Google Encouraging More Women-Led Startups
Several other women entrepreneurs contacted by eWEEK lauded the idea of Google's new program, but added that it is only a start to what is needed to truly increase the number of women who are starting and growing their own businesses. "It's great that they are recognizing that money is necessary to fund some of these companies, but if women aren't doing this it doesn't matter how much money they are throwing at it," said Tracey Wellson-Rossman, the founder of Tech Girlz, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit group that works with adolescent girls to encourage them to look at careers in technology. What's also needed, said Wellson-Rossman, are systemic changes in business that truly and widely encourage and support women who want to start and develop their own business ideas, which isn't happening now on a large scale. "How many female-led startups are there, like 3 percent?" she asked. "Is it because there is no money or is it because there are systemic reasons that block it?"Despite those concerns, Wellson-Rossman said she is supportive of the new #40Forward program. "I don't want it to come across that I don't agree with this," she said. "I think it's great. But there are other things needed around it." Telle Whitney, CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based group that works to encourage and guide women in computing and technology innovation, said that Google's investment is a good start. "The $1 million is going to organizations that help groom women for startups," which can often be challenging to obtain otherwise, said Whitney. The program could help increase the number of venture-backed startups that are run by women, which today only amounts to about 5 percent of startups, she said. "It's really small. The [business] landscape would look radically different if it were 50-50. Yes, this is as a start. It is an investment. I applaud that they are doing this."
What could eventually change that, she said, is to encourage ideas of entrepreneurship and business by talking with young girls through programs like Tech Girlz, where they can gain knowledge on how they could approach such concepts and dreams as they get older. "It's our opinion from the Tech Girlz side that it starts when they are young," Wellson-Rossman said.