Huge Incentives Offered to Women With Big Ideas -- Could You Be One of Them?

women in science Remember a time when geeks were the uncool minority? For women in science and engineering fields, they're still trying to be more Bill Gates and less Mary Katherine Gallegher (the nerdy Catholic school girl played by Molly Shannon on 'Saturday Night Live').

Many women in the sciences often remain underrepresented and unrecognized. Men graduated with 585 percent more engineering degrees than women in 2002 (according to Science and Engineering Indicators). Now the Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation is offering a huge incentive for women to put on their thinking caps.

The organization launched its first Women in Science and Engineering Business Idea Competition. The grand prize may not be a patent certificate, but it just might get the winners a step closer to getting one. Those selected will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to TED 2011 in Long Beach, Calif.

TED, which stands for technology, entertainment, and design, is an annual conference where great thinkers get a chance to spread great ideas. It's the kind of place to rub elbows with people like Peter Gabriel, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Jane Goodall, and Mae Jemison. (If those names are unfamiliar, you definitely know their work.)

The plan is to encourage women in science and engineering to think of themselves (and their fantastic ideas) as entrepreneurial. The idea is that as more women in these fields embrace entrepreneurship, they will grow more accustomed to selling their ideas, and that this evolution will allow even more women to continue to change the world.

"We know that more women than ever are leading U.S. businesses and hold a nearly three-to-one majority in undergraduate and graduate education, but too few pursue the path of huge-growth entrepreneurship," said Lesa Mitchell, vice president, Kauffman Foundation.

Entrants are invited to complete an application, which includes a video. But you better hurry: entries are due by Jan. 15, 2011.

AOL Jobs will bring you the winner in early February.

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