Female-secured Patents Could Boost Economy by $1 trillion

Small businesses and startup entrepreneurs are known to rely on funding from government agencies like the Small Business Administration; minority-owned businesses might turn to the Minority Business Development Agency. Kathi Vidal is pushing to have entrepreneurs consider applying for patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office alongside their application(s) for funding.

Vidal, who is currently serving as USPTO director, is an experienced intellectual property lawyer. A primary platform of her work in the USPTO, since her appointment by President Biden in April 2022, has been the diversification of those applying for and receiving patents. To date, only 13% of U.S. patents have been issued to women. When offered free legal guidance for the patent-application process, women-led filings increased by 41%. Vidal believes that the inclusion of women in the patenting system at equal rates as men could boost the U.S. economy by as much as $1 trillion.

According to Vidal, legal support is not the only barrier to female inclusion. The patenting system is inherently confusing and excluding. While the government views rejections as an opportunity for re-application, most applicants don’t understand. Vidal is introducing a cover letter to patent decisions, assigning an examiner who will be available for consultations and be the human face of an otherwise amorphous and overwhelming process.

Patents are a tangible way of supporting the economy and expanding business competition, particularly in growing fields like artificial intelligence and technologies. Similarly, Vidal explains that patents facilitate partnership and cooperation. Without patents, companies are resistant to sharing their ideas.

The Business of Bringing Back Businesses

Fashion Fair, the beloved cosmetics company, went bankrupt in 2018. But in June 2022, the firm, which Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage said “represented Black beauty, it represented sophistication, and it was the first makeup that I ever tried on in the mirror,” was resurrected. This is part of a current economic trend in which Black businesswomen opt to revive a legacy brand rather than start a new company from scratch. In some instances, Black entrepreneurs are launching companies based on known white-owned firms that unfairly used images of Black people as part of their branding and merchandising.

Like Fashion Fair, Madam (originally known as Madam C.J. Walker), the Black hair care brand, revamped both the external elements of their products, like packaging and advertising, as well as the actual production processes. Even with these changes, Fashion Fair and Madam still focus on the shared historic mission of each company: bringing wealth, access, and prestige to Black communities, particularly women.

McKinsey study found that Black-founded and Black-owned beauty brands comprised 2.5 percent of 2021 revenue in that industry; Black consumers spent 11.1 percent, the equivalent of $6.6 billion, on beauty products. While spurred mostly by need, as a way of ensuring the employment and safety of Black Americans in the dark era of Jim Crow laws, Black-owned businesses are a historic and iconic representation of pride. Historian Juliet E.K. Walker describes the time as the “Golden Age of Black Business,” when Black-owned businesses grew across the U.S.

The newest iterations of the company are also updated for today’s consumer interests. The Madam formula, for example, has been revised to substitute petroleum, which is derived from crude oil, from the products’ hair and scalp treatment recipes.

In some instances, Black entrepreneurs are redressing historic wrongs of white-owned companies that feature images of Black domestic workers in their logos and images. Rapper and entrepreneur Percy Miller, known as Master P, restarted his Uncle P’s line of pancake mixes and rice in response to this trend. He recalls how his grandmother used to favor brands featuring Black people, but as he grew he came to realize “that Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were models, and none of the proceeds from these brands went back to helping the community and their families; it was just pure mockery.” In an attempt to remedy these historical injustices, Miller sources rice for his products from Ghana; some profits are earmarked for programs serving low-income children and the elderly in New Orleans and St. Louis. A picture of Miller himself, in sunglasses, is affixed on Uncle P’s products.

Barbie and Balmain Pair Up for Couture NFT Project

Barbie, the quintessential American toy by Mattel, announced a partnership with French fashion powerhouse Balmain.

This collaboration is surprising on many levels. First, there is no actual doll involved. Second, the collection is a mix of real fashion and NFTs.

The collection includes 50 adult garments inspired by the iconic Barbie doll. Avatars of diverse racial backgrounds model the clothes, and three NFTs of unique looks are being sold at auction.  Barbie is extending its efforts into the realm of virtual collectibles as each NFT includes a doll-sized physical design. The entire collection and the NFT designs are unisex: there is no more Barbie and Ken, just high-end fashion for all.

