Making The Gender Divide A Key Issue For Shea Center

Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, Inc., told a crowd at Robsham Theater on Thursday that to succeed in business you need to adapt and move fast. As he explained, “whatever path you start on is going to change.” Schiller spoke at the inaugural event for the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship, along with Bijan Sabet and Niraj Shah—huge names in the business.

The field of entrepreneurship is heavily male-dominated—women-owned firms represent about 16 percent of all American firms. This problem trickles down to events on campus. The Shea Center kick-off featured three men, and the event audience, too, was disproportionately male. Male attendance is not a problem in and of itself, but it becomes a problem if the space of entrepreneurship becomes seen as primarily a space for men.

To combat this problem, the Shea Center is wise in incorporating the work of the Boston College Women Innovators Network, founded independently last semester, with its student efforts. Hopefully this means female speakers in the field of entrepreneurship will continue to be featured in the program’s offerings. The Center’s most recent forum featured six male innovators—Bill Hambrecht, Bob Davis, Jeff Fagnan, Tom Coburn, Jim Lucchese, and Greg Strakosch—and two women—Maia Heymann and Katie Martell. The event’s organizers did well to include these two prominent women, and among the Center’s upcoming speakers is exemplary social entrepreneur Maurya Couvares—all fantastic examples of female leadership in business. In addition to augmenting the culture of entrepreneurship at BC, the Shea Center is in a great position to bridge the gender gap in the startup world—but this will require a concerted effort.

A large part of getting women into industries that they are not an equal part of is representation. It helps women in the Carroll School of Management consider the idea of going into entrepreneurship if they can see female entrepreneurs making a difference and speaking out about the changes they have made. A shift in the gender disparity in industry requires a strong push for diversity from academic centers on business like Shea.

Schiller is an extraordinary figure in the corporate world, and a worthwhile example for students to learn from. He can serve as a role model for all students, both men and women. Yet, the overall gender inequality in the speakers hosted by the Shea Center demonstrates a larger problem. It is true that, because there are fewer female leaders in the world of entrepreneurship, it is harder to attract a prominent speaker to come to campus. Yet, solving this problem begins now—when current female students can see leaders like them speak out in a male-dominated world.

Like Schiller said, adapting is a necessary part of business—move fast, or risk getting lost. The field of entrepreneurship is shifting rapidly. Part of this change needs to be a more equal balance between the genders. This change can begin with more representation in speakers in entrepreneurship, to lead more undergraduate women to chase the opportunities out there for them in founding businesses.

Featured Image by Daniella Fasciano / Heights Editor

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