Female entrepreneurs discuss startup culture

Yunkyo Kim

The Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club and Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship, or WISE, hosted two speakers in a panel on Nov. 27 in Snell Library to discuss the experience of female entrepreneurs and venture creation.

After noticing the lack of female representation at the Husky Startup Challenge, organizers were compelled to start an initiative to include more females in business. Keith Corso, a second-year majoring in finance who helped organize the event, said that only one out of 112 applicants were female.

“I think that’s a pretty poor representation, and there’s no reason why that should be the case. There are [as] many bright women as there are bright men out there, ” Corso said.

At the panel, MIT professor Kirk Arnold and partner at Pillar Venture Capital Sarah Hodges answered student questions about gender bias, success and female empowerment in the startup sector.

Corso collaborated with WISE founders and fellow executive members of the Entrepreneurs Club —second-year business administration major Mia Nguyen and first-year business administration and psychology double-major Eliana Berger.

When asked about gender discrimination in the business industry, Arnold acknowledged the relative lack of female representation, citing her previous workplaces and colleagues as examples.

“It’s the people who don’t understand their biases. Deeply set biases that well-intended people don’t even realize that it’s impacting their decision,” Arnold said.

Hodges shared her experience with gender bias in her first few years as a partner of her company, a venture capital firm focusing on artificial intelligence, and said that she learned to educate male colleagues and potential business partners on female gender discrimination in the workplace.

“Almost every man who came to take a meeting with [my co-partner] thought I was his assistant, and asked me to get them coffee or a beverage. And after a while, it really started to grate on me,” she said. “[At first] I didn’t call anybody out in a really confrontational way, but over time I did.”

Margot Vincent, a fourth-year business administration major who attended the event, said she felt hopeful after listening to the speakers’ advice on how to achieve success as a woman in the industry.

“I really wanted to come out and support women entrepreneurship by attending this event,” Vincent said. “I think really being yourself, in my opinion, is to make it in the world. You have to put on this character and be a specific person, and now I feel like we’re all different, we’re all interesting …very inspirational.”

After observing the turnout of the event, organizers from the Entrepreneurs Club and WISE said they hope to see further strides toward inclusion of female startup entrepreneurship in the campus and beyond.  

While both speakers acknowledged the difficulty of women entrepreneurs in the male-dominated industry, they nonetheless encouraged aspiring women in business to continue to resist the prejudice and discrimination.

“Don’t be distracted by it. There’s lots of work we have to do to try to educate around and press on the institutional biases that are there,” Arnold said.