier shared personal perspectives from black women on racial burnout: “the most tiring thing is recounting your stories of racism and people then cracking jokes and expecting you to be ok,” Paris Williams; ”I get angry because it’s impossible for me not to say something. But the toll it’s taken is so serious now I can barely sound calm, collected and articulate,” Kelsea Delatango; ”I’m yet to meet a black person who isn’t acutely aware of their race. It is what it is: exhaustion,” Deone Payne-James; and then her own personal experiences as a black woman in British science.
Boyle talked about his experiences watching Australia coming to terms with its racial history and mistreatment of Australian First Nations from the first day of British colonialism and steps being taken to remedy this within the Australian research community.
I talked about two initiatives in the UK from which the global technology transfer community can learn: the Hamilton Commission and Royal Academy of Engineering Report into Improving Representation of Black People in UK Motorsport; and the Change The Race Ratio charter, launched by the Confederation of British Industry, to accelerate racial diversity in business “diverse business leadership enhances business performance.”
Miller described the formation of GEDITT.com in 2021 to impact technology transfer; improve EDI, “transforming one TTO at a time” and encouraged a wealth of audience contributions, many describing their own challenges in STEM and technology transfer.
I went into the session with a framework of the "three ways" that tech transfer offices can work on EDI: 1. in your own office 2. in your institution 3. outside with deal partners, investors, suppliers.
I came away with a fourth way: all technology transfer associations at national, regional, or international scale can provide a focus for EDI amongst their membership; there are many, many tech transfer professionals who want to talk about the issues. Let us hope that every technology transfer association soon develops an EDI group, has EDI-related sessions at events, and never again has a group of (solely middle-aged white) men on stage. If you would like to further discuss ways to implement strategies toward this goal, please feel free to reach out to me, or anyone on the panel mentioned above.
AUTM Survey Data Reveals Majority of Patent Filings, Invention Disclosures Include No Women
Anne E. Hall, University of Minnesota Technology Commercialization
Forough Ghahramani, Edge, Inc.
One of the key themes in sessions at the 2022 Annual Meeting included the AUTM pillars of diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s well documented that many steps in the innovation process — from patent filings and VC investment to startup leadership — mirror inequitable trends in society as a whole; and, despite progress, women and people of color are underrepresented in innovation ecosystems.
The AUTM Women Inventors Special Interest Group (WISIG) was formed to help improve equity and diversity in tech transfer, and one of our strategies has been to use data to document potential gaps in innovator participation. Our ultimate goals are use data to highlight challenges, document effective approaches to reduce gaps, set goals to drive positive change, and measure improvement over time.
What we’ve found in a recent analysis of more than six years of Licensing Survey data confirms the underrepresentation of women: most invention disclosures and new patent filings from nearly 200 institutions over a six-year period did not include any women. Of more than 75,000 new patent filings, 79%
included no women. In more than 77,000 inventions disclosures in that same period, 68%
included no women. These averages were consistent and did not vary widely from year to year. These gaps are large, and highlight significant challenges, but also considerable opportunities at many institutions to increase innovator participation rates and grow our innovation ecosystems.
This data came from two new questions the WISIG recommended be added to AUTM’s annual and popular Licensing Survey in 2015: how many invention disclosures and new patent filings “include at least one woman.” We reached out to tech transfer offices to encourage them to answer these two new ‘gender questions’ and provided advice on storing the data in common tech transfer office databases such as Wellspring and Inteum. Gender has not historically been tracked by tech transfer offices, which already face challenges dealing with high volumes of disparate types of data.
The WISIG recently analyzed the first six years of responses to these questions and shared these results with the AUTM community for the first time at this year’s Annual Meeting. We reported data two ways: at the institutional level, to assess how many institutions are reporting gender data, and among those institutions that are tracking, women’s participation levels in invention disclosures and new patent filings.
The data revealed that at the institutional level, participation in the Licensing Survey questions on women’s participation is strong but inconsistent. Over six years, 189 out of 250 participating institutions provided gender data at least once: 76%. A deeper dive looked at women’s involvement in invention disclosures and new patent filings and indicated that we still have significant work ahead.
While these numbers are discouraging, we see them as a call to action to accelerate efforts and devote additional resources to eliminating the gap. Several outcomes from our AUTM presentation include that the full results of the survey data on women’s participation will now be published in the AUTM STATT database (expected August
) for full transparency, and to encourage institutions to set goals for improvement. In addition, our committee is putting together more detailed SOPs to help guide institutions on how to track gender data most efficiently and accurately. A WISIG survey of 48 institutions in February highlighted that tech transfer offices want more practical advice on best practices and “SOPs” for tracking gender or obtaining gender data from institutional databases, so that data can be obtained efficiently and accurately, and stored properly in tech transfer office databases.
It will take efforts from every AUTM Member institution to bridge the existing gaps in participation and we welcome your ideas and support to create more inclusive entrepreneurship ecosystems and ensure all possible innovators are participating, whether that’s providing data, or sharing programs and approaches that are working well at your institution. Another great way to contribute is to consider joining our efforts. To do so, reach out to us or send a message to [email protected]
Engaging More Women in Academic Innovation
By Jane Muir, RTTP
Diversity is a key driver of innovation and a critical component of success on a global scale. Countries that deploy strategies to foster greater inclusion of all inventors in the innovation lifecycle will ultimately be best positioned to maximize their gross domestic product and ensure economic prosperity. The U.S is losing ground because it is not fully engaging a significant portion of the inventive talent pool. According to a 2019 report
from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, even though women now make up half the workforce, the share of women among all U.S. inventor-patentees is only 12.8%.
To understand factors that encouraged and discouraged academic women’s participation in technology commercialization, Members of the AUTM Women Inventors Special Interest Group (WISIG) conducted a survey in November of academic women involved in innovation, invention and/or entrepreneurship. The 168 respondents were at various levels in their career, from entry level to senior, and were from public and private research institutions of varying sizes from all regions of the United States. “Engaging More Women in Academic Innovation: Findings and Recommendations,”
published in the National Academy of Inventors Technology and Innovation Journal,
outlines the key findings . It offers specific recommendations based on the survey feedback, follow-up interviews with respondents, and the collective experience of technology transfer professionals who work daily with academic innovators.
Barriers to Participation
- Almost all of the respondents who participate in technology commercialization efforts reported they were motivated to do so because they wanted to see their research applied in the real world. Other key drivers included: university policies, the search for additional resources for research and development, and potential collaborators and industry connections.
- Academics look to their technology transfer offices (TTOs) for training on technology commercialization.
- Approximately two-thirds of respondents were aware of technology commercialization training programs at their institutions, and three-quarters of those who were aware participated. Slightly fewer were aware of entrepreneurship training at their institution. However, considerably fewer (only approximately half) of those aware participated. Respondents who participated in both types of training programs considered the training to be helpful.
- Only a handful of respondents were aware of any training, mentoring programs, or other resources specifically targeted at assisting women in the commercialization process.
- Mentorship was referenced repeatedly in the open-response questions as something they wished they had access to and felt would be helpful in engaging in commercialization activities.
- Experiences with TTOs were mixed. Some viewed their TTOs as very helpful, while others felt a lack of assistance, or in a few cases, discriminated against.
Barriers to participation were referenced throughout the survey responses and during follow-up interviews. These are the most frequently cited barriers from the qualitative and quantitative data:
- Lack of training, information, and resources
- Lack of mentors and role models, those to guide them through the commercialization process
- Lack of time and conflicting priorities
- Lack of access to funding to conduct research and development
- Discrimination - whether intentional or unconscious
Recommendations put forth in the paper provide valuable insights into concrete actions that can be taken by technology transfer professions and policy makers to ensure systemic changes that foster greater engagement of academic women and other under-represented populations in all stages of the innovation lifecycle. Because technology transfer professionals manage the complex process of shepherding research discoveries from the lab to the marketplace — from evaluating and protecting discoveries to commercializing the inventions through new and existing companies --they are uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in driving innovation. Focusing efforts to engage STEM-educated women, who generally have an above-average ability to contribute to innovation by developing patentable inventions, has significant potential for both short-term and long-term impact.
Recommendations fall into several major themes including:
- Providing educational opportunities that are accessible and relatable for women academics, whether that’s at times and locations easier to attend, or addressing the unique challenges faced by women in tech commercialization and providing insights and tools for overcoming them.
- Providing relatable mentors who can help guide women through the process. When instructors and mentors are all men, there are no role models in the room; no one who understands or has lived through the unique challenges women in innovation face. It often is not an inviting culture if women are the only in the room or the significant minority. Therefore, the educational programs don’t provide a female perspective. It also means addressing female priorities for commercialization like talking about the social impact of patentable discoveries over the profit potential.
- Getting federal funding agencies to require evidence of a documented institutional Diversity and Inclusion Plan as a weighted criteria on all grant applications
- Providing funding and recognition to technology transfer offices that are actively implementing and supporting programs to foster diversity and inclusion.
- Tracking various demographic metrics of invention disclosures and patent applications
The WISIG’s next steps will be to engage with policy makers, the technology transfer community, and other synergistic organizations interested in refining and implementing these recommendations. Organizations interested in collaborating should contact me at [email protected]
Please feel free to include a link to the publication in your organization's newsletter, social media, and other communications. We’d like to spread the word.
Attracting Diverse Candidates in Technology Transfer Offices
Gardner Innovation Search Partners
As a technology transfer recruiter, my team and I always have our eyes on new hiring trends, what employees look for, and especially how to attract diverse talent. Creating dynamic, successful teams is everyone’s priority, and research has shown over and over again that diversity leads to better outcomes. It is important we all do everything we can to build teams with diversity in people’s backgrounds, abilities, perspectives and ideas.
Here are some things every team can do to help elevate diversity in hiring:
- Did you know there are certain keywords in job postings that women tend to respond to more often than other words and phrases? We want our job postings to always be inclusive and reach the largest audience possible. If a client asks us to write the job posting for them, we make sure we utilize keywords and phrases that attract a wider range of individuals. For example, instead of saying, “Seeking an aggressive leader,” which is often a masculine phrase, changing the word aggressive to attentive, cooperative, or collaborative is much more inclusive. We offer our feedback to every client so that the language they use in a job posting does not unintentionally rule anyone out.
- We are also aware of implicit bias within job postings, unconscious beliefs and stereotypes you may not even be aware you have that affect your behavior, perceptions and judgements. We are not afraid to advise our clients when it comes to education and experience requirements that may denote implicit bias. For example, many individuals in higher education believe that having a PhD means someone is more qualified for a job than someone who does not. However, someone may have 10 years of relevant experience and be much more qualified for the job than someone with a PhD. That’s why the deal sheet is so important to us. People in industry/pharma tend not to have a PhD. Being aware of this and open to mitigating language that may limit the candidate pool is important when creating job postings to promote diversity.
