Yale University Doubles Down On Female Entrepreneurs With Social Ventures

from Forbes

On a recent Tuesday evening, while most people were leaving the Market Street area of downtown San Francisco, more than 100 executives, investors, and entrepreneurs headed to Google for the Women at the Forefront of Social Change conference. Centered on women transforming the world of responsible investment and entrepreneurship, events like this are part of a growing movement to recognize the voices of women who are challenging conventional paradigms.

Since the beginning of 2016, women-led companies have received only 4.4% of all venture capital, according to PitchBook Data. Furthermore, while teams led by men receive an average of $12 million, women-led teams receive an average of $5 million. The numbers only shrink when considering ventures helmed by women of color. Cass Walker-Harvey, Managing Director of Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, is keenly aware of this imbalance and is working to help close that gap though building opportunities and networks at Yale.

“Changing underrepresentation in leadership involves looking at all levels of the ecosystem,” says Walker-Harvey. “By encouraging women and people of color to start companies or projects during their time as students, they will be introduced to the entrepreneurial process which will serve them in whatever leadership position they choose to pursue in their careers.”

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15 Responses to Yale University Doubles Down On Female Entrepreneurs With Social Ventures

  1. Nora Trapp November 2, 2018 at 3:40 pm #

    As an entrepreneurship major, as well as a woman, I very much enjoyed reading this article as well as a number of ideas it touched upon. One of the first things that struck me was this quote, “By encouraging women and people of color to start companies or projects during their time as students, they will be introduced to the entrepreneurial process which will serve them in whatever leadership position they choose to pursue in their careers.” Reading this just reaffirmed my belief that the best time to experiment and learn in order to make the largest impact on your future life, is while you are a student. The reason I’ve always believed this is because as students I believe we are more prone to interacting with and building relationships with mentors that have a lifetime more of experience than we have. This experience is what guides us to identify what type of person, entrepreneur or CEO we want to grow into. Another reason why I’ve always believed that the most important time to experiment is while you are student is because time is on our side. Therefore, we need to make the most of the time we’ve been given and not just jump into a career simply because it is the easy option. University is the time to figure out where our interests lie, what potential fields of work we see ourselves in, and possibly the most important: what impact we are going to make, whether on our own lives or even on the rest of the world. Yale’s initiative to connect female entrepreneurs helps launch the empowerment of women within a community to support women entrepreneurs and innovators. Yale’s WE@Yale program offers an essential step forward that hopefully a number of other institutions will implement themselves. After all, “When women lead organizations, we not only see more inclusive products being built, but we also see more inclusive cultures being created.”

  2. Douglas Tkac November 2, 2018 at 8:11 pm #

    Especially within today’s world, it’s hard to find something that doesn’t make individuals lose hope in humanity and/or society, and this article showed a clear diamond-in-the-rough in my opinion at least.

    First off, the climate in today’s society is still for the most part, still ran in a patriarchic way, where men, albeit less obvious, still hold advantages in the workplace over females regardless of the occupation. As the article analyzes the venture capital, even high-ranking, women-led companies and teams only receive about an average of $5 million, while teams led by men rake in about 12 million (a 140% difference). Even though it might be ignored by some people in today’s world unfortunately, the wage gap is still very alive.

    As for the steps that Yale University is taking, I could not be more happy. I think that Yale putting an emphasis on how to solve this problem is a very progressive move for society. The conferences (specifically in San Francisco, which is become the US’s most technologically advanced cities) will be a big help in terms of getting prominent, known figures to discuss how to fix this situation and how to achieve more equality for the women pioneers’ out there today. However, even though Yale can have all the conferences they want, change isn’t guaranteed. I personally that change in the U.S is essentially a domino effect, with something as simple as one idea or one person can fan the flame for any type of movement, whether that be good or bad. Karla Mora, the founder and managing partner for a private equity fund Atlante Captial, is a great example, as the article states that over 68% of people In her company pipeline are either minority or female owned.

