University pushes for more women in business

In response to low numbers of women entrepreneurs, the school hosted a networking event.

Christopher Aadland

As the University of Minnesota focuses on boosting entrepreneurship, it’s putting a special emphasis on recruiting women.

The Carlson School of Management’s Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship hosted an event on Friday led by three local women entrepreneurs. The event, which is one of many, reflects a growing effort on the school’s part to encourage women to consider entrepreneurial endeavors.

The low ratio of women to men in the field has prompted the University’s recent initiatives. Last fall, there were 15 entrepreneurial management undergraduate female students at the school, compared to 50 male students.

Undergraduate female students usually aren’t interested in entrepreneurial careers because their female peers don’t typically enter them, said John Stavig, program director for the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship.

“And that’s why they need to see some role models,” he said. “We want to show them not only is it all right [to be an entrepreneur], but it’s a good thing.”

Leaders at the center say giving women more opportunities to network with top businesswomen in the area will help boost the number of female students.

Friday’s event, called Women in Entrepreneurship, was part of the Twin Cities Startup week. Speakers discussed their experiences in the business world and ways for female students to turn the women-focused programs and events at the University into success after graduation.

Entrepreneurial management and finance sophomore Morgan Weber said the speakers resonated with her because she was able to hear about the experiences of powerful women firsthand.

“I’ve seen many great men speakers,” she said at the event. “But the cool thing about this is … they really drew on those comparisons between how a woman would handle a [business] situation and [how] a man would usually handle a situation.”

The speakers were Students Today Leaders Forever co-founder Irene Fernando, PreciouStatus CEO and co-founder Julie Gilbert Newrai and Vice President for Agency and Sales at State Farm Insurance Kristyn Cook-Turner.

The women-centered discussion was just one of the events and programs that the center and the Carlson School are using to tighten the gap, Stavig said.

This year, the center and the Minnesota Cup, a statewide entrepreneurship competition, partnered to launch two new initiatives to increase the presence of women in the field. About one-third of this year’s entrants were women-led teams, according to the center’s website.

Along with encouraging participation in the competition, Stavig said the University aims to hire accomplished female faculty, has courses designed to encourage women leadership and hosts networking events to connect students with accomplished businesswomen.

“Our mission is to inspire and educate the next generation of entrepreneurs, and if only 30 percent of the existing pool are women, there’s a lot more upside in encouraging women to step forward,” he said.