We Need More Katie Mulichs

I have a 13-month-old standard poodle named Sebby. That's short for Sebastian, as in Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach is my husband's favorite composer and, because we are musicians, the name seemed most appropriate.

Sebby goes to the dog park almost every day (with my schedule, usually with my husband). As Sebby is running and playing, we pick up all sorts of interesting and useful information from other dog owners. One weekend morning, I happened upon a discussion about Paw Wash, a product that is exactly what it sounds like: It cleans dogs' paws so they don't track dirt all over your floor.

What does this have to do with AAUW? Well, I ordered the Paw Wash and, while reading the directions, found this description about how the product was born:

On a damp autumn day, sixth-grader Katie Mulich cringed at the sight of her dog, Sadie, a Labrador-German shepherd mix, tracking mud into the house. Katie knew what came next... pulling out hoses, brushes, and buckets and trying her best to dodge the muddy water Sadie would fling as she shook herself following yet another messy cleaning episode. But then an idea came to Katie -- why not build a paw-washing machine? An upcoming science project gave her the opportunity to test her idea -- and the resulting prototype not only got her an A in her class but led her to receive a patent for her Paw Wash product a year later.

I was delighted. This small invention, which quickly became a part of our daily routine, had been the brainchild of a sixth-grade girl. Something else impressed me further. Not only was Mulich the inventor of Paw Wash, but in promoting and commercializing it, she also became an entrepreneur. She patented the first product dedicated to cleaning a dog's paws.

Mulich's role as an inventor and entrepreneur is impressive not only because of her age but because she is a woman. Female entrepreneurs, unfortunately, are far too rare in a business world that believes itself to be beyond sexism. Women are underrepresented in many areas of economic growth. Of Forbes' most recent list of America's Most Prominent Companies, only 12 out of 100 were founded by women.

We need more Katie Mulichs. We need more women who are willing to recognize that their ideas are good ones, and we need a business culture that is more accommodating to women who must often split time between jobs and family responsibilities. We need more investors to recognize the benefits of diversity and the multiple ways that women-owned businesses improve the market for everybody. We need consumers like you to take the time to research products that support gender diversity in the marketplace.

But mostly, we need to support women who have great ideas.