Why It Is Important to Teach Girls About Entrepreneurship The founder of Glamtrepreneur talks about instilling the business bug at an early age.
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Over the past year or so, I have spoken with countless female entrepreneurs for my articles on Entrepreneur and for my own blog, NeonNotebook. I have noticed a few random reoccurring themes.
First, I am not sure why but it seems we all wanted to be veterinarians at some point. Second, the best advice given us has typically come from our dads. And third, most of us didn't grow up wanting to own a business. Instead, it became a conceivable career option along the way.
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For some time now, the latter point has been bugging me. I have repeatedly been asking myself, What can I do to start teaching girls about entrepreneurship at a young age? There has to be some way to make entrepreneurship a viable career option. After racking my brain and going through tons of ideas, the idea for my new social enterprise Glamtrepreneur was hatched!
While Glamtrepreneur is still in the planning stages, this new for-profit company with a social mission will offer programs and initiatives educating girls about what it means to take an awesome idea and turn it into a business they own. I hope to do this by presenting female leaders who have accomplished that goal themselves, as well as providing engaging projects, curriculum, field trips and activities.
In anticipation of my company's launch next year, this summer I'm rolling out (with the aid of nonprofits) some introductory BizGlam Pop Up Workshops, one-off activity sessions for girls on how to develop a business plan, aiming to spark their entrepreneurial creativity. Here are four reasons I believe it's important to teach girls (and kids in general) about entrepreneurship:
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1. Change comes through real action. We live in an era of "lazy activism." While posting a grievance on Facebook or using a hashtag on social media does create awareness, such activities don't replace real action. It is important to teach kids about entrepreneurship, so that as they go through life and see voids, injustices or things that could be done better, they take responsibility to make changes.
Hey, I'm guilty of this too, but a lot of times we justify not starting a business because we leave it for someone with more money or connections. We have to start instilling children with the confidence to turn their ideas into real businesses and programs.
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2. Entrepreneurship teaches life skills. Not everyone will grow up wanting to own a business, and there is nothing wrong with that. Still it is important for girls to learn the basics of running a business because they will pick up life skills that can be useful in a variety of situations.
Risk taking is a big one. To be an entrepreneur, you must be comfortable with taking action, even without having a clear idea of the outcome.
A study by Sheryl Ball, Catherine C. Eckel and Maria Heracleous in the Journal of Risk and Uncertainty confirmed that women tend to take fewer risks than men. Why? The researchers found that "physically stronger and taller people and those perceived as attractive are predicted to be more risk tolerant." These characteristics are often perceived as masculine.
And in the process, children can learn other useful skills, such as creativity, dealing with failure and problem solving.
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3. It is not an either/or situation. We all might be tired of talking about this, but the problem still exists: Starting from a young age, girls feel like they have to decide between a career or personal life.
I can tell you that as a 26-year-old female entrepreneur, I get asked all the time about the status of my love life. I wish I could say that these questions never bothered me. But sometimes I even find myself wondering, If I become too successful will it prevent me from finding a long-term relationship? In these rare moments, I have to snap myself out of it because these thoughts are ridiculous and unproductive.
We can't sit around waiting for society to change. Instead, we have to teach girls that it can be normal to have both a career and a rich personal life, if that's something that they want.
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4. And most important, women kick butt in business! I am not trying to make this an us-vs.-them debate, but statistics show that women are good at business. So why not try to encourage more of this?
These statistics don't lie. Recent research by Vivek Wadhwa and Lesa Mitchell found that women-led private tech companies achieve a 35 percent higher return on investment. Think about how much better off we would all be if we taught women about business at a younger age.
Call me naive and idealistic, but I also think that when women are encouraged to start businesses, the world can become a better place. A 2012 study by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University found that many women use their success for social good, donating more money to worthy causes than their male counterparts. This can't be a bad thing for any of us!
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