Mattel also has a partnership with Gucci to create Hot Wheels Collectibles.

Awards in Recognition of Goodness

There are a variety of awards presented to businesses and businessmen and women for success in their industry.  There are also some awards given to individuals who have demonstrated goodness and ethics with their personal conduct in their given industry.  Here we take a look at three of them.

The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) presented two women from Rapid City, SD with a national award. The organization is America’s largest nonprofit entity which works with and promotes North American business leadership.  Lafawn Janis and Kimberly Tilsen-Brave Heart were recognized for having “demonstrated leadership, initiative, and dedication and made significant contributions in business, their professions, or in their communities.” The NCAIED seeks to help with economic development, business development and leadership in tribal communities.

Tilsen-Brave Heart received the award for her work as owner of Painted Skye Management and co-owner of Et-i-quette Catering.  Janis for her work as Bluebird Consulting owner.

The American Bar Association recently presented Congressman John Lewis with the Thurgood Marshall Award for his commitment – through word and action – to civil rights in America.  Lewis is one of the original 13 Freedom Riders and a founding member and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. According to former president of the National Bar Association, Robert L. Harris:

“Congressman John Lewis is one of our most revered elder statesmen. His sacrifices for civil rights, justice and equality are unparalleled.”

Educating Women: Family Finances

Why are women in America so uneducated on their personal household finances?  Why are statistics showing – even today – that when it comes to divorce or widowhood, women are not educated as to what their personal finances are?  With so many women in top executive positions in various industries (even economic ones), the gap on education in this area is still broad.

Michelle Smith divorce expert is CEO and founder of NYC’s Source Financial Advisors, an RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) and a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst).  She has been working in the field, advising women on this issue for the last 15 years.  Source Financial Advisors currently manages $420 million in assets and works with divorcing couples, 85% who are women.

Over the years Smith has found that many women who file for divorce or who are suddenly widowed have had no control over the money in the marriage and assets the couple own are completely foreign to them.  In recent years there has been a substantial increase in the amount of what has been coined the “gray divorce” (people over 50 filing for divorce) that is adding to the financial burden and stress, again primarily of women.  Smith echoed this when she reported that she had been “seeing more and more older people divorcing [given the increase in life expectancy, these people are] unwilling to stay unhappy” for longer.

The financial side for women who survive their husbands or are divorcing is terrible – no matter what age or stage.  There is so much to do (irrespective of the emotional side) with finances when one gets divorced.  Smith has found that the transitional process requires the suddenly-single woman to “become a CFO.”  As such she formulated a process for these individuals.  “Wife2CFO” is a system she developed to aide women in the divorce process.  “About two years ago, I literally woke up in the middle of the night and I saw the letter ‘F’ connecting the word ‘wife’ to CFO and so I immediately trademarked it,” she said.

Ultimately given that the rate of divorce after age 50 has doubled in the U.S. since 1990, and one out of two couples will end up divorced (which doesn’t even take into account the amount left widowed), it is time for women to get a full education on where they stand.

IDKD – Women in Radiology

As president of the Radiological Society of North America, and Chair of the Department of Radiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,Professor Hedvig Hricak has become recognized for her work in radiology and medical imaging.  As such, she is suited to her position as one of the US advisors to Switzerland’s International Diagnostic Course Davos (IDKD), a role she began in 2014.

Born in Croatia (thus boasting a European background), today Hricak lives in the US.  In 1983 she was one of only two women to be a faculty member of the IDKD. Thanks to the work that has been done by the organization – “one of the world’s leading post-graduate educational courses in diagnostic radiology” – the IDKD today has a faculty which has expertise in “medical imaging, interventional radiology, nuclear medicine, pediatric radiology, and breast imaging (mammography).”

Gender is not a deciding factor at the IDKD but it is positive to see more women in this industry. One recent example was seen at the first meeting of IDKD – Women in Radiology earlier this year whereby women made up 38% of course teachers.

Hedvig Hricak is the IDKD’s Honorary Advisor of the “Diseases of the Abdomen and Pelvis” Courses.