- Let as many groups of people know about open jobs as possible. We post all of our open jobs to tech transfer-specific job boards - AUTM, LES, and Tech Transfer Tactics; but we also always post to broader boards: Association for Women in Science, Diversity Jobs, Diversity, Inc., and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. If a job requires a unique skill, we also seek out the most relevant job boards for that area of expertise and post there as well.
- Proactively reach out to potential candidates. Our recruiting process includes a large network and differing scopes of expertise within the tech transfer field. Candidates we present match the desired requirements and/or bring a unique perspective and expertise to the team. Since the inception of my firm, we index every single person and profile that we encounter. We track several “buckets,” including life science and physical science background. Is agricultural or digital health your specialty? Are you more venture capital focused, more intellectual property/legal focused, or startup focused? We track that, too.
- Be transparent and always seek feedback. We know when it comes to diversity, many organizations find it challenging to understand, let alone implement. While it seems diversity and inclusion has risen to the forefront of hiring practices, a lot of organizations end their effort after creating a diversity and inclusion statement. Some organizations “talk the talk” but don’t “walk the walk” when it comes to valuing and understanding the importance of diversity. Presenting a diverse set of top candidates who will elevate teams is our top priority, and we make sure our clients know that from our very first conversation. And if we can be doing more, we want to be doing more. We take opportunities to learn, grow, and improve wherever we can.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your network might not be broad enough, or you might not know what type of diversity will elevate your office. By having the conversation with firms like ours and your HR office as you’re drafting your job description, you can create a more inclusive opportunity from the beginning.
Let’s continue the conversation! I’m always eager to hear from others about what your office is doing to promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace. Connect with me on LinkedIn
or email me at [email protected]
HBCUs: Your Next Innovation Partner
Grant M. Warner
AUTM Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee Member
You may have heard a lot about Howard University and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the news lately –Vice President Kamala Harris herself is an alumnus of Howard.
What exactly are these institutions? They are diverse groups of colleges and universities that focus on education, research, and the pursuit of knowledge. Just like Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), HBCUs are rich ecosystems, representing a variety of educational styles, topics, and individuals; diversity of opinion, experiences, and engagement exist on each campus and between institutions. While they were historically established for the education of Black individuals in the United States, especially following the period of reconstruction, today they are not exclusively for Black students, faculty, or staff.
Some HBCUs, like Howard University, have more focus on engineering and technology; others, like Morehouse School of Medicine have more engagement in life sciences fields. Generally, there is not one area of focus, but rather HBCUs offer a variety of programs in liberal arts, engineering, and STEM. The goal is to provide platforms to engage where appropriate and to meet community needs where they are.
There are many advantages to partnering with an HBCU. One is to gain exposure to a wide range of stakeholders with unique, new experiences. Race is one of those factors, but not the only one; and thus, a partnership offers stronger solutions to address concerns of a more diverse spectrum of the population. The best way to partner is to reach out, share your project idea early, and develop its purpose together. Ensure you balance the contributions and expectations between both institutions – everyone should assist with the effort. Operating on an asset model, which assumes everyone has unique and important contributions, can make for a more cohesive, engaging partnership wherein everyone wins.
As an example of a successful partnership, Howard University worked with the University of Maryland, George Washington University, Virginia Tech, and Johns Hopkins on technology commercialization initiatives. As a result of that partnership, Howard University was able to join the NSF I-Corps network as a site. Collectively, the partnership has also worked to assist technology commercialization efforts for academic founders across the country and incorporate additional HBCUs into the network. The engagement was based on the recognition of the unique contributions (assets) each partner could contribute. As a result, the institutions operated as equal partners and benefited from the engagement through increased funding and programmatic reach.
What not to do? Leave the conversation until the last minute. Perhaps more emphatically, if the goal is to put a minority serving institution on the grant or partnership just for the name, please don’t even ask.
There are over 100 HBCUs across the United States, but many of them are still emerging research institutions. One way tech transfer offices can support them is by sharing best practices, templates, and partnership opportunities. AUTM’s Emerging Member program offers these types of aid, along with mentorship connectivity and collaborative engagement. Other programs, like Kentucky Commercialization Ventures, provide resources to institutions that cannot afford a full-time employee for commercialization yet, but will benefit from being part of an innovation ecosystem. Having that specialized, targeted assistance can help expand access to new areas and opportunities for HBCUs, without spreading thin the individuals at the institution. To reduce the disparity between these emerging institutions and larger, established, PWI institutions, consider both synchronous and asynchronous options for engagement. Giving choices can help make it easier to fit training and engagement into busy schedules.
HBCUs: your next innovation partner. Reach out early, start a conversation, define shared objectives, and develop a partnership of asset sharing so that everyone wins.
To talk more, please reach out to me via email
Ready, Set, Action! Increasing Diversity in Innovation, One Grant at a Time
By Monique Kuykendoll Quarterman (she/her)
Kentucky Commercialization Ventures
Technology transfer offices are focused on increasing engagement with more diverse innovators and finding ways to support that engagement through new revenue streams. As a Senior Leadership Team member at the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC) and Executive Director of Kentucky Commercialization Ventures (KCV), I have designed several community-sourced innovation initiatives. I have also received several grants and initiated partnerships to support expanded inclusion for innovators.
Here are some practical things other offices can adapt in 2022:
- Get intentional about your audience and outcomes
- Embrace non-traditional grant tools to build your idea
- Invite your communities outside of campus
When it comes to proposing new initiatives, sometimes it’s best to start at the end. I always design new programs with the impacted population and success measurements in mind. One of the first grants I helped to propose around inclusive innovation was “AWARE:ACCESS
”, which was awarded to the University of Louisville (UofL) from the National Science Foundation (NSF). It was a multi-institutional collaboration with UofL, Indiana University, and the Missouri University of Science & Technology, to develop a pipeline for women and minority faculty innovators interested in obtaining SBIR/STTR funding. To find participants, the team used the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) definition of “minority” or “underrepresented” and targeted matching individuals at the partner campuses. The original metrics were based on those from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign’s “AWARE
” program funded by NSF. However, the newer metrics focused on participant representation, whether they obtained positions of leadership, funding, and/or institutional human resources data to determine if the people in the room aligned with the percent of diverse representation at the institutional level. The grant team also looked at who was active in the translational research space to find ways to increase engagement amongst groups who were not participating at comparable rates. After the program was funded, it expanded, offering opportunities for funding, networking, training, and other support for underrepresented innovators via connections to each participating institution's technology transfer or research offices.
New and non-traditional funding sources can support the development of your initiatives. The KCV initiative, which launched in July of 2020, expanded the number of technology transfer office-supported faculty, staff, and students in Kentucky by over 300%. As we were starting up, I helped to obtain two SBA grants within 15 months of KCV’s launch. One was from the Lab-to-Market Inclusive Innovation Ecosystems Prize for a “Visionary” idea of advancing geographic inclusivity via KCV. Another was from the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Award for KCV’s role in providing impactful assistance to underserved STEM entrepreneurs. These funds help to shorten the distance to early-stage investment and commercialization for Kentucky innovators and are on-going programs that other tech transfer offices can apply for.
A key thing to remember is “community is part of the mission,” and partnerships can help bring new prospects and improve an application’s competitiveness. As an example of a citywide partnership, I co-developed “Diversity Pitch Fest,” a celebration of diverse entrepreneurs from Louisville, engaging partners from the University of Louisville, city administration, local philanthropy, and industry partners like Humana. It created organic connections for faculty and students, local startups, and the business community, and positioned the university as a key partner for future opportunities.
To replicate funding successes like these, I recommend offices find active agencies and community partners in the space, then:
- Look up similar, funded programs and reach out to the leads. Find connections in the funding agencies.
- Remember each grant is different, as implementation needs to match community needs.
- The keys are patience, flexibility, and consistency. Developing partnership takes time, but to get started, make your passion known to current partners and potential partners in your network.
- Have conversations about your goals to increase inclusivity and share your thoughts with the partners you wish to engage and the populations you want to serve, even if they are not fully formed.
- Keep trying, even if you aren’t funded the first time!
KCV now serves 22 institutions, and to maintain balance when taking on new initiatives, I design the proposed program in a way that the activities closely align to (yet don’t duplicate) duties already underway. Educating innovators, mentoring them through the commercialization process, and serving as stewards of university innovation are already in a technology transfer staff’s role. When writing the grant, make sure to align the roles of the PIs and collaborators to the day-to-day duties that staff are already comfortable and experienced with performing so that no surprises are involved. Clearly articulating this to multiple stakeholders can increase buy-in and engagement.
Some may question, “why should TTOs get engaged in the funding process?” We can’t afford not to! Diversifying revenue streams allows for connectivity with different types of innovators and helps support new innovations in fields that TTOs have traditionally engaged with less. Furthermore, grants that are aimed at increasing representation can result in expanding the innovation ecosystem, bringing more opportunity to our institutions and communities. The United States is moving to a “minority-majority” population. We can either fully engage or, as an institution and as a country, be left behind. A stronger economy that is more prepared and more responsive for all
Americans will benefit everyone.
For all the accolades it has received, KCV is still new, and this year focused on developing a network. In 2022, KCV’s focus will shift slightly to include an emphasis on optimizing partnerships, driving more engagement, and collaborating with others in the industry to create even more inclusive opportunities for Kentucky innovators. I look forward to deepening relationships and applying for new grants to further our inclusive ecosystem with our partners and collaborators.
Representation is important. Don’t think narrowly; it can mean the difference for the success of your innovation ecosystem and our nation.
If you’d like to talk about this subject, reach out to me on LinkedIn
Using Innovator Data to Maximize Engagement and TTO Impact: Ideas for Success
By Anne Hall, PhD Sr. Technology Portfolio Manager, University of Minnesota
Member, Women Inventors Special Interest Group Metrics Subcommittee
A core aspect of most tech transfer office’s missions is to engage every potential innovator in our institution to maximize research commercialization. Unfortunately, women and other historically marginalized groups are underrepresented in innovation ecosystems, especially intellectual property and venture capital.
USPTO’s report on U.S. women inventors
shows the gender gap is narrowing (20.7% in 2016 to 21.9% by the end of 2019) but will not be equal for nearly 100 years at current rates
. Everyone benefits from a more inclusive innovation ecosystem, and the data gathered by WIPO, the USPTO, AUTM and your institution helps keep the momentum moving forward and increases engagement within the innovation ecosystem.
