WORKPLACE WORKSHOP II — WOMEN IN NEW ECONOMY ENTERPRISES

FOCUS

What strategies can enable more women to break through largely unacknowledged barriers in New Economy careers and entrepreneurship?

MODERATORS

Lori Perine
CEO, Interpretech LLC. Former Deputy to the Associate Director, Technology, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

J. Pari Sabet
Director, Technology Policy Group, Ohio Supercomputing Center

DISCUSSION SUMMARY

Women entrepreneurs in New Economy enterprises face many of the same barriers as their counterparts in Old Economy businesses. The most significant differences for New Economy entrepreneurs may be the even smaller number of women in technology than in other business fields and the assumption that women are averse to the high risk culture of new economy entrepreneurship.

Participants — women working in traditional and New Economy technology companies and economic development, and graduate students considering various career tracks — focused their attention on three areas affecting women in New Economy enterprises: the sociology of business, access to capital and institutional change. Throughout these discussions, participants sought to identify unacknowledged as well as acknowledged barriers. The group looked for ways in which issues facing women in new economy enterprises and successful strategies of response might be applicable to other underrepresented groups.

Participants also explored the sometimes competing agendas for "surviving and thriving" individually and changing the institution for a broader population.

THE SOCIOLOGY OF BUSINESS

Issues and Barriers

  • Knowing the rules of the game;

    -
    gauging which battles to fight

    - understanding the language and culture of business

    - knowing how to leverage existing networks for professional purposes
  • Women’s socialization regarding risk and failure;

  • Adequate social/family support systems;

  • Age and generation differences;

  • Diversity of values: women encounter value sets different from their own about what constitutes success, what is achievable.

Recommended Strategies

  • Seek out research on sociological aspects of business;

    -
    Be aware of and leverage changes in cultural and economic forces;

    - the New Economy emphasis on distributed/virtual business creates new opportunities for women;

    -
    "Rules of the Game" — soccer metaphors (watch the pattern, watch where you are in relation to other players, pass to be effective) are replacing the previously dominant football metaphors (command and control strategies, the quarterback as hero/leader). Women can capitalize on this cultural shift.

    -
    Encourage women to explore the full range of STEM career opportunities.

ACCESS TO CAPITAL

Issues and Barriers

  • Isolation (sheer lack of numbers);

  • Access to capital;

    - Unknown to money networks

    - Business experience (especially in developing new ideas to profitability)

    - Track record (in profit and loss positions)

    - Credibility.
  • Risk;

    - Venture capitalists, other investors perceive higher risk with women entrepreneurs

    - Women tend to be more risk-averse to failure.

Recommended Strategies

  • Find an entrepreneurship mentor;

  • Actively network with successful men and women;

  • Seek out women business owners from all sectors with capital to invest;

  • Put men on the business team (especially in the CFO position);

  • Network, network, network for and among potential investors in absence of old-boy network;

  • Track data to create an accurate risk-profile of women-directed ventures, especially in your own industry.

INDIVIDUAL SUCCESS AND SYSTEMIC CHANGE

Issues and Barriers

  • Double-standard for women’s behavior in the workplace;

    - Finding the line between assertive and "aggressive"

    - Conflicting advice from mentors and managers about adapting vs. being yourself/innovative

    - Conflicting advice from managers on what it takes to be successful.
  • Situations which require a choice between personal advancement and achieving institutional change.

Recommended Strategies

  • Assess/balance short-term vs. long-term career needs;

  • Self-assessment of comfort with being an agent of change.

THE ROLE OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

Participants in the workshop agreed that work to bring more women into New Economy enterprise and entrepreneurship should begin during college. They recommended the following initiatives to encourage and prepare women — and indeed all students — to enter an economy transformed by new technology.

  • Train all students to be STEM-literate;

  • Offer more interdisciplinary work and courses in STEM fields;

  • Give credit for business and research internships;

  • Develop career planning activities focused on new economy industries and entrepreneurship;

    - Help students understand how liberal arts majors translate into entrepreneurial skills

    - Provide information about what lies beyond the campus, especially the options for STEM majors in varied research settings and outside labs

    - Offer information and resources to help students acquire relevant external experiences

    - Encourage student participation in professional associations
  • Promote alumnae accomplishments in entrepreneurship and business ownership. Document the history and career development of alumnae in STEM;

  • Create forums to bring alumnae experience back to undergraduates and faculty.
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