Women Entrepreneurs

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Women make up about half of the U.S. workforce, but women entrepreneurs own a majority stake in only 30 percent of all businesses in the United States. In general, men are more likely to start a business than women, and the reasons behind that will be addressed at Phoenix Start up Week at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in Downtown Phoenix. Audrey Iffert-Saleem, the executive director of entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives at ASU’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, will discuss why men are more likely to be involved in a startup and what can be done to get more women involved.

Ted Simons: Women make up about half of the U.S. Workforce, but women entrepreneurs own a majority stake in only 30% of American businesses. Men are more likely to start a business than women, and the reasons behind that will be addressed at Phoenix Start-up Week at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Joining us now is Audrey Iffert-Saleem, executive director of entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives at ASU's Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. If I say the words one more time, I'm going to slap myself. Thanks so much for joining us. Let's start with some basics. Phoenix startup week.

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: It's a week filled with activities where all kinds of organizations across the valley are planning events to bring people together to help people forge connections and advance and start businesses.

Ted Simons: And you have a panel discussion set for Monday I believe? A little after noon?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: Monday we had a panel discussion.

Ted Simons: You had one already.

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: We did, where we explored entrepreneurship from the perspective of women and talked about the various barriers as well as opportunities to advance women's business ownership.

Ted Simons: Those were the general goals of the panel discussion. What did you hear? What was learned and why does this situation exist?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: Well, I think, first of all, it's important to talk about why the situation matters. So you mentioned that women represent just 30% of business owners but if you look at those business owners, women represent just 3% of startups that have high growth potential, technology startups. Very small percentage of startups owned by women are poised for scale. This is a problem because if we don't address this, we're really missing out on a wealth of potential to create jobs for the U.S.

Ted Simons: So why does this situation exist? What's going on out there?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: I think there are many factors at play here and there's a lot of research around this area, too. So factors that include both external factors so looking at the culture of entrepreneurship as well as factors that may be internal to women, building women's confidence. So if we look at the entire ecosystem of factors at play, we see lots of opportunities to address this problem.

Ted Simons: Let's get to some challenges here, specifically. One woman to every nine men gets equity financing. Reasons? Is overt sexual harassment, is that common?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: I think when it comes to negotiation and we're talking about negotiation when you're going after capital, there all kinds of things that could cause women to be less successful in negotiation but if you look at the research that's out there, a lot of it comes down to socialization. So we're socializing women that they should be acting, for example, quite feminine and in negotiation, some of the things you need to have a successful negotiation might be more masculine skills. These sorts of situations can be really difficult for women to navigate, there's a great book called Women Don't Ask. It's one that I recommend any woman read who's thinking about going into negotiation.

Ted Simons: It sounds like women are a little more conservative in their pitches, not so much bravado, they hold back and sometimes, the venture capitalists want to hear crazy ideas.

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: I think this goes back to socialization again. So risk taking propensity, for example. It could be the case that women are being socialized to take less risk than men. This is why I think it's really critical that we have entrepreneurship programs in the university system as well as reaching out to young women to help women understand that entrepreneurship is something that could be a tool for you to succeed and there's all kinds of resources to help women be successful.

Ted Simons: When we talk about unintended bias, people tend to invest with their own and a lot of men out there just for whatever reason unintended maybe even subconsciously they're thinking I'm going to go with him as opposed to her. Men don't get women-focused products, those kinds of ideas. That's happening out there, isn't it?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: I think that if we're not having more women focus on creating businesses, we're losing out on the opportunity to have women create businesses that come with a feminine perspective as well as a women's perspective, they're not necessarily the same, and something that we have to keep in mind is that there is no women's one way, every woman is different and so one strategy that works for one woman in a negotiation would not necessarily work for another woman in another negotiation so we have to keep in mind there isn't such a thing as women's and men's. Everyone is different and so we need to take into account women's individuality.

Ted Simons: So alternatives to venture capital, what's out there for women, the whole venture capital process, you've got bank loans, you've got sba, what's out there?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: There's all kinds of opportunities out there for women. One that is becoming increasingly popular is crowd funding. I teach a couple of crowd funding classes and those classes are an opportunity for folks to get a sense of how do I create a campaign on a platform like kick starter and how can I be successful with such a campaign? Of course, with kick starter, it's an opportunity f or indigogo or you to use your networks and to really grow your business or your product or service idea using support from the community.

Ted Simons: For those who aren't familiar, what are they?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: Kick starter and indigogo are platforms where you can raise money online to advance whatever your business or product is by creating a marketing campaign and putting your product out there and essentially conducting a presale for whatever it is you're trying to do. So through this presale platform, you can get folks to pledge money and in return if your project is successful, and successfully funded, get access to that product.

Ted Simons: For someone like me, I see that and I'm going that is -- that's far more of a risk for me than just going up and try to get angel investors. For people what are working on being risk averse, that's out there on a limb.

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: It takes a good deal of investment of time. But it doesn't necessarily take an investment of money to create a kick starter campaign.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: So you have to be willing to put in the hard work and any woman or man can put the hard work in.

Ted Simons: For critics that say the types of businesses women launch, that's a factor. Is that valid?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: I think that there are relatively few women pursuing stem and as a result, there are relatively few women pursuing startups in high growth areas that include science, technology, engineering and math. And so if you have just 20% of engineering degrees across the United States going to women, of course it's going to be harder for women to create technology or engineering based startups.

Ted Simons: As far as the panel discussion on many, were there any surprises out there?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: There are a few patterns that arose. One of them is that we really need more women mentors. For a lot of women, what they really need is somebody to help them out by taking them under their wing and showing them the ropes. They could be women or men and, in fact, I think it's important for women to have women and men mentors if they are creating their own startups. Both are critical but for many women, they really need that sort of ability to work very closely with somebody on advancing their ideas.

Ted Simons: Are you seeing more mentorship out there?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: I wish therapy seeing more women come forward and saying I want to mentor women students and, in fact, I challenge everyone who's watching this to think through whether or not they might be a good fit for mentoring student teams at the university.

Ted Simons: Still kind of waiting to see a little more in that area?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: I would love to see more women mentors, absolutely.

Ted Simons: And as far as this whole situation, women entrepreneurs, investment, the challenges therein, this whole scenario, how has it changed over time? Not just necessarily getting worse to better or better to worse but just in general the whole landscape.

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: We're seeing more and more women entrepreneurs come forward and put their ideas out there and try to move things forward. There are many reasons why women, of course, aren't as I've talked about before with the research but I think we're going to continue to see more women coming forward, especially with programs like the program that J.P. Morgan Chase has helped ASU create.

Ted Simons: We have this panel discussion next year. Will the focus change at all?

Audrey Iffert-Saleem: I'm hopeful that next year, we're talking about how to scale businesses that women have created, again with programs like our partnership with the think global institute, this is a program where we're really focused on accelerating the success of women-owned businesses that are in high-growth sectors and are poised for scale. We need to create a pipeline for that program. I'm hopeful that next year, we're talking about now we have so many women creating startups, how do we turn those startups into scalable businesses that are really advancing our economy locally and nationally?

Ted Simons: The problem of abundance, let's hope so. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it. Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon," the new Morrison-Cronkite poll launches. We'll take a look at the questions and the survey results. And we'll look at art-detour a Phoenix tradition and one of the largest art-walks in the country. That's at 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Audrey Iffert-Saleem:Executive Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Initiatives, Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Arizona State University;

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