To maximize the impact of tech transfer, the AUTM community can, and must, do its part to help. In 2015, AUTM’s Women Inventors Special Interest Group (WISIG) worked with the Survey & Metrics Committee to implement the addition of two gender-related questions in AUTM’s Annual Licensing Activity Survey
. These questions aim to incentivize tracking and assessment of women innovators’ involvement in invention disclosures and new patent filings within AUTM member organizations. Findings and recommendations from the gender data from four years of survey data will be shared at a session during AUTM’s Eastern
and Western Region Meetings
, and highlighted during a panel at AUTM’s 2022 Annual Meeting. Join us at one – or all!
Since the additional survey questions were added, we’ve found nearly 80% of reporting institutions have provided gender data, showing strong interest and participation. However, institutional participation in answering these questions has also been inconsistent year-to-year, indicating barriers to reporting still exist.
To help overcome those barriers, we’ve gathered a few tips and best practices for accessing and using innovator demographic data, such as gender, to identify gaps in innovator participation. For example, at the University of Minnesota, we have started analyzing “legal sex” (male or female) of innovators to help target tech transfer office outreach, set engagement goals, and track enhanced inclusion strategies over time. This data can also be used to identify opportunities to expand engagement and metrics, particularly in colleges and departments where the “addressable market” of innovators is not fully engaged. We use the word “gender” with the understanding that some institutions capture legal sex, and others capture self-identified gender, also acknowledging that the results are limited to what data the institution captures. Work with your institution’s diversity office to determine the appropriate terminology based on how data is currently being captured. In addition, these tips can be used for additional demographic information.
Obtain institutionally collected demographic data.
● For large institutions, engage your Institutional Research and Data Governance or Provost’s offices, and communicate the tech transfer office’s business case for how the data helps the institution fulfill its mission. These offices can then advise how to appropriately access the demographic HR data, in compliance with Data Privacy rules. In addition, Institutional demographic data can be considered “private and restricted” and may not be accessible to everyone in your office. If so, request that data be masked and aggregated, or designate a tech transfer office employee for data security training at your institution. The University of Minnesota has used this approach.
Obtain demographic data by asking for it on the Invention Disclosure Form (IDF).
Use an existing WIPO tool designed to “predict” gender.
- Explain on the form why you’re collecting the data and how it will be used. Seek guidance from your institution's Diversity & Inclusion Office for appropriate language. Ask colleagues for help! Kentucky Commercialization Ventures, for example, collects demographic data on the IDF form. Common tech transfer office databases, such as Wellspring (Sophia), Salesforce, Inteum, Tech Tracks (KSS) and Innovate IP track demographic data (See the WISIG Metrics Committee’s first paper providing insights and information on AUTM Member’s tracking of gender. Sohar et al, 2018).
- The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has tried to tackle the issue of retrospective data by creating an algorithm that attempts to guess the proper gender related to a name. While not 100% accurate, your organization could consider using this tool to estimate the past scope of the issue on your campus. View that database here.
If you have questions or need additional guidance on these approaches, reach out to an AUTM WISIG Metric Subcommittee Member
We encourage all institutions to help gather and assess innovator data and hope these institutions will report this data to AUTM as appropriate. That investment in a more inclusive, diverse tech transfer community will create more opportunities for everyone.
Building a Foundation to Expand the Impact of EDI
By Karen Maples, Chair-Elect, AUTM EDI Committee
, V3, Issue #14
AUTM is laser-focused on advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in tech transfer. Why? Because numerous studies have shown that organizations can achieve measurable impact in attracting and retaining talent and improving team performance and financial results if they follow suit. It’s the right thing to do. AUTM ‘s work includes building a foundation of EDI best practices to benefit the entire tech transfer community. So far, we have made progress in the following initiatives:
Equity Diversity and Inclusion Demographics Survey 2020-2021
Data collection and analysis is a critical starting point in identifying where EDI efforts may have the most impact. Last year, AUTM conducted its first survey focused on gaining specific insights on demographics and attitudes regarding diversity within AUTM Membership. The results, to be released later this year, will inform the organization’s strategic direction regarding EDI programs and initiatives to increase diversity. Next steps include exploring simplified EDI data collection to integrate into other AUTM surveys such as the Licensing and Salary Surveys, as well as developing new AUTM initiatives that could be translated to other tech transfer organizations.
Emerging Member Pilot Program
Expanding networks to increase the diversity of perspectives and expand opportunities for collaboration is another key goal for AUTM. Earlier this year, we developed and launched a two-year pilot to extend tech transfer and commercialization alliances with Minority Serving Institutions in the US. Members of this program will receive two years of AUTM Membership benefits, including access to online member forums, special interest groups (SIGs), a complimentary webinar package and mentor connections. For more information, please reach out to the Committee.
USPTO National Council for Expanding American Innovation (NCEAI)
AUTM’s leadership is engaged in the work of the NCEAI along with 27 other representatives from industry, academia and government developing a comprehensive national strategy to build a more inclusive innovation ecosystem
. AUTM’s involvement will be instrumental in ensuring that recommended programs promote and expand the diversity and inclusivity of academic inventors.
Equity Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit
Later this year, AUTM will launch a toolkit to provide knowledge development, guidance, and resources in understanding implicit and structural bias, how to adopt an anonymous application process, person first language, among many other topics. The toolkit’s purpose is to help people incorporate EDI into both their tech transfer offices and personal lives.
As Chair-Elect of AUTM’s EDI Committee, I can say we look forward to working closely with those inside and outside AUTM to provide support. As you think about your role in diversity and inclusion, we invite AUTM Members to join our Women Inventors SIG, Diversity & Inclusion SIG. You can also simply ask questions of the Committee and promote EDI throughout your engagement with AUTM and in your professional role. Fresh perspectives and new ideas are at the heart of our EDI Committee - and we look forward to expanding engagement with the entire tech transfer community.
Participants Share How Fellowships Help Boost Careers and Emphasize Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Values
By Monique Liddar
, St. George’s University of London; Fabiola Moreno
, Binghamton University; Devinder Moudgil
, University of Windsor; and Anji Miller
MSc PhD CLP RTTP, LifeArc
, V3, Issue #12
The AUTM and LifeArc AUTM Fellowships
are the gold standards of training for technology transfer professionals. These programs have trained 48 fellows from seven countries in four years. An average of 33% of Fellows were Black, Asian, and mixed ethnicities.
The commitment to foster inclusivity and respect for each Fellow’s individuality sits alongside the technical aspects of the training curriculum for these programs. By valuing diversity, individuals build a stronger sense of identity and wellbeing and have better education and career outcomes when their unique strengths, abilities, interests, and perspectives are understood. Through a Speaker Series and personal mentoring by sector experts, Fellows are empowered and encouraged to achieve their best.
With inclusive criteria, AUTM
share a common goal to achieve equality for all Fellows: our future leaders in the technology transfer sector. As current Fellows, we want to share what we have gained from the program and encourage you to apply.
, St. George’s University of London, LifeArc AUTM Fellow
: “As a British Asian woman, I have always been an advocate for diversity in communities and workplaces as I believe the more diverse a community, the more it has to offer. I began my journey in technology transfer in late 2019 after working for two years as a Protein Scientist, so when I applied, I was relatively new to the field. On discovering the program and finding out more about the Fellowship through discussions with Dr. Miller, I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of this diverse and inspiring group of Fellows. The curriculum offered unrivalled opportunities to learn and grow as a person. While my cohort coincidentally happened to be all women, there was diversity of thought, temperament and ethnicity, and it was an amazing experience sharing our stories and learning from each other. The resources offered to me as part of the Fellowship aided me in being promoted and recruited into a larger technology transfer office, all within two years.”
, University of Windsor, Susan Riley Keyes Fellow:
“Growing up in India, I experienced first-hand the challenge developing nations face in accessing the benefits of emerging technologies. I always hoped to address this issue of inclusivity, especially regarding access to education and innovation. When I came across this opportunity through AUTM’s website, my supervisor supported my application and ensured my workload was balanced with the Fellowship expectations. I was thrilled to get an opportunity to be a part of the vibrant, inclusive, and global group of fellows as I understood that this fellowship will allow me to learn best practices in the technology transfer field, build a professional network and provide international TTO perspectives.”
, Binghamton University, Susan Riley Keyes Fellow
: “I am in full agreement with Monique and Devinder. I was very glad to learn that I would be part of an all-female cohort and that aspects of our training would focus on increasing diversity in technology transfer. One of the most meaningful learnings related to EDI was the plenary talk by Dr. Antwi Akom at the AUTM Annual Meeting. He spoke about structural issues that maintain pervasive wealth gaps, and how we can leverage science and technology to build better communities with sustainable and equitable resource distribution in mind. This was a valuable lesson that I think we should always keep in mind in our technology transfer endeavors.”
If you wish to learn in an inclusive environment how to use your technical skills to impact tomorrow’s technology and expand your network, we encourage you to apply
to the next fellowship cohort
To Learn More and Apply, Visit:
Susan Riley Keyes Fellowship
– deadline July 21
LifeArc AUTM Technology Transfer Fellowship
– deadline July 4
Can You Hear Me Now?
Dr. Megan Aanstoos (she/her/hers)
AUTM Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee Chair
, V3, Issue #10
May is Better Speech and Hearing Month and serves as an opportunity to raise awareness about communication disorders and hearing health. Do you know that in the United States, more than 13% of people over the age of 12 have a diagnosed hearing impairment? This population is growing, as people age and use headphones with sounds at loud volume (“noise-induced hearing impediment”). In addition, 5-10% of the population have communication disorders such as aphasia (damage to portions of the brain that are responsible for language), autism, stuttering, and lisps.
Relative to the numbers we see in the US population, AUTM is under-represented* in the number of Members that publicly identified with a speech or hearing impairment (*according to our D&I survey and personal conversations). Perhaps it’s the stigma still associated with disabilities that makes people less likely to publicly identify their communication disorder? Or is it something about the tech transfer profession that makes people with a hearing impairment or other communication disorder disinclined to join the field?
Having a hearing impairment makes daily job tasks more difficult, from phone calls, understanding thick or unfamiliar accents, walk and talk meetings, or engaging with new individuals. Communication is key to technology transfer, but difficulty in speech can make the job much harder, and people with difficulties tend to speak less and rely on technology to bridge gaps in ability to engage and comprehend conversations. Captioned calling, video communications that enable lip/expression reading and live transcription, real-time captions on slide decks, emails, and other technologies that don't require hearing or verbal communication have made workplaces clearer and more equitable. In the pandemic, clear masks also became a key communication tool, and for offices that are still wearing masks, a way to consider helping everyone feel comfortable and communicate easier. Being an ally and supportive colleague means incorporating these tools into your workplace and being open to flexibility, allowing alternative methods to complete tasks.
