It is a well-known and unexpectedly persistent fact that women aren’t paid as well as men. In the world of entrepreneurship, this disparity is no different. A 2014 report entitled Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital revealed women entrepreneurs to be “an enormous untapped investment opportunity.” A recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review found that, compared to all-male teams, female-run companies attract only 83 percent of the outside equity investment and 63 percent of the debt financing despite earning 20 percent more revenue than male-led firms. Interestingly, it has even been shown that female entrepreneurs pay themselves less than male entrepreneurs pay themselves.
The fact is, entrepreneurship remains a male dominated space. However, this is changing at Yale, starting with the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship (SEE) team at CBEY, where five out of six student team members are women.
“Entrepreneurship should never be gender-biased,” said Judy Chang (SOM, MAM ‘16), a member of the SEE team. Both she and another SEE team member, Shira Beery, (SOM ‘17) expressed the same straightforward reasoning: supporting women entrepreneurs brings new voices to the table and promises more imaginative solutions to sustainability challenges. “The greater the diversity in the entrepreneurial community, the better the ideas and innovations that will emerge,” said Beery.
Today, November 19, marks the second annual celebration of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a movement designed to “empower, celebrate and support women entrepreneurs worldwide.” Aligned with this spirit, CBEY and the SEE team are working to represent the ideas and voices of women entrepreneurs within Yale. Though SEE is not a gender-specific organization—the group oversees job treks, workshops and consultancies—CBEY has already supported several women through this student-led program. Recent members include Monika Weber of Fluid Screen, Yesenia Gallardo of Poda Foods and Amanda Rinderlee of Tuckerman & Co.
Judy Amsalem (SOM, F&ES ‘18), who is currently a member of SEE, noted that one of the central (and unique) challenges facing women is that “many of the skills and attributes which are most necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur are those that women professionals are often critiqued for exhibiting.” Characteristics perceived as positive in men are, in the same context, held against women; while a man is praised as decisive, a woman may be criticized as opinionated.
When asked about overcoming these kinds of obstacles, members of SEE described two key pillars. First, according to Michèle Zollinger (F&ES ‘16), focusing on goals and maintaining an open approach to entrepreneurship is something that needs emphasis. “Empowering women to change their mindset from a self-critical mindset to a learning and experimental mindset is crucial,” said Zollinger. She, as the leader of SEE student club at F&ES, thinks frequently about conveying and acting on this message. Second, successful role models “propel the space and inspire others,” according to Iliana Lazarova (F&ES ‘16). “It is encouraging and motivating to see women succeed as leaders in the environmental business space.”
As this issue gathers attention, and as the norms begin to change, CBEY and the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship team are excited to support and promote equality among entrepreneurs. “It has been inspiring to work with this team of brilliant and driven women,” said Amsalem. Not only do they represent the future of entrepreneurship, but they are also opening the space for women who choose to follow a similar path.