Only 17% of start-ups have a female founder, at UNSW this number is 20%, still not great.
Mary Liu from UNSW Innovations has a few ideas why these numbers are so low, “women tend to come up with service-based solutions, while men go for product-based ones which typically require some skill in science and technology. However, science and technology is always perceived as a male-dominated industry, so girls are less likely to enter to begin with.”
Mary also sees the funding cycle as problematic, “It’s easy for young girls to feel intimidated, going to male-dominated networking events. On top of that, securing investment can be a challenge, because female investors are rare, and men prefer to work with men.”
To help address these issues, Mary has joined forces with Capital W and Women in Engineering to organise the New Wave, UNSW’s Female Entrepreneurship Initiative. The New Wave seeks to address the gender gap on campus and beyond through a three-pronged approach.
First, the speaker series, which began in March 2017 and ran weekly for 13 weeks at the MCIC, aimed at engaging and inspiring female students to think about entrepreneurship. Leaders from companies such as YouTube, Google, Microsoft and the McDonalds were invited to speak about different aspects of leadership
Second, the pre-accelerator program, happening in July, will help participants launch their own start-ups. Here, female entrepreneurs will be equipped with relevant skills to build a business from scratch. They’ll also be paired up with an industry mentor.
Thirdly, a Facebook group was created to foster a well-knit community of female entrepreneurs. The group serves as a platform to connect students and mentors, and to share helpful resources. Since launching in May last year, over 400 members have joined.
Jessie Zhang, a UNSW student in her penultimate year, came across the New Wave through Capital W’s Facebook page. So far, she’s gained a lot of practical advice from the speaker series. For instance, from YouTube’s Felicity McVay talk, she was challenged to come up with a 10-word pitch, following the prodding question, ‘What will people tell their friends about you in 10 words?’
Jessie, who runs a piano studio and started a local meditation group, says, “The people I’ve met, their advice and life stories have opened my eyes and inspired me greatly. The speakers were friendly, generous and welcomed follow-ups on social media, so this program really opens connections for women.”
“This is my first year in entrepreneurship, but I couldn't be happier that I started through this program,” she concludes.