The technologies we have helped bring out of our institutions has created opportunities like never before. From Dartmouth College protecting hearing
to University of Illinois helping to see into the ear more clearly
to University of Western Ontario software
and University of California, San Francisco hardware
meant to provide enhanced hearing, universities and companies have a role in advancing opportunities. Whether it be a “Labor of Love
” at Boston College or a license to industry such as the one Brigham Young University did with Sonic Innovations, innovators are making things better for people with communication disorders.
To support your colleagues and clients during May and every month, I encourage you to have conversations and use tools available to help make your offices more welcoming and inclusive for people who have a communication disorder, including those with hearing loss like me. I also challenge you to reach out to innovators in this space and help them bring products to market that will continue the disability innovation revolution.
Increasing Opportunity for Diverse Populations: A Conversation with the CEO of a New Venture Capital Fund Focused on Minority-led Startups
, V3, Issue #8
Zach Ellis is leading the launch of a new, unannounced venture fund headquartered in Texas. AUTM EDI Committee Chair Megan Aanstoos talked with him to learn more about the goals for the fund and how it will increase EDI among venture capital backed companies and innovators working with these VCs.
Dr. Antwi Akom, Director of the Social Innovation and Urban Opportunity Research Lab, spoke at AUTM’s 2021 Annual Meeting to emphasize the importance of social innovation and community investment. Can you tell me about your fund’s plans for social and community impact?
We seek to impact minority communities by making sure they are not left out of the immense opportunities technology innovation and commercialization can provide. We understand that minority founders are typically less aware of opportunities with tech commercialization. Therefore, we are leveraging partnerships across our region to help increase representation by identifying and talking with local founders about how we can work with them to reduce challenges, help them become more familiar with commercialization, and increase deal flow and venture financing opportunities.
To increase representation, VC firms must actively seek out, hire, and embrace diversity to prevent unconscious bias from impacting decisions. These firms must engage with, and provide education specifically for, underrepresented inventors. VC firms need to look inside their own four walls, too, as VC investment team diversity can increase deal flow generation and investment opportunities.
Where do you invest and is there a focus on technology spaces with fewer minority innovators, and/or aimed at improving minority population lives?
Our emphasis is on minority-led companies across a range of sectors, such as life sciences/healthcare, FinTech, Business-to-Business Software as a Service (B2B SaaS), and consumer-packaged goods. We are seeking to back underrepresented founders regardless of their startup’s market applications. That said, data has shown that underrepresented founders tend to identify market pain points that are largely overlooked by non-underrepresented founders. There are also underrepresented founders inventing billion-dollar opportunities (the online appointment scheduling tool Calendly is a recent, albeit non-tech transfer example), but they need to be sought out since there is a lack of diverse faculty and staff representation in most corporate and academic research spaces.
Investors also need to consider investing in impact, including solutions that affect minority innovators’ communities, versus solely chasing mainstream opportunities. Often times, these niche markets have little to no competition. Also, there is the added benefit that a four-to-six-times return in a more niche market can be life-changing to that inventor and their community. Being able to change the world and lift communities out of poverty is important. To that end, we look for return, as well as impact. And as a result, we are expecting a minimum blended return of three-to-four-times for our early-stage venture portfolio.
How is your fund helping increase representation?
We typically work with early-stage companies that may not necessarily have a board of directors. That uniquely situates us to advise companies on creating a diverse board and integrating impactful inclusion efforts, such as hiring pledges/goals and progressive family leave policies--to be implemented within one year after our investment. Data shows that organizations led by more diverse teams tend to be more inclusive by nature.
How are you partnering with community business leaders and small local companies?
We partner with large corporations to encourage early adoption of solutions and products. This can provide validation and additional funding and customers. We partner with local groups to increase community activity, and plan to provide entrepreneurial education and internships for students from local historically black colleges and universities and other minority serving institutions. Knowledge eases the way for participation of smaller companies and local community groups.
How can minority innovators find investors and accelerators that align with their values?
VCs should provide opportunities where inventors can learn about entrepreneurship and work with a mentor and/or sponsor who can guide their techs to market. That may mean someone does not identify the same as their mentor/sponsor, but that can drive more diversity of thought and provide more value to a new business. A mentor should have the right heart and mindset for your needs and VC firms looking to increase inclusion should partner with these types of mentors.
What can VC firms do to be more inclusive?
First, focus on intentionality. It takes intentional effort to find and give non-consensus candidates an opportunity. Many times, minorities in the hiring pool are not given the same opportunities or benefits of the doubt as counterparts. Second, showcase diversity across your management team and your venture fund platform. Use inclusion as a beacon and an example of your culture. The more team diversity and inclusivity you embrace, the easier it is to highlight and attract new diverse employees to your organization. Demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion through your words, actions, and investments.
“New to the Crew”: Inspired by a Diverse, Global Annual Meeting
, V3, Issue #6
By Narjes Achach, PharmD
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee Member
AUTM Member Since 2020
Just last week on AUTM Virtual Annual Meeting’s “Wall,” many first-time conference attendees shared: “I wonder how the Annual Meeting would be in person.” I wondered, too, how meeting face-to-face with all these amazing, dedicated professionals would be and what the atmosphere would look like. As a first-time attendee, a member of the “New to the Crew” community group, I still feel energized days after the Meeting. It was an inclusive, inspiring program, even without the face-to-face element.
My newbie advice - when experienced professionals with five, 15 or 20 or more years in the field say, “I was in your shoes,” “you’ll do a great job,” or “let’s connect,” remain in contact: connect on LinkedIn, ask for recommendations, and follow up with a meeting. All of us “New to the Crew” attendees have thousands of questions; all we have to do is ask, and the supportive AUTM community will eagerly respond.
I was inspired learning from speakers and other attendees about how they started their careers, their diverse backgrounds and the variety of journeys that brought them here. In reflection, I tell myself I can do it too. The sessions focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion offered many insightful panelists’ visions for how we can encourage and include a variety of viewpoints and backgrounds in the tech transfer field. It was nice to see a forum with enhanced access, curated for a wide audience and for all to be able to share their experience. I encourage you to go back and watch each of these sessions. (Have an idea for a session you’d like to see at next year’s meeting? The floor is open for topics, submit yours
before May 3!)
The Studio Interview with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director Daren Tang particularly embodied this reflective journey. Tang shared his career path, some details of the existing WIPO programs, and his vision for the future. Intellectual Property (IP) is not only a legal tool, Tang said, “it becomes a tool of development” that catalyzes jobs and R&D opportunities for the region of the world it’s developed in. He also mentioned the “WIPO Green” online platform promoting IP for sustainable technologies and participate in tackling global challenges. This global progress can’t exist without joint efforts between international organizations such as AUTM, WIPO, and local groups working side by side to make IP and innovation more inclusive and accessible for more countries and their local innovators. As someone who has participated in technology transfer in Tunisia and France, his message resonated with me and my vision of opportunity for global connectivity and innovation.
The talk by astronaut Dr. Ellen Ochoa was another inspirational eye-opener. Here’s a woman who entered college without direction, interested in music and science. Looking for a mentor, she connected with a physics professor who nurtured her skills in math and interest in science. Years later, she was accepted (not on her first try but her second, proving yet again that adage “never give up”) into NASA’s space program. Where would she be without that mentorship? Very likely successful, but potentially not the first Hispanic woman in space or the second female director of the Johnson Space Center. Mentorship has proven critical for success and I’m glad that AUTM has a strong mentorship program available for all members; do not hesitate to join
The keynotes, many panel presentations and round table discussions were educational and interesting for many first-time and international attendees and made more welcoming thanks to the virtual tools and accessibility options.
While the pandemic has kept us from meeting in person, I like to look at the bright side and reflect on how we have become more connected in some way. I would like to cheer all who have made the Annual Meeting more inclusive for the AUTM community, especially at this challenging time. Thanks to the year-long available recordings caption services, virtual Meeting space, and partnering documents shared for offline use, more people could take advantage of the opportunity to attend the conference, network with people from around the world, discuss their common and new challenges, and hopefully take away helpful tactics that will benefit their organizations.
I look forward to meeting you all in New Orleans, ideally in person, to continue conversations as a “second-timer” and to assist the next wave of first timers in joining an inclusive, accessible, welcoming organization.
AUTM’s Evolving EDI Strategy is Succeeding
, V3, Issue #4
Marc Sedam, MBA, RTTP
Vice Provost for Innovation and New Ventures,
AUTM has been on a path of rapid progress in 2020. The discussion has been vibrant in our Association for years, led in part by the Women Inventor’s Special Interest Group
(SIG)‘s long history of pushing gender equity in innovation, patenting, and licensing/startup formation. At the 2019 Annual Meeting I had a series of robust discussions about how expanding our focus on what equity, diversity, and inclusion would mean for AUTM. In mid-2019 I helped convene the first meeting of what is now the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Committee
at the Central Region Meeting (in-person … remember those?) to outline the first steps in our strategy.
Our Annual Meetings have already been transformed by this work. Though we didn’t have a chance to show you in 2020, you’ll see some of the positive impacts in our 2021 meeting, including closed captioned for our educational sessions. The Annual Meeting committee is working hard to ensure representation in all panels, and even has plans for a dedicated quiet room and more detailed badge ribbons for gender the next time we’re all in-person together.
The Board has also elevated EDI
issues and has dedicated time in each quarterly meeting to discuss progress and how AUTM can work with other organizations to amplify the value of our work. The Board worked directly to support the EDI Committee on a diversity survey of the membership to help focus on intervention points most likely to create positive change. We hosted a watercooler event to have an open forum for our Members to discuss their feelings in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd. We continued our partnership with BIO, UNCF, MIT, San Diego State, and UNH for an annual I-Corps Bioentrepreneurship training program, which works directly with 40 to 50 applicants from under-represented populations to expose them to mentorship and training in life sciences commercialization. We provide AUTM Memberships to each participant, as well as a five-course educational package on the fundamentals of intellectual property and licensing.
The EDI Committee is in the process of implementing the Emerging Membership Program, a new initiative to work directly with about 30 Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) across the United States. It will offer Memberships and support from AUTM volunteers for each institution to promote the commercialization of research and the value of technology transfer in a community with over $600 million in federally funded research. We are also in early discussions with key stakeholders in the HBCU community to further assist with training, support, and capacity building for technology transfer. More to come in 2021.
Lastly, I wanted to highlight two important milestones for AUTM. EDI was a focus of our efforts and communication in 2020 and, as Chair, it was personally important to me that the principles of EDI become embedded into everything we do. As such, last month the EDI Committee (which reports to the Board) was made a part of the AUTM Cabinet to further promote attention across all facets of our operation. Furthermore, I was proud to see the Membership elect the most diverse slate of Board Directors in our history for 2021. Both events ensure that EDI holds a regular presence in the decision-making of our Association.
