Tag Archives: gender equality

Gender & Entrepreneurship at the Smith Entrepreneurship Research Conference

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Left to right: Mabel Abraham, David Ross, Dolly Oberoi and Rajshree Agarwal

by: Karolyn Maynard MBA ’18

On Friday April 20th, at the 14th Annual Smith Entrepreneurship Research Conference chaired by Professors Anil Gupta and David Kirsch, the Dingman Center’s Ladies First Initiative sponsored a panel discussion, “Gender and Entrepreneurship: Past, Present and Future.”

Sara Herald, our Ladies First champion, shared a thought-provoking statement to introduce the panel discussion: she described the mission of the Ladies First initiative as focused upon understanding the different barriers that female students face and how we can fix the system, not fix the women.

This was an apt introduction to spur further investigation in the area of gender and entrepreneurship, which brought 2 researchers, Mabel Abraham from Columbia University and David Ross from University of Florida, together with Dolly Oberoi, Co-Founder and Chairman of C2 Technologies, to discuss the topic of female entrepreneurship in the US.

The session chair and moderator, Rajshree Agarwal, asked salient questions and highlighted the reality that being a female founder has nearly universally negative outcomes, particularly  in the US. As researchers and founders discussed the hypotheses and reasons for this, something became increasingly clear—even though the barriers have been reduced, it is a misconception to think that the barriers are gone.

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Announcing Ladies First: a community of changemakers, creators, and pioneers at UMD

Here at the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship we believe that the skills taught by the process of launching a new venture are useful for everyone. Whether a student is interested in launching a traditional business, a social venture, being an “intrapreneur” with an existing organization, or is just passionate about solving a particular problem, our courses and programs are designed to help.

But the truth is that the entrepreneurship world is not as diverse as it should be, because not everyone who could be an entrepreneur thinks it’s a viable option for them. Those who take the entrepreneurial plunge, particularly in high-growth fields like technology, are lionized in our culture. But when we think of those entrepreneurs, we almost exclusively think of men, often without realizing it.  When you search online for images of “famous entrepreneurs”, you see multiple pictures of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates, along with others like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. Out of the first 33 images, only 3 are of women.  Popular culture often overlooks female founders, and the statistics behind gender and entrepreneurship are troubling: while women launched 41% of new businesses on average for the last two decades, that number is falling. It’s even worse in the tech world: in Silicon Valley, only 3% of technology companies are started by women.  Currently, our classes and programs reflect that gender imbalance.ladies-first-badges-black

We’re committed to changing that. The Dingman Center is proud to launch the Ladies First initiative to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at University of Maryland.  Instead of simply increasing marketing efforts to women on our campus, we’re going to help women solve the problems they care about. In many instances, those problems are ones facing our society: climate change, hunger, poverty and inequality, and launching social ventures is one way for them to take action on solving those problems. Entrepreneurship research supports this focus, as women are 17% more likely than men to start a social venture rather than a purely economic one.

In its inaugural year, the Ladies First initiative will:

  • Adapt our courses and programs to be inclusive to social entrepreneurs
  • Expand what it means to be an entrepreneur on our campus

In order to achieve those goals, we must tell stories about diverse entrepreneurs, so that when someone says the term “entrepreneur” we think of Sarah Kauss, founder of S’well, or a classmate who has started a venture, instead of only famous male entrepreneurs. Ladies First launches this week with a series of events, communication pieces, and a visual campaign promoting what female founders look like at the University of Maryland. Additional programming will be offered throughout the school year as we strive to increase the number of women opting in to entrepreneurship on our campus.

Stay tuned for more blog posts in this Ladies First series, and learn more about the initiative on our website.


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