SUPPORT | July 5, 2016

Strengthen Your Startup Community with Startup Huddle for Women

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A rising startup community needs diverse initiatives to foster a healthy entrepreneurial culture. From aspiring and serial entrepreneurs to investors and community partners, all of them have different and unique needs.

The Global Entrepreneurship Network is rolling out a new initiative to help ecosystem builders strengthen target cities by facilitating connection, engagement and education. We are rolling out the Startup Huddle program in cities in Malawi and Tanzania to increase the number of female entrepreneurs.

Click to Tweet: New initiative to strengthen #startupcommunity across globe. http://go.suego.co/29w0LfF #StartupHuddle @UnleashingIdeas

Barriers for Women

While the roles of women in entrepreneurship have changed and grown over time, there is still significant ground to cover to get to where the global entrepreneurial ecosystem needs to be. Cultural forces can affect women in different ways, and social "norms" can often hinder the progress of including women in business creation, investing, the technology sector and other areas typically dominated by men. 

These are “norms” that have been shaped and rooted over generations. While many of these cultural forces are beginning to adapt give women an equal voice, it is still far from perfect.

In some communities, the lack of well-known women entrepreneurs or role models, as well as the lack of encouragement from local governments or the community, may lower the willingness of women to explore entrepreneurship, and to a greater extent, undermine similar successes experienced by their male counterparts.

Even as a culture begins to change to allow women equal access and opportunity in entrepreneurship, it can take years for that attitude to become accepted by all. 

On the bright side, regions -- such as specific communities in Africa -- are beginning to receive more attention, and efforts to develop their entrepreneurial ecosystems will be a huge opportunity to close the gender gap in entrepreneurial success.

Startup Huddle for Women

Africa is experiencing a wave of new programs and initiatives to help people explore and pursue entrepreneurship. The Tony Elumelu Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) is one example of an ambitious regional program aimed at enabling 100,000 new startups across Africa in the years to come.

The Global Entrepreneurship Network aims to provide a complimentary initiative to Elumelu’s efforts, one that helps increase the number of women who pursue entrepreneurship. It is now a statistical fact that diversity in the startup community, including gender diversity, will help it grow and thrive.

Startup Huddle is focused on more than just two entrepreneurs gathering and networking, it begins to build the cultural foundation for the three areas that are critical in a startup community: connection, engagement and education. Successful entrepreneurs in prominent communities like Silicon Valley in the U.S., and even more now across the globe, can attribute their success in part to these three key areas.

Connections allow entrepreneurs the ability to engage specific people at the pivotal moments in their startup journey. And because the program of Huddle is to share experience and crowdsource solutions, continuous education in a brief and relevant format will become a great equalizer in the years to come.

As more women entrepreneurs begin to connect, engage and educate each other, the networking effect will begin to permeate across the surrounding communities. All it takes is for someone to see someone just like them in a situation to begin thinking outside pre-determined and limiting boxes, “Well if she can do it, I can do it too.”

As we roll out Startup Huddle for Women, we would love to hear your thoughts. Let’s connect on Twitter via @unleashingideas and #StartupHuddle.

STEVEN A. RODRIGUEZ serves as Startup Community Manager at the Global Entrepreneurship Network, a 501(c)3 non-profit. Rodriguez oversees four… About the author