AUTM made great progress in 2020, yet some reading this might say that we’re not doing enough. I think all can agree that we’re just getting started. If you have ideas on how to improve our EDI actions and offerings, please reach out to the Committee or click to join AUTM’s Women Inventors
or Diversity & Inclusion SIGs
. Learn more about joining SIGs here
How to Better Support Diverse Employees and Those with At-Home Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic
, V3, Issue #2
By Lisa Mueller, Shareholder,
Casimir Jones, SC
Member, AUTM EDI Committee
Almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, diverse employees continue to struggle both in the workplace and with work-home life balance and are “crying out” for more support from their employers, according to a new global study from McKinsey & Company
Noting that progress on advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the workplace and the economy had been slow before the pandemic, the study found that historical challenges for diverse groups have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. It found that diverse groups have the hardest time, including women; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or gender non-binary (LGBTQ+) employees; people of color; and working parents.
The study included 11 developed and developing countries. McKinsey found that workers across demographic groups and geographies reported a similar set of challenges related to mental health, work-life balance, workplace health and safety, isolation and missing a sense of connectivity and belonging with colleagues, and concerns about job opportunities.
However, the severity and prevalence of these differences were higher in some countries than others, and among diverse groups, these concerns were both higher in number and felt with greater urgency. A comparison table of the challenges reported by women, LGBTQ+ employees and people of color is revealing:
Source: McKinsey 2020 Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion/COVID-19 Employee Experience Survey
||PEOPLE OF COLOR
||1.2 times as likely as men to cite concerns about a healthy and safe worksite
|Work-Related Challenges (e.g. increased workload, stress over performance reviews)
||1.2 times as likely as men to cite difficulties with increased workload and performance reviews
||1.4 times as likely to cite challenges with fair performance review and increased workload compared with straight and cisgender employees
|Career Progression (e.g. disproportionately losing ground)
||In the U.S., 2.2 times as likely as white employees to cite concerns related to career progression
||In the UK and US, 2.9 and 2.6 times, respectively, as likely as men to report challenges with mental health issues; in China, India and Brazil, women are 2 to 3 times as likely to report challenges with mental-health issues
||1.2 times as likely as men to cite difficulties with physical health
|Balancing Household Responsibilites (i.e. "Double Shift")
||1.5 times as likely as men to cite challenges associated with the “double shift”
||In the U.S., 2.1 times as likely as their white employees to cite concerns relating to household responsibilities
|Feeling Isolated; loss of connectivity and belonging
||1.2 times as likely as men to cite difficulties with feeling a loss of connectivity and belonging
||1.4 times as likely to cite struggling with feeling a loss of workplace connectivity and belonging compared with straight and cisgender employees
The study also found that COVID-19 has created challenges for employees with at-home children — a group not typically considered part of the EDI agenda. Employees in countries with full school closures reported higher challenges, particularly with mental-health issues and increased loads at work. Importantly, the study found most employees did not feel these issues were temporary, and expect them to pose a challenge well past the pandemic’s end.
Companies are also struggling. The study revealed that employers are aware of the challenges facing diverse employees and implemented COVID-19 policies that helped address them specifically and quickly. However, nine out of ten
executives admitted to difficulties executing their EDI strategies during the pandemic.
Despite the study’s sobering results, McKinsey notes that company leaders have an opportunity to build a more equitable and inclusive workplace that will strengthen their organizations long past the pandemic, “[B]usinesses that seize the moment will not only be better placed to support their employees but also will drive sustainable business performance.”
While the study focused on traditional businesses, the results can be extended easily to technology transfer offices and law firms, also not immune from the pandemic’s challenges. Research needed to continue or be finalized, patent applications and licensing agreements needed to be drafted, and work across many fronts needed to move forward.
The study’s suggestions for employers to help better support their employees going forward apply to technology transfer offices and law firms as well. These include:
The McKinsey study
- Personal well-being and enrichment programs
- Mental-health counseling
- Virtual or flexible work options, including extended family leave and work-from-home stipends
- Programs to help employees establish work-home life boundaries
- Mentorship and sponsorship for underrepresented groups
- Diverse slates for promotions and new positions
- Reskilling efforts to retain underrepresented talent
- Fair and objective performance reviews (including productivity tracking)
- Succession planning with diversity analytics and/or commitments
- Leadership training for underrepresented groups
- Manager training for inclusive virtual/hybrid leadership
- Developing and offering work reentry programs
- Rethinking expectations on worker productivity and performance
- Conscious inclusion training
makes clear that diverse employees are bearing a disproportionate burden during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time for technology transfer offices and law firms to seize the moment and provide their diverse employees and employees with at-home children with much needed support.
In-Depth with The OSU Reach for Commercialization Women Innovators Program
, V2, Issue #27
By Megan Aanstoos, Licensing & New Ventures Manager,
Kentucky Commercialization Ventures
Chair, AUTM Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee
Continuing the series of celebrating women innovators, I sat down with Director of Innovation, Caroline Crisafulli from The Ohio State University to talk about their REACH for Commercialization™ program. Ms. Crisafulli has participated in this program since its inception in 2010 and has transformed the program and the landscape of female innovators at OSU in collaboration with Dr. Mary Juhas (Associate Vice President in the Office of Research). In this interview, Ms. Crisafulli shares tips, insight, lessons learned, and offers her support to anyone looking to create similar support programs for women innovators at their institutions.
How did the program start?
In 2008, OSU received an ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant from the NSF. Under the direction of Dr. Juhas, “Project REACH” focused on identifying research-active women faculty in STEM with an interest in technology transfer. In 2010, the first cohort was launched as a series of four workshops for female faculty. By 2021, the program has evolved to include all women who self-identify as an innovator or express an interest in commercialization, whether they are faculty, post-doctoral researchers, or graduate students.
How do you encourage team building and help such a diverse group?
One of the core workshops focuses on building a team, starting with the cohort member themselves and their expertise, before teaching them to build a team around complementary skillsets. It is important to be mindful of differences in fields and to show value for all subjects of ideas and intellectual property. Coaches should work to tailor content to adjust to individual needs and fit the focus of the cohort. We are not trying to groom women to start a business, rather to present opportunities they may not have originally considered. It’s about developing the perspective of value to each participant’s field and their potential impact.
Have you modified the program overtime and if so, how and why?
Yes, it expanded beyond faculty and STEM. We have also increased from four workshops to year-long activities and increased engagement with previous cohort members. We survey participants after every event, listening and responding to the needs of our participants. In order to expand exposure and help increase diversity, in 2021, we will invite women from other institutions as guest speakers to share their stories – they are eager to help other women succeed.
What are some lessons for people to know ahead of time?
It is important that “you” (program leader) do not assume you know who the inventors are – branch out beyond STEM fields and TTO inventor lists. Program recruitment is a labor-intensive process, requiring individual attention, a warm welcome, and building trust and a relationship with each cohort member. In order to get buy-in, they must feel like they belong, understand how it fits into what they are doing, why it is worth their time, and how they will benefit. Don’t send a general email; instead take time to point out the value proposition for each woman.
What do women say they get from the program?
Professional development, advocacy for themselves and their work, communication skills, pipeline development assistance, and an understanding of how to expand their research pathways to increase opportunities for commercialization and help more people.
How important is administrator buy-in?
Critical – there is a different dynamic if top leadership recognizes there are barriers. The initial NSF grant required a sustainability commitment from the institution, which The Ohio State University has made. Metrics are key for continued support among different stakeholders, especially during leadership transitions. It’s helpful when leaders appreciate that the gender gap in tech transfer has negative economic and societal consequences. A coterie of advocates from diverse groups is important. This program, for example, would never have succeeded without leadership from Rev1 Ventures.
#1 “Not to do?”
Focus on the word “commercialization,” which can have a negative connotation among some academics. Instead, reframe the activity as a professional development opportunity to reach a broader audience and impact more people. Also, know your goal and work towards that, you can’t fix every instance of inequality with one program, a clear message and a clear focus will make for a more successful program.
Celebrate Women Inventors!
, V2, Issue #25
By Megan Aanstoos, Licensing & New Ventures Manager,
Kentucky Commercialization Ventures
Chair, AUTM Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee
Women make up approximately 40% of STEM degree holders, but only 21.9% of patents had at least one woman inventor. Furthermore, while the women inventor rate rose to 12.8% by 2019, it will take another 50-79 years to achieve parity. These numbers are similarly dismal for other underrepresented populations, especially when accounting for race. The impact to the economy is a loss of over $500B USD each year.
So what can technology transfer offices (TTOs) do about it? In a few words: Increase opportunities for education, engagement, inclusion and access.
“The kind of change that needs to happen is systemic in nature,” stated Dr. Heather Metcalf, “and it won’t happen overnight. It is a marathon, not a sprint.” We must engage in continuous, steady efforts and remain committed to seeing equity and parity in innovation. In a series of interviews, TTO leaders from across the US shared insights on their own programs to help bridge this gap and increase participation of women in the innovation ecosystem. Each started with the desire to help increase the number of female inventors, provide education and make their offices more inclusive. Read their stories and find out how you can join this revolution in innovation access and equality.
Women’s Inventor Network – Taunya Phillips
University of Kentucky
The WIN program is funded from the TTO and sponsorship from local businesses. It began as a way to let women know that they can do this and have as much potential for success as males and to remove barriers such as language and access. They host an annual conference to encourage a collaborative, inclusive environment, and encourage both men and women to engage. Educational newsletters for participants are shared throughout the year.
INVOHer – Isabella Ortiz
A new program for Northwestern faculty, staff, students and alumni, INVOHer will focus on STEM participants who want to be entrepreneurs. They will offer a way for women to engage in a personal, supportive environment and offer panel discussions, classes and mentoring. During the current virtual environment, they will share highlights of accomplished women who to keep people engaged. Anyone with an idea all the way to CEO of a company can participate, provided they have an entrepreneurship spirit. “Make sure,” states Isabella, “that you speak with all the departments and HR, follow data collection rules, and learn to speak with D&I language to be inclusive.”
