There are multiple reasons for the lack of women entrepreneurs – virtually all of them detailed in The New York Times article Why Women Don’t See Themselves as Entrepreneurs by Clair Caine Miller. One of the key issues is lack of mentorship for women.
In technology, fewer than 10 percent of start-ups are owned by women, according to another new paper, by researchers at Harvard.
The reason, according to the research: People with experience mentor and give money to people like themselves, while those starting out do what they see people like themselves doing.
This problems is also an issue for women in management roles that could give them the experience needed to start a company:
Just 19 percent of top executives are women, according to a LeanIn.org and McKinsey report, and a main reason they don’t rise is because they are less likely to have mentors in senior leadership.
Women need to be far more aggressive than men in actually seeking out mentors:
Sheila Lirio Marcelo, the founder of Care.com, a service for helping families find caregivers, was surprised to see that insularity after growing up in the Philippines, where both her parents started businesses. She said one of the most important things she did was seek out male role models and mentors, not just women.
The article concludes by putting much of the burden on women entrepreneurs, rather than on the institutions that run entrepreneurship programs or incubators.
Networking groups for women, like Astia, or women-led investment firms, like Broadway Angels, can help. So can female entrepreneurs who speak publicly about their careers and mentor women, and would-be entrepreneurs who introduce themselves on social media or at conferences, Ms. Marcelo said.
While these recommendations for women may be effective, what’s needed is a concerted effort by the organizations dominated by men: angel groups, venture capital firms, entrepreneurship clubs, et al to recognize that lack of opportunity for women entrepreneurs is not just a problem for women, it’s a serious problem for the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem, as it is unable to access the talents and creativity of fully half the population. So if only for purely selfish reasons these male dominated institutions should start make an effort to include more women, whether as interns, employees, mentees, conference speakers – anywhere that men are entering the world of entrepreneurship.
Perhaps a sign that tide is turning will be when articles like these are written by men, not women. You can’t change a problem if you are not aware of it. But awareness is necessary, but not sufficient for change.