Kelley and Jessica talk about the #40Forward Movement
by Kelley Boothe and Jessica Hill
As you have probably heard by now, Google for Entrepreneurs is providing program assistance to 40 startup-focused organizations (like the Nashville Entrepreneur Center), challenging them to increase the representation of women in their respective tech communities. From simply changing the times of events to accommodate busy moms to teaching young girls to see themselves as entrepreneurs, 40 of our partner communities will soon launch new programs and outreach initiatives to encourage women founders. This collective effort is being called #40Forward.
I decided to sit down with Kelley Boothe, CEO and Cofounder of SouthernAlpha, to talk about some of the issues that face female entrepreneurs and how we think we should address them here in Nashville.
We started by asking what is being done to support female entrepreneurship and in particular promote the ways in which we can encourage and facilitate it?
JH: To me, one of the biggest barriers I have seen for women is confidence and mindset. There are many women out there who have amazing ideas but don’t take it seriously. They brush it off and think, 'I couldn't do that'. I think you can have all the skills in the world, but if you don't have the right mindset to succeed, then chances are you're probably not going to. I know that the EC is really trying to change that. They see the value of diversity and want to make sure everyone feels welcome and valued.
KB: I feel that we see lots of women who attend different events at the EC and share their stories. What I would like to see is a way to get more nationally known women to contribute to the conversation. I think what we saw here is that we need to keep the conversation going locally, but also reach out to female entrepreneurs who we would like to hear more from. For example, Ingrid Vanderveldt, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Dell, was at the EC Grand Opening. Perhaps there is a way to get her to participate in a Google Chat for female entrepreneurs. We agree that she is someone we would really like to hear more from!
Kelley and I also talked about larger obstacles for female entrepreneurs to overcome.
JH: In my experience, a lot of men approach most business challenges as either black or white. A female perspective often brings to light the 'shades of grey' that might just allow a compromise to happen or a new solution to be found. I think we need to remember that we all need to share our thoughts and experiences.
KB: I think we have to be careful not to get caught in a negative mindset of “Well, because I am a woman...” Everyone has obstacles that they have to overcome. It’s important that we cultivate an environment where everyone, regardless of age, gender or race, feels welcome.
Do we have enough female entrepreneur role models?
KB: We do have more female role models in the public eye today. Women like Sheryl Sandberg, who is an activist for female entrepreneurship, and Marissa Mayer who is a woman who really lets the work speak for her. But I also feel that even I myself should get out there more and tell my story. Not just as a woman, but as an entreprneur.
JH: Yeah, people tend to forget that Kelley is the CEO and Co-Founder of SouthernAlpha. And she is young and talented with a lot of great insight to offer. I think this town is full of women and people in general who we need to reach out to more often and try to pull them into more conversations.
I think we need to keep utilizing all human resources, the entire talent pool - and as a result, boosting innovation which is a prerequisite for economic growth and sustainable development. I think some women feel more comfortable with female mentors, and hearing other women’s stories can offer support. But I think places like the EC are trying to create a more natural integration. A big part of that is just being aware of our outreach and offering additional support to women who may feel nervous or reluctant to take that first step into entrepreneurship.
What else should we be talking about? How do you think we can contribute to the #40Forward Movement? Leave your comments and suggestions so we can all encourage female entrepreneurs.