Women Innovators Program – Nichole Mercier & Kristen Otto
Washington University in St. Louis
An open networking rather than a cohort model, helped them to recruit and engage with more female innovators. This allows them to offer larger events, such as an annual symposium, and targeted lunches with special guests or other small group sessions. The purpose is to help women innovators build a network of support for success. They recommend bringing in speakers with different viewpoints to strike a balance between the obtainable and the reach. Check out their Equalize 2021 event to provide your female faculty with opportunities for mentoring and pitch experience in a nation-wide program.
eWITS – co-founded by Jane Muir, run by Kathy Sohar
University of Florida
eWits was started because “there were no women in the room and the numbers were poor for women innovators engaged,” stated Jane Muir. She recommends “implementing [a similar program] now, and don’t wait to see bad numbers or for someone to point it out, inequities are present, even if they aren’t on your radar.” The program uses a cohort model, with women forming teams and pitching a new technology from UF unrelated to any of their own work to reduce bias and help them understand the communication skills needed without an emotional attachment to success of the technology. Jane also stated, “you do not need to do it yourself. Reach out and ask for help and put together a team of volunteers to develop and implement a program to help reduce gender disparity.”
Innovate GA – Grace Trimble; run by Crystal Leach and Ian Biggs
University of Georgia
Started in Fall 2019, this bootcamp is open to faculty, students and staff at UGA for the purpose of helping women innovators meet others who understand the challenges women have in creating networks to provide support and encouragement. A past participant noted, “This bootcamp has made me a better researcher.” UGA plans to continue engagement through a 3-pronged approach of basic entrepreneurship education, targeted cohort needs, and 1:1 coaching. One tip? Because virtual can be harder to engage meaningfully, reduce the size of your cohorts to allow for more conversation and connectivity.
STEM TO MARKET (S2M) – Heather Metcalf
A nationwide program, with added focus on the Bay Area, Washington State, Chicago, and DC, S2M has created programs for both innovators and the technology transfer “gatekeepers.” These programs include accelerators, workshops, consulting help and camps for social impact entrepreneurship. Programming is virtual and aims to reduce 3 specific pain points: 1) incubators do not meet the needs of STEM trained women, 2) gatekeepers are not taking action on DEI efforts, 3) network creation between separate groups to expose participants to a variety of mindsets and experiences. In order for these programs to work, Heather Metcalf said, “there must be a sense of trust and a willingness to engage in open sharing. Try to engage members of leadership teams and find allies to make a case for the importance of these programs with data, not just emotion.”
If you need help with data, the Metrics Subcommittee of the Women's Inventor SIG continues to meet monthly to determine ways of using metrics to track and improve women inventor involvement in tech transfer. Plus, AUTM now has 5 years of gender tracking data from its Annual Licensing Survey, which includes documenting the number of invention disclosures and new patent filings that include at least one woman innovator. The subgroup plans to provide a report on the findings and proposed next steps at the AUTM 2021 Annual Meeting and welcomes new members to the group!
Making Shifts that Stick – Driving Diversity and Inclusion Efforts
, V2, Issue #23
November 4, 2020
By Kirsten Leute
Partner, University Relations
Osage University Partners
I spent almost 20 years in technology transfer at academic institutions before making the leap over to the VC world. During such a long period in one industry, you see trends build – a switch in mindsets, in processes and management on corporate sponsorships, in attitude and policy changes on start-up companies, and in the job itself becoming a profession rather than a question – “I’d really like to get into tech transfer” instead of “What is it you do again?"
Another of those shifts is happening on inclusion. Gender is one point to look at across the innovation inclusion landscape, and one that it is generally easier to produce data on, especially for data sets that do not already have gender identification noted, through the use of software tools that analyze names. While certainly not foolproof, they can help with analyses. In a brief recent survey that Bryn Rees (UColorado Boulder) and I conducted of tech transfer offices, just over half of respondents were tracking the gender of their start-up founders, but only approximately 30% were tracking the racial/ethnic identity of founders. While our sample size was small (23 institutions), no doubt there is room for improvement on data collection on who is being included in the innovation path.
These days, I work at the intersection of university start-ups and venture capital. Our fund has examined the prevalence of women academics in start-ups
, but so far has not done a study on other areas of diversity – e.g., racial or LGBTQ. From anecdotal evidence, I do not expect the outcome to be any rosier than that of our gender study. There is still much work to be done to approach parity. Fortunately, movement is being made. Companies and their investors are gathering data, examining themselves, implementing metrics and changing practices. Rather than being a flash-in-the-pan effort, many are building long-term programs where accountability matters and sharing efforts amongst their peer organizations. AUTM’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee and Women Inventors SIG are great examples of both program building and trading of practices.
I’m sure we all have resources, data, ideas and programs we can share and learn from. In my own research, I especially appreciated this column
“Eight Ways to Make Your D&I Efforts Less Talk and More Walk,” with commentary by Audrey Blanche, the Global Head of Diversity & Belonging at Atlassian. What is something that you have found both inspirational and aspirational? Let’s start sharing more. AUTM Twitter
and AUTM LinkedIn
@KirstenLeute and https://www.linkedin.com/in/kirstenleute/
Perspectives on Diversity in Academic Tech Transfer
, V2, Issue #21
October 7, 2020
By Almesha L. Campbell, PhD
Assistant Vice President for Research and Economic Development
Jackson State University
Member, AUTM Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee
Taunya A. Phillips
Senior Associate Director, New Ventures & Alliances
Office of Technology Commercialization
University of Kentucky
Member, AUTM Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee
In recognition of Hispanic Awareness Month in the United States, AUTM’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee interviewed David L. Gulley, PhD, CLP, RTTP, and Carlos A. Báez, PhD of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, which encourages and promotes innovation, transfer and commercialization of technology and job creation in Puerto Rico’s technology sector.
Let’s discuss the terminology, Hispanic vs Latin-X. Which is appropriate?
I am neither Latino or Hispanic. But I have lived in Latin America and spent much of my career working in Hispanic Serving Institutions (HIS). For me, the question is about a linguistic derivation or a cultural derivation. Outside of the US, no one says Hispanic. I believe that in the US, the term identifies categories of people.
In Puerto Rico, we do not use the term Hispanic or Latino. We are Puerto Ricans. However, when I lived in Lawrence, Massachusetts, we considered ourselves a Hispanic community.
Do you measure or track race/ethnicity?
Under Title V designation, a HSI is a non-profit higher education institution at which 25% or more of its student population identify as Hispanic or Latino. So yes, race/ethnicity is tracked.
Are there any specific programs that increase engagement of historically underrepresented populations?
Yes. There are a number of research programs geared towards increasing the engagement of underrepresented minorities at HSIs and other minority serving institutions. I participated in the NSF Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate program, which seeks to improve pathways to the professoriate and success of underrepresented minorities.
What challenges have come up when working with inventors?
There is a need for more inventors from underrepresented populations going through the entire process of tech transfer to serve as role models. In Puerto Rico, we have a lot of good research, but not much is being protected and transferred. This activity just began to increase through the Trust, but it will take a long time to change the culture.
From a practical standpoint in Puerto Rico, the teaching load is higher and the overall pay scale is below average compared to similar US universities.
Are there any trends in the types of inventions being disclosed, or any connection to the specific needs of the locality?
The technologies developed are healthcare related. A lot of the research here focuses on health disparities, such as the early onset of diabetes and other chronic diseases.
How can we help to increase the diversity in tech transfer?
Training up-and-coming graduate students can help ensure diversity in the profession. Finding ways to support those who are interested and provide them with opportunities to grow and learn. Target senior individuals who have navigated and overcome obstacles and risen in stature and professionalism to provide leadership mentoring.
What can AUTM do to celebrate/highlight Hispanic Heritage Month?
Currently, there are 292 four-year, HSI institutions in the US. AUTM could report on outstanding HSI research faculty, intellectual property portfolios, inventors and inventions.
AUTM Needs Diversity on Its Board
, V2, Issue #18
August 26, 2020
By Gayatri Varma, PhD
Member, AUTM Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee
At first glance, many may think the AUTM Board of Directors appears diverse. While there is and has always been tremendous traditional gender diversity (the Board is generally split equally between men and women), there is little representation among minorities, LGBTQIA+, those with disabilities or one of the many other characteristics that define our Membership.
I served three years on the AUTM Board. The connections and experiences have enriched my professional career. As you may know, AUTM has a Strategic Board, which forces you to view things from a 30,000-foot level, enabling a view of the profession like none other. I believe every AUTM Member should have this privilege.
Prior to my election to the Board of Directors, I served as a volunteer in many capacities for the Annual Meeting Program Planning Committee, including as a Cabinet member. Both our Membership and our Committees have a lot of diversity – minorities, those from different countries, people at different career levels. But this diversity has not reached the Board level.
Immediately following the announcement of the 2019 AUTM Board election results, a Member reached out to me with an astute observation - the absence of racial diversity on the new Board. This has stuck with me. Who can fix this? We the Membership.
The AUTM Board is not appointed. The Board made a significant adjustment in 2015 and 2016 in how members were chosen to run for open Board positions. We used to have a Leadership Development Committee that would hand-select leaders across the world and encourage them to run. In 2016, the Board decided to put the power in your hands. The Board is now 100% elected
by the Membership. If we desire a Board that reflects us, it is imperative that we encourage and support a diverse group of candidates. If we, as minority group members, feel we need representation, then it is upon each of us to consider running as a candidate for the Board in the upcoming elections.
AUTM’s newly established Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee champions this cause, amongst others. Its goal, as reflected in our Diversity and Inclusion statement
, is to “increase the diversity of the organization.” I am asking each of you to step up and engage with the organization at all levels. Encourage and support those who will bring a diverse thought process to the organization. Consider running when it is time to elect the next round of Board members. Your thoughts and contributions add to the richness that makes our Association great. AUTM needs you, now more than ever.
If you are interested in learning more or potentially running for the Board, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Gayatri Varma is Director, Transactions, within the Business Development and Licensing Team, Biopharmaceuticals R&D, AstraZeneca. She served three years on AUTM’s Board of Directors.
We Want You to Run for the Board
, V2, Issue #18
August 26, 2020
By Laura Savatski, MBA, CLP, RTTP
AUTM Board Chair-Elect
When I first considered running for the Board I found myself asking a LOT of questions, particularly about the benefits of being a Board Member, and the process. You might be, too. Then there were the strategic questions I asked myself, “How can I bring value?” and, “Is the job doable?”
The AUTM Board sets strategic direction and goals for the Association, while ensuring the right mix of resources and human capital to get it done. A Board like ours, made up of Association Members, also acts as an initial sounding board on issues impacting individual Members. That’s why it’s key that our Board be representative of the membership.
I thought initially that because I am in a small office, I would not have much of a shot. In fact, I wasn’t elected on my first try. I ran again with success with some effort campaigning and discussions with colleagues about the importance of a vibrant Association.