    Even though a business’s first instinct might be to care about the business at hand first, I think that looking into the makeup of the employees, regardless of what role they may serve, is a vital part to how a business can be run and how the business can successfully display it’s true image. Karla Mora is a great advocate for this movement, now it is up to us to rally beside her and support her and many alike, and to not against her.

  3. Schron B November 2, 2018 at 10:24 pm #

    In the business world there is undoubtedly an imbalance regarding who is represented as well as who is introduced to entrepreneurship. Yale is making the effort to reach out to students in a effort that I think will teach as well as motivate them in the future. By showing these students the proper ways to network it allows those that may not have had those opportunities before to strive. Due to that alone I am in full support of Yale’s attempts to fix the issue. The fact that the quote, “Since the beginning of 2016, women-led companies have received only 4.4% of all venture capital”, that’s an alarming fact especially in today’s more progressive era.

    As an African American male its honestly a huge help that these panels and projects exist. Just from an inspiration standpoint, its a huge boost knowing that there are actually avenues to get to these sought after positions. Often times substantial business positions can seem unattainable but its good to know that the hard work of these students could pay off. The promotion of benefits such as paid parental leave should also help people with more diverse backgrounds be more interested in entrepreneurship opportunities.

    • Mackenzie Greenfield November 4, 2018 at 1:19 pm #

      I was glad to see people wanting to invest in companies run by women though, as the article states, it is the quality of the business plan that is the deciding factor but many of these quality plans are coming from women. It is also not surprising to me that many of the businesses run by women are committed to using business as a afforce for good. We need to encourage more businesses to do the same. Highlighting corporations that have very high social/environmental standards, public transparency, and legal accountability as “Certified B Corporations” can help do that. Corporations will strive to be a prat of the group just as the CEO of Seed System did.
      It is important to encourage more women to be in leadership positions. Diversity in leadership will bring different views, perspectives, ideas that can help businesses thrive and grow. Some are seeing this need for diversity and are trying to encourage it. California recently passed a law (https://www.cnbc.com/2018/10/01/california-law-will-require-women-on-corporate-boards.html) requiring public corporations in California to have at least one female director on their board by the end of 2019. Companies with more than six board members would need three female directors by the end of 2021. Those with fewer than six people would need two women. Fines will be imposed if companies do not comply. It will encourage companies to recruit more women into their company and move them into leadership positions. It is also encouraging that in the election coming up very soon, more women are running than ever before (https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/16/politics/house-women-update-september/index.html). A record number of 256 women are running for House and Senate positions. There are 16 running for governor positions. It is an inspiring year for women wishing to enter politics. It will be interesting to see the results of these elections.

  4. Warren Vetter November 5, 2018 at 12:20 am #

    Women in the job force need to be represented better and deserve to be paid equally. The fact that they only make 4.4% of all venture capital is quite disturbing. Teams lead by men receive an average of $12 million a year while women lead team earns about $5 million. It is great seeing people starting to take action and make sure women continue to work hard to create their own companies and to become leaders in the business world. Diversity in leadership will help this country run better economically because this will bring in other opinions. Diversity will greatly impact this country and having women get the power they deserve will also help this country. In the business world, there is such a disadvantage for women and other minorities. There needs to be an equal amount of presence in the business world. Seeing people hold conventions entered on women transforming the world of responsible investment and entrepreneurship, events like this are part of a growing movement to recognize the voices of women who are challenging conventional paradigms. This a huge step in the right direction for the country. It is also amazing that one of the top colleges in the world is taking action and helping this cause as well.

  5. Jordan H November 6, 2018 at 7:18 pm #

    Female entrepreneurs have been statistically left on a back burner when it comes to accumulating funding. Stereotypically women are not viewed the same in the workplace, but that is going to change if Cass Walker-Harvey has anything to do about it. She is attempting to create more opportunities at Yale University for women of color and just women in general. Nancy Pfund is another woman who is attempting to further entrepreneurial women in the workforce. As a founder and managing director of DBL Partners, she is in the perfect position to help advocate for change in the disparity of fund allocation. Practicing what she preaches, sixty four percent of DBL Partner’s portfolio is invested in companies led by women.

