Why Young Female Entrepreneurs Need Mentors

BY SEJAL HATHI in HuffingtonPost||

I remember when I decided to launch my first company with my co-founder, Tara Roberts. Both of us had nurtured an exquisitely intricate vision for girltank — an online portal for girl entrepreneurs. We envisaged our website as the consummate space for sourcing, supporting and connecting female entrepreneurs, and imagined and incorporated all the bells and whistles possible for a virtual community. We just needed to build it.

The problem was, of course, neither of us knew how. That’s why it ultimately took us eight months, three different designers, thousands of dollars and a bottomless reserve of grit and resilience to finally forge even a rough draft of our vision. So often I felt like giving up and giving in. I remember questioning how we could possibly presume to help other entrepreneurs amplify their dreams if we could not even build our own. Yet luckily, Tara and I found the right mentors and support networks that held our hand to the end. And now, we are trying to offer the same for aspiring young women innovators everywhere.

We believe that all girls are a powerful movement: a brilliant and unstoppable force that can solve even the world’s most intractable challenges, if only they are granted the tools and opportunity. That’s why for five years, we have worked to empower this movement to equip girls globally with the training, mentorship and support networks to create sustainable social change. And the tenacity and enterprise of these budding changemakers never cease to inspire me. Yet too often, from Brooklyn to Accra, these same young women struggle to translate their intent to action. They advance promising ideas, but critically lack the technical training and support to build out their own visions.

As a young woman social entrepreneur, this worries me. It worries me because I see thousands of girls fearing to engage creatively with technology, and technology is the language of social innovation. It worries me because I have heard my suitemate frequently report being the only girl in her advanced math classes, and this isolation overwhelms. It worries me because I know the future of our world lies in science, technology, engineering and math; but this world will look haplessly bleak, if girls are not vigorously supported to master the tools of its design.

The reasons for this situation are crisply clear: Today’s innovators in the realms of technology, business, science, enterprise — in the public as well as the private sector — are overwhelmingly men. We live within a global culture that has institutionalized and apotheosized the male innovator, while rarely recognizing the female. Though girls are just as brilliant, capable, visionary as boys, when faced with few role models, even those girls who dream of designing the future, like my suitemate, can feel isolated and unsure.

This is why I affirm so passionately how vital it is to support, encourage and celebrate girls interested in technology. It is vital that we rebrand S.T.E.M. as a woman’s field, too, and demonstrate that every girl holds the power to be the next Marissa Mayer, Sheryl Sandberg or even Jane Goodall — especially because I was once that girl, who was intrigued by the worlds of science and entrepreneurship, but hopelessly uninitiated. Today, I am that young woman who tried anyway — who experimented and fell hopelessly in love with this field, with the guidance of mentors who believed in my potential.

Sejal is the ambassador for L’Oréal USA’s new initiative — For Girls in Science — which aims to inspire and empower more girls to pursue careers in S.T.E.M. The platform gathers all the S.T.E.M. resources, support, role models for girls in one central location and offers a “Why S.T.E.M. is Cool” contest to encourage girls interested in these fields to share their own experiences.

Culled from Huffington Post. For original post go here

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