Small offices are, in reality, a vital part of our Membership base, so it’s important that this perspective is represented on the Board. AUTM has been incredibly valuable to me in providing education and peers to help me deliver a quality program “at home.” AUTM gives me the large team of collaborators that I don’t otherwise have inside my office. And it’s a two-way street. My diverse background and ability to look at issues through many different lenses also serves AUTM. My exposure to AUTM’s 21st
century vision of tech transfer serves my employer – making being a Board member a win-win.
If you’re a person who likes to consider those big ideas, and work through them with like-minded professionals, then you too may find a seat on the AUTM Board fun and rewarding. Working as an AUTM volunteer on specific projects or committees is also a great way to contribute and prepare.
So what are the basic expectations? Board members work independently, reading AUTM staff-prepared documents and gathering data and feedback from our institutions and Association members to prepare for Board meetings. It’s together as a Board that we make decisions to guide the work of the Association staff and volunteers. In addition to meeting (pre-COVID-19) in person three to four times a year, the Board also meets by video as needed.
Our board is strategic in nature, reviewing AUTM's finances, new initiatives, and ensuring quality. Some Board members, like me as the incoming chair, perform a “listen and support” role for strategic committees, like our Equity Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) group. One of our first goals for this group, formed last year, is to diversify the pool of candidates running for Board this year and beyond.
Ideally, AUTM’s Board, like all boards, should be a reflection of its Membership. If you think AUTM’s Board would be a good fit for you, please consider throwing your hat in the ring.
The first step is to declare your intention to run by submitting your application. These will be made available on AUTM’s website in mid-September, so watch your inboxes for the announcement. After the application deadline, elections are open for a two-week period.
Good luck! And if you want some advice, feel free to reach out!
Laura Savatski is the Technology Transfer Officer for the non-profit organization Versiti | Blood Research Institute. In this role, she is responsible for technology protection, commercialization, and partnership development. Laura has a diverse background as a research scientist, entrepreneur, and start-up advisor, and broad experience bringing inventions to market. Laura’s early career in medical research focused on vaccine trials, molecular virology, stem cell biology, transplant/oncology, and cellular assays. Her past roles include Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Prodesse, a company she co-founded, which make molecular infectious disease diagnostic products and is now part of Hologic. Laura currently serves as the AUTM Board representative for the Alliance of Technology Transfer Professionals (ATTP). She is the Incoming AUTM Board Chair for 2021-2022.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Celebrates 30th Anniversary
, V2, Issue #16
July 29, 2020
By Megan Aanstoos, PhD
Chair, AUTM Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee
People with disabilities may encounter life's myriad of technologies in ways different than people without these challenges. Doorknobs, buttons, curbs and digital meetings can all present hurdles for persons with disabilities.
As the number of Americans at risk for disabilities continues to grow, designing technologies for an accessible tomorrow has become a national priority. Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, the world of assistive technologies has changed significantly. These inventions often begin in research institutions where students and faculty take a fresh look at the challenges surrounding everyday tasks, sparking new ideas which are then developed and licensed through technology transfer offices.
The Importance of Taking Active Roles in Diversifying Start-Up Founders
No person with a disability should be denied the opportunity to engage in life. By creating and licensing assistive technologies, universities are doing their part to provide transformational innovations for those in need:
, V2, Issue #15
July 15, 2020
By Nichole R. Mercier, PhD
Assistant Vice Chancellor and Managing Director, Office of Technology Management, Washington University in St. Louis
There is a huge need to support women, African Americans, and other underrepresented populations in small businesses, particularly those that spin out of universities. The statistics that highlight participation in tech transfer and entrepreneurship show the obvious need to create opportunities that actively invite women to the table, support their efforts throughout, and carefully help navigate the common barriers on the road to entrepreneurship. We know women are 40% less likely to communicate their ideas to the tech transfer office and that they only make up 12% of the inventor population. Professor Lisa Cook’s research at Michigan State University indicates the dire outlook for African Americans who historically received almost seven fold fewer patents than women.
However, the real metric of technology transfer is the successful placement of a technology with an industry partner or start-up company. Universities rely heavily on spinning out small businesses/start-ups as a critical path to technology transfer. Yet, few have evaluated the level of involvement of underrepresented founders in university spinouts. A review by Osage University Partners of their university-driven portfolio found that only 11% of spinouts had a female founder. At my university, Washington University in St. Louis (WashU), only about 3-4% of our university start-ups have a female founder and we have only two start-ups that have non-women underrepresented founders. While there generally are not statistics around minority founders for university start-ups, we know that black founders received less than 1% of venture capital funding. Clearly, there is work to be done.
Increasingly universities are educating their female inventor population on technology transfer and entrepreneurship, and these developed programs lend themselves to other underrepresented populations. Innovator education that is specifically focused on diversity and inclusion has been shown to increase representation and participation of women and minorities in invention disclosures and patenting.
But as I’ve learned at WashU, founding a start-up takes an additional commitment, which has added barriers for underrepresented populations. I believe that to evoke real change, a national endeavor is necessary. Recently, WashU partnered with Osage University Partners to deliver Equalize, the first national pitch event for women academic entrepreneurs. The goal was to empower women across the country toward entrepreneurship by growing their networks through mentorship and publicity. Each participant was paired for six months with a hand selected mentor who truly understood the barriers women face engaging in entrepreneurship. The pairs formed trusted bonds, mentors selflessly opened their networks, and each team member put in more hours than was expected. Equalize was a game changer for the participants who described working with their first female mentor, engaging with someone who could challenge them to a higher business capacity, or feeling star struck by the incredible background (yet totally down to earth nature) of their “rock star” mentor.
By all accounts, Equalize was a success that can be replicated for other populations who experience the obstacles when considering a university spinout. We need to rally together as a nation of tech transfer professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, other start-up personnel and underrepresented academic inventors to navigate these obstacles. We need to look across the country for role models that represent these populations and look to create more by deliberately offering minority populations and women entrepreneurial opportunities and providing introductions that expand their networks. Only in this way will we consciously build a community where all populations are invited and supported to participate equitably in entrepreneurship.
When we began efforts for women in 2014 at WashU, we brought in female founders from other parts of the country to engage with WashU’s female researchers. Now we have our own population, which continues to be cultivated for growth. With fewer minorities in faculty positions across the country, spurring entrepreneurship will take a national effort, but we have already demonstrated that it is possible, and suspect it will spur more entrepreneurship and spinouts from university minority founders.
The views expressed are the author's and do not necessarily represent the views of AUTM.
Innovation for All: Building a Diverse and Inclusive Innovation Ecosystem
AUTM Insight, V2, Issue #13
June 17, 2020
By Tanaga Boozer
Education Program Advisor, US Patent and Trademark Office
Member, AUTM Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee
Last year, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) conducted a study of women inventors and found that the inventor rate for women was a mere 12% in 2016. Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation makes a compelling case for changing the paradigm so that minorities, women and other underrepresented groups have better odds of becoming inventors. In a statement to the United States House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Committee on the Judiciary, USPTO Director Andei Iancu noted that “Broadening the innovation ecosphere to include women – and other underrepresented groups – is critical to inspiring novel inventions, driving economic growth, and maintaining America’s global competitiveness.”
Congress passed the Study of Underrepresented Classes Chasing Engineering and Science (SUCCESS) Act directing the USPTO to study and address the issues preventing certain underrepresented groups from applying for and obtaining patents. In the SUCCESS Act Report to Congress, the USPTO published its findings, identified ways to enhance its existing programs and made legislative recommendations to move underrepresented groups closer to achieving patent parity.
AUTM’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee recently interviewed Laura Peter, Deputy Director of the USPTO, to better understand the initiatives the USPTO has taken up to influence the diversity of invention among underrepresented groups since publishing the SUCCESS Act Report. They asked her to address the creation and implementation of the Expanding Innovation Hub (“The Hub”) website, and other USPTO initiatives to increase minority inventorship and improve tracking metrics for accountability.
How do you envision individuals and institutions engaging with the hub?
The Expanding Innovation Hub is designed to be a one-stop shop for inventors to learn about how to protect their inventions using USPTO resources, and for organizations to learn about programs the USPTO, itself, has successfully deployed to increase participation of under-represented members within its ranks. On the Hub, there are materials to help inventors learn how to navigate through the process, as well as resources to help organizations establish their own mentoring and community group programs to foster expansion to those under-represented in the innovation communities, including women.
What is the Hub designed to do?
The essence of the Hub is to provide resources for inventors and organizations which will help accelerate participation of under-represented communities in the patent system. It is part of the USPTO’s multi-pronged approach to expand the innovation ecosphere by providing resources, education, encouragement, and other forms of outreach.
How will this Hub impact the diversity of inventors?
With the new Expanding Innovation Hub on our website, inventors will have a central location to find information about all of our programs and resources. In addition to providing resources to inventors, we also provide resources to organizations to assist them in expanding their own innovation ecosphere. As identified in our SUCCESS Act report, one of the barriers facing under-represented groups is a lack of access to mentoring. By providing toolkits to assist organizations in establishing their own mentoring programs and community groups, we endeavor to provide more opportunities for individuals to find mentors and role models. As stated by Susann Keohane, an IBM Master Inventor, in one of our Journeys of Innovation articles, “If you’re able to find someone that can mentor you in patenting and innovation, that will really jump-start your success.”
While not part of the Hub, we also continue to expand our reach geographically. In addition to our headquarters in Alexandria, we have four regional offices in Detroit, Denver, San Jose, and Dallas, and 83 Patent and Trademark Resource Centers located in public, state, and academic libraries across the country. These centers not only offer a physical connection to valuable government resources, but they also offer regular programming, office hours, and staff trained to assist inventors and entrepreneurs with intellectual property (IP) research.
How will you measure that impact?
Making progress on the participation of under-represented groups in innovation is a task that will take time. Even with time, it will be hard to measure the exact impact of the Hub since other groups have made their own efforts. One indicator of success would be the results of any future studies showing increase in inventor participation rates of underrepresented groups.
Will this have a real person behind it answering questions and engaging with individuals/groups?
Within the Demystifying the Patent System section of the Hub, there is a link to request a USPTO speaker. Any groups interested in a presentation should fill out a speaker request form, and someone from the USPTO will contact them. In addition, we will continue to host and participate in events, such as the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium, where representatives from the USPTO answer questions and engage with the community.
Will information be uploaded in real-time or is this a static site?
The Hub is not static. The Hub will continually be updated with new materials. In the future, we plan to add additional information and new formats for accessing information.
Can you clarify the components of the hub and how it aligns with the SUCCESS Act?
In response to the SUCCESS Act, we released the SUCCESS Act Report. Within the report, we outlined several USPTO initiatives to increase participation in innovation. One of the initiatives we identified is to create a collaborative IP program to help demystify the patent process and encourage greater participation. The Demystifying the Patent System Toolkit, on the Expanding Innovation Hub, was designed to address this initiative. It was created to help innovators understand the process of obtaining a patent.