    What is even more surprising is that the sixty four percent is fifteen times higher than the industry average. Why is there such a reluctance to invest in companies led by women? In a world that has been dominated by men, companies led by women represent a change. In my opinion there should be a more even allocation of funds given to male and female entrepreneurs. A woman is just as capable of leading a successful business as any man, so it only makes sense that a woman be given an equal opportunity to acquire funding. If sixty four percent is fifteen times higher than the industry average, than simple math dictates that other firms only invest roughly four percent into companies led by women.

    What is not surprising is that women of color have even less of a chance, and on average receive even less funding. Our country has come so far in just the last twenty years, and it is just as important to continue to build upon the progress that has already been made. The generations entering the workforce are more open minded and progressive than previous generations, especially with influences like Cass Walker-Harvey and Nancy Pfund to lead the charge. Clean energy and agriculture are industries that could be areas for potential expansion, according to the author. Both fields are underrepresented and will continue to grow in the coming years, hopefully with female leadership.

  6. Eyal Kleiman November 8, 2018 at 6:06 pm #

    The article makes great points about increasing the need for women and minority led businesses and ventures. Encouraging students from all backgrounds to start companies or projects is such a key idea to introduce them to the idea of the entrepreneurial process. To learn about so many venture capital firms supporting female led businesses is inspiring. No idea should be brushed aside based on gender, so to see females helping other females in this aspect is a step in the right direction. Building that supportive community for entrepreneurs is so important to bringing structure to their ideas and innovations. I hope to see many more female and minority led programs in the future as I believe the sharing of ideas and innovations is what will continue to let the human race thrive and grow prosperously. The B Corps certification is one way that businesses are moving towards this. The inclusion and sustainability afforded will only help us fix the economy.

  7. Vincent A November 8, 2018 at 7:35 pm #

    This article covers one of the hottest topics of the last ten years; the movement to recognize the voices of women who are challenging conventional paradigms. The fact that 100 investors, executives, and entrepreneurs attended the Google conference says a lot. It says that individuals of high status are taking his seriously, as they should be. I think that what Cass Walker-Harvey said, about this growing movement, should be emphasized greatly. Walker-Harvey says,” By encouraging women and people of color to start companies or projects during their time as students, they will be introduced to the entrepreneurial process which will serve them in whatever leadership position they choose to pursue in their careers.” Women are obviously capable of holding high end positions in a business word, and this sheds light on that for those who have, somehow, not realized that.
    Bringing in more women will only strengthen our workforce, though, it is crazy to think that society still needs to be reminded of that. There are many women, who hold high positions, that show how well they work and how intelligent they are. Hopefully all fields will be considered equal, instead of “male-dominated”.

  8. Michael Martini November 9, 2018 at 10:57 am #

    This article stood out to me because the first thing about women and people of color becoming more involved in our society is improvement. With more opinions from other people who may think differently than the main group who are currently involved, we are able to gain new ideas and expand upon our knowledge. For instance, a man and a woman typically tend to have completely different ideas of the same topic. With opinions colliding, we could come to agreement on subjects and thus further enhance the solution in the end so that it is equal for all. Being one-sided is only a way to cause disruption among future goals, and if we are all involved and agree on things now, there won’t be issues sooner or later. Everyone should have the will to pursue what they dream and be able to express their opinions, not just to do it, but so that people listen and people take into consideration their ideas.