Within the SUCCESS Act report, we also identified barriers that under-represented groups may face. One of these barriers is a lack of mentors and role models. The Mentoring Toolkit and Community Group Resources were designed to help overcome that barrier. The Mentoring Toolkit is intended to assist organizations in establishing a mentoring program to connect experienced innovators with the next generation; and the Community Group Resources was designed to help organizations establish programs to connect groups of employees with shared characteristics, interests, and goals for encouragement and inspiration in the pursuit of innovation.
The new platform is yet another step the USPTO has taken to broaden the innovationecosphere, to inspire novel inventions, to accelerate growth, and to drive America’s global competitive edge.
How will the Hub help to point inventors towards other tools, such as the pro bono program?
While the materials on the Hub are geared to all innovators, the USPTO offers robust programs for individual inventors. The Demystifying the Patent System portion of the Expanding Innovation Hub provides a consolidated, curated list of resources to help individual inventors engage in the patent process. The USPTO offers access to legal counsel through its pro bono network, and 60 participating law school clinics, to help inventors and entrepreneurs secure free or discounted legal services. We have a pro se assistance program to help inventors who are not represented by counsel apply for patents. We provide a host of other online resources to help guide and educate inventors, as well.
Is this Hub about doing something or just offering information on how USPTO has tackled diversity of inventors?
The Hub is providing information to help individual inventors understand the patent process and organizations increase participation in innovation. In the SUCCESS Act Report, we identified several barriers facing under-represented groups. The information we have provided in the Hub can help tackle some of these barriers. We hope that the Hub will encourage more participation by demystifying the patent system, and make it easier for organizations to ensure everyone has an opportunity for networking and mentoring.
America’s economic prosperity and technological leadership depend on a strong and inclusive innovation ecosystem. That is why it is so important to make sure all Americans have the opportunity to develop and protect their inventions, build thriving businesses, and succeed. It is therefore critical that industry, academia, and government work together to broaden our innovation ecosphere demographically, geographically, and economically. The Expanding Innovation Hub is designed to be a springboard for inventors and organizations, as well as to inspire the continued conversation about growing the numbers of women and other underrepresented people in the innovation economy.
Are there more components coming to the Hub in the future, such as interactive programming, webinars, symposiums, conferences, etc.?
We plan to add more components to the Hub, including content targeted towards different groups of individuals, such as corporations. Additionally, as we announce future initiatives directed towards expanding innovation, they will be added to the Hub. For example, the Legal Experience and Advancement Program (LEAP), which became effective on May 15, has been added as a feature on the Hub. Finally, we host a wide variety of events to amplify this message, such as Invention-Con and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium which will all be featured on the Hub.
Outside of the Hub, the USPTO also supports dozens of STEM-related programs that provide education about IP to young men and women. These include programs in partnership with the National Inventors Hall of Fame, such as Camp Invention, which is offered in school districts in every state, and the Collegiate Inventors Competition, which takes place each year at the USPTO; the National Summer Teacher Institute, which brings invention and IP into the nation’s classrooms; collaborations with historically black colleges and universities; the Girl Scout IP patch, which is available to Girl Scout troops across the nation; and so much more.
Is there a place on the Hub to highlight and celebrate successful organizations?
In the future we hope to recognize individuals and organizations that have made progress in accelerating diversity among innovators and entrepreneurs.
Employee Inclusivity In a Virtual World
AUTM Insight, V2, Issue #11
May 20, 2020
By Megan Aanstoos, PhD
Chair, AUTM Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee
In addition to concerns over budget, research laboratory closures and moving institutional services online, employers also must keep inclusion practices in mind during today’s “new normal.” Over the last two months, many of us have had to make drastic changes to our working styles. We have relocated offices to our homes (or those of family), alongside our partners, children and pets so that we can continue to work and protect our society. However, that move has been easier for some than others. While members of the EDI committee contemplate what has and hasn’t worked, we thought we’d share some thoughts on expansion of inclusion and equity for future planning.
First, it is important to recognize that not everyone has the same level of access. Socioeconomic diversity means that someone may not have steady internet, a quiet, safe place to work, or the ability to balance childcare with full-time job responsibilities. Flexibility in scheduling and availability can help alleviate stress and provide a more meaningful and productive work experience. Training and advanced conversations to prepare staff can be helpful as well.
Second, even with steady internet, a reliable computer and a place to work, inclusivity means also providing accessibility accommodations that may not have been needed within the office. This can include things like captioning for calls, establishing video use for virtual meetings, screen readers and allowing employees to take home monitors, standing desks and other office equipment.
Third, there are ways to help support employee mental health as well as provide physical accommodations. This can include daily team check-in meetings, happy hour events, team building exercises, webinars and even arts & craft projects, like painting Mandala power words on stones to keep at a home desk. (Images provided by AUTM Chair-Elect, Laura Savatski)
Fourth, employers need to build flexibility into their plans for bringing employees back to their offices. Employees might have children who are still at home, be immunocompromised or even be located out of state. Partners at home may be at risk from public facing occupations in healthcare, retail services or others. To help keep everyone safe, employers need to be aware of individual needs and be adaptive and inclusive in developing return-to-workplace plans.
As employers adjust workflow and duties to this “new normal,” it is essential to include inclusivity and equality considerations and be thoughtful of individual needs when exploring new ways of operating.
Drive EDI by Partnering with MSIs in Your Area
AUTM Insight, V2, Issue #9
April 22, 2020
By Cedric D’Hue, D’Hue Law
AUTM’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee has been tasked with creating a plan on how to work with third parties to improve technology transfer outcomes at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) in the US, and identifying funding mechanisms to assist. The Outreach and Education (O&E) subgroup, co-chaired by myself and Taunya Phillips, Senior Director of New Ventures at The University of Kentucky, has met to review and discuss information on developing strategic partnerships.
We began with a review of recent articles, including HBCU’s Sink-or-Swim Moment from the October 21, 2019 New York Times, and then began our outreach to underrepresented institutions. We spoke with a current and a former director of an HBCU technology transfer office, the Vice-President of Development at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the Senior Director of STEM Programs and Initiatives at the United Negro College Fund for their takes on effective programs. We also spoke with the Patent Training Foundation about its program to provide opportunities for HBCU law students to participate as teams with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
O&E will continue its efforts to support AUTM in strengthening strategic partnerships with HBCUs and other MSI’s, government entities and industry associations such as University Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP), National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE), Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) and National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine (NASEM). The underrepresentation of women, people of color and other groups in industries such as Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) has been documented by numerous organizations. NASEM recently published an important study, Promising Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine and hosted a Symposium on Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in STEMM. Both confirmed the effectiveness of an intentional, evidence-based approach for improving the landscape of STEMM (STEM plus Medicine), and the research outlines educational interventions for improving recruitment and retention, effective practices for addressing gender disparities and other underrepresented groups, and overcoming barriers to implementation. IPO is scheduled to release a new guide to Diversity and Inclusion to the legal profession.
While the EDI Committee is limited to a small number of participants, the Special Interest Group (SIG) for Women Inventors, and the recently created SIG for Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) offers many opportunities for participation by interested AUTM Members. The purpose of D&I SIG is twofold: (1) to support the achievement of a workforce composed of people who proportionally represent the diverse populations that contribute to technology transfer around the world, and (2) to create an environment in which all AUTM Members feel valued, included, and empowered to work toward the advancement of technology transfer. Its mission is to foster discussion and understanding of diversity and inclusion as a dynamic strategy to support and advance technology transfer worldwide.
Our committee welcomes input on this important, ongoing EDI conversation. Email your comments to me, or to our Chair, Megan Aanstoos.
AUTM Drives Ongoing EDI Conversation
AUTM Insight, V2, Issue #7
March 25, 2020
By Megan Aanstoos, PhD
Chair, AUTM Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee
Diversity is important in driving employee satisfaction and business success. Many companies have responded to recently published studies demonstrating these figures by forming new offices or C-suite level roles aimed at improvement. AUTM similarly recognizes and values diversity as essential to a vibrant workforce and community. However, diversity alone is not enough; to make meaningful and permanent changes in operation and culture, companies also need to incorporate inclusion and equality.
To integrate these components, AUTM formed an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) Committee, tasked with helping holistically guide its Board of Directors, Cabinet and Membership in creating a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization. The Committee operates in conjunction with other committees and special interest groups to provide education, policy recommendations, and programming to the AUTM community. The first goal was to implement changes within AUTM itself (e.g. diversifying panels in -programming) and leading by example. The second is, over time, to provide information to Members on how to address EDI in their tech transfer offices (TTOs) and provide guidance to those in the profession at large.
In order to implement change, you need to identify where to start. Below are the general principles behind EDI:
- Equity – Acknowledging everyone is not starting from the same place, but when addressed, ensures that everyone has access to the same opportunities by correcting the disparity
- Diversity – Measureable similarities and differences of individuals as related to a larger group (example: gender, race, disability)
- Inclusion – Providing the best possible conditions to support and promote diverse people and ideas by ensuring fair access, respect, and recognition of the values that each individual contributes
Our committee consists of members with diverse representation across academia, industry, government, genders, ages, races and experience levels. The committee began its work in July 2019. Since formation, we have provided support to AUTM on policy language (ex. the SUCCESS Act), engaged with underrepresented institutions through outreach efforts, assisted in helping bring more diversity to panels for meetings, and provided general guidance. Our advice led quickly to changes at the AUTM Annual Meeting that we were excited for everyone to see, like better captioning, translation and transcription of major speeches, pronoun name badge ribbons, and a private room for nursing mothers. These inclusive opportunities inspired sponsors to cover expenses and were implemented quickly to make a real difference in the Annual Meeting inclusion. While none of us got to experience these changes first hand, some (like captioning all webinars and video content) are now an official part of operations. We can’t wait for Seattle in 2021!
Over the next year, the EDI committee plans to create a toolkit to help guide Members, refine and publish our Statement of Values, host a panel on diversity in TTOs, provide assistance for responses to upcoming legislation, and provide education and outreach to minority TTOs.
We look forward to having ongoing conversations about EDI and engaging with our AUTM colleagues and others in the broader technology transfer field on how to create more equitable, diverse, and inclusive environments. We want to position AUTM on the leading edge of EDI in the global research commercialization ecosystem to make a better world—for everyone.
Meet the new EDI Committee:
- Megan Aanstoos – Chair
- Cedric d’Hue
- Nichole Mercier
- Clay Christian
- Taunya Phillips
- Karen Maples
- Dimitra Georganopoulou
- Almesha Campbell
- Tanaga Boozer
- Gayatri Varma