  9. Dimitri Drosos November 9, 2018 at 12:30 pm #

    Yale seems to be at the forefront of changing the gender disparity that occurs in the business world. I found it amazing that companies led by women do not receive that same amount of capital as those led by men. Considering that this world is becoming more progressive, these sorts of problems should not be happening, especially at this level. However, the WE@Yale group made an impact in helping women become a strong force in the business world. The best part is that it can inspire other organizations to create similar structures that will help to reduce inequalities in business.
    The part about Benefit Corporations, or B-Corps, is that they are the best product to help both businesses and the environment. It was interesting to read about a long-standing company like King Arthur Flour. They have obtained a B-Corp title, a staff where two-thirds are female, and a strong female customer base. The progressive nature that this company has assumed is due in part because of their commitment to their employees and the environment. They rolled with the tide and it paid off.
    Yale has made a strong attempt to empower female entrepreneurs. However, there are some that have accomplished great things before this conference was held. One example comes from a recent article by Entrepreneur written about a company that sells popcorn. In an effort to raise money for research after finding out her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, Lauren Mariel started her company Live Love Pop back in 2013. Her product can be found in over 10,000 stores in the United States and Canada, and a portion of each sale is donated to various causes. Mariel took a chance, and Yale is inspiring potential entrepreneurs to do the same.

  10. Lauren F November 9, 2018 at 1:57 pm #

    Yale has once again shown its innovation and intelligence by creating a conference for the purpose of getting female and minority entrepreneurs the right business connections. It’s not surprising that these types of people tend to be overlooked when searching for capital investments. Though it’s not surprising that women led companies only receive 4.4% of venture capital. The majority of companies are led by men, so it makes sense that they would receive most of the funding. However, as years go by more and more women are joining the business workforce. Conferences like these are extremely important in helping women and minorities get the exposure that they need. This is a lot like when colleges will host career fairs. You may have connections but you may not have the right connections. These events allow you to meet with new people who will help you in your career. I’m so glad to see that so many investors went to this Women’s Conference seeking new opportunities. It really shows that even though women may not be at the forefront of business, they still have a lot of value and potential.

    It was also interesting to see them talk about the importance of B corporations. Ethical standards seem to be becoming more important in the way that a business is run. History has shown that when a company makes a mistake their profits go down and they start to get a bad reputation. People really do focus on what kind of company you are before they choose to buy from you. B corporations will soon become the new standard for businesses across the country. Now more than ever that is extremely important. Too many companies put profits before standards. They don’t care how bad they’re harming the environment as long as they can make money. That type of thinking will destroy our planet. I’m extremely impressed with Yale’s thinking, not only are they focusing on investing in women but also on companies that care about the environment. As a young woman entering the business field this gives me hope for my future. While I won’t be an entrepreneur, it’s good to know that there are people out there who want to help me succeed. The future is women and the future is green.

  11. John L. November 9, 2018 at 3:16 pm #

    Women have definitely been underrepresented in the entrepreneurial sphere. Traditionally women were not seen as independent leaders in the economy but today they are. Women can have just as many brilliant ideas as men do. Investors such as Nancy Pfund and Karla Mora see that potential inside of women and wish to bring that to fruition. Women are comprised of our mothers, wives, sisters, and friends. They bring a lot of valuable ideas, inspiration, and motivation to everyone around them. It is a brilliant idea for Yale and investors such as Pfund and Mora to invest in women so they can have the opportunity to bring their ideas to fruition.

    Women on average are also more in touch with their emotions. This helps them not always see the world in black and white but rather with care and compassion. This care and compassion is what drives social change through the economy. The rise of B corporations and an emphasis on corporate social responsibility are making female entrepreneurs more attractive for investors as many of the socially responsible companies have a significant amount of female employees driving these social changes. Ever since women started to enter into the economy, the United States’ economy has benefited tremendously and will continue to benefit in the future.

  12. Julia Ausborn November 9, 2018 at 8:11 pm #

    It’s still shocking to me that a gender wage gap between men and women exist. Reading that teams led by men receive an average of $12 million, while women-led teams receive an average of $5 million of all venture capitals is unacceptable. Though, it makes me happy to read, that Yale recognizes the problem and works with female students to build leadership skills and opportunities for them. Conferences, as the one at Google’s headquarters, “Women at the Forefront of Social Change” encourage female entrepreneurs and allows them to build a strong network.

    In my opinion, success comes from connections. I’ve seen and experienced it myself. It’s important to meet new people, build relationships and keep them. Not just in the workplace, but also in your personal life. People care about references and value them. Therefore, Yale’s initiative of providing networks for women and involving them in real projects will be a tremendous help for their future.

    In addition, Yale created the organization, WE@Yale, to address the issue of inequality in the workplace. Their goal is to connect, empower and create a community to support women entrepreneurs. I believe that this will be the start of a better future for female entrepreneurs, and I’m excited to see what their future projects will become.

  13. Brandon Ruiz November 16, 2018 at 5:34 pm #

    In the business world a shocking amount of upper management and leadership positions within companies are held by men. This first originated from the traditional thinking of the 20th century that believed that men should be working providers for their family and that women should stay at home. Even though this stigma has changed over time, men still have the advantage when it comes to success in business according to statistics. The only way to stop this trend and progress towards a world where the playing field in business is equal for both men and women is for the women that are in leadership positions within business to take a more prominent role in advocating for this.

    Recently a conference was held at Google called the Women at the Forefront of Social Change conference that over 100 executives, investors, and entrepreneurs attended. The conference was all about women transforming the world of responsible investment and entrepreneurship. Functions like these need to occur more often in order to bring attention to this glaring issue within business. Statistics say that in 2016 women-led companies received only 4.4% of all venture capital. Furthermore, another statistic says that men led teams receive 12 million dollars on average and that women led teams receive only 5 million dollars on average. This means that within business, people are not investing in or trusting in companies that are led by women. In order to stop this trend women within business have stepped up and taken an active role in advocating for women within business.

    Karla Mora, founder and managing partner at the VC firm Alante Capital, has started to set an example for how investors can promote diversity within business in the investing decisions she makes. She thinks that it is notable when a company she is looking to possibly invest in has a B certification attached to it. The B certification indicates that a company is one of the “businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance”. If investors start to look for the B corps certification more often then I believe more companies will be women led which will equate to equality in business for both men and women. The significance of keeping something like the B certification in mind when in investing is displayed by Mora’s pipeline of businesses which highly value diversity. An astounding 68% of the companies in her pipeline are female or minority owned. If more people follow Mora’s lead then it will lead to women being put into leadership positions in business more often and slowly improve the equality between men and women in business.

  14. Robert Musantry November 16, 2018 at 9:28 pm #

    Unfortunately, like with most industries, the venture capital industry is still quite male dominated. Since the start of 2016, only 4.4% of venture capital has gone to women lead companies. Personally, this was super surprising. I have heard of many women lead companies garnering success over the past couple of years, but it turns out that they were noteworthy because of how rare they are and not because they represent some sort of dramatic shift in the culture. The good news is that people are working on this issue right now.
    People like Nancy Pfund, whose company DBL Partners has a portfolio that consists of mainly female led companies. DBL’s portfolio is 64% women lead businesses, and Pfund says she achieved this while still focusing on the strengths of the businesses she was investing in, not just the gender of those who were running the company. DBL is also focusing on areas of innovation, allowing their investments to become quite successful while helping the world.
    Another company doing similar work to help change both the venture capital industry and the world as a whole is Alante Capital led by founder Karla Mora. They focus on the pollution industry, a notoriously messy area. Change can be made however, and Mora and her company help innovative ideas see the light of day while having 68% of their companies they invest in being led by women or minorities. Mora spoke at Google’s Women at the Forefront of Social Change conference about B Corporations, or companies that meet high standards for social and environmental change and legal accountability among other requirements. Corporations who have this certification help investors, as they can see that the company has a solid foundation and is focused on changing the world for good. As the article goes onto explain, these B Corporations also have formed a community of sorts, where their leaders can meet up with each other at events like Google’s and advance ideas and move towards a brighter future. These corporations must be recertified every two years, so that holding a B Corp Certificate has real meaning behind it and they are actually held to the standards as they are set up.

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