Initiative to create women's entrepreneurship center begins

May 2018

Jay Murdock

It’s said that every journey begins with a single step. The journey toward a women’s entrepreneurship center at the Farmer School began with a question.

“What jumpstarted this was a Miami alumna … She founded her own business in California. She contacted the chair of the entrepreneurship department and asked, ‘What is Miami doing with women and entrepreneurship?’” Elizabeth Troy explained.

“The great news is that Miami is doing a lot to focus on women in business. But specifically with women in entrepreneurship, nothing as of right now,” she noted.

Troy said that question led to more questions and an idea for an answer.

“We talk about the gender gap in terms of wage or opportunity in the corporate setting, but what does the gender gap look like in an entrepreneurial setting? What kind of funding can female business owners get? Is there a gap there?” Troy asked. “When you start to look at the college level, are we raising up, training up our women to know ‘Yes, you can succeed in this, you can start something and be successful’?”

“The more we looked into it, the more we thought, ‘This is an amazing opportunity,’” she said. “So what we’re really shooting for now is to not just have a group focused on this, or a one-off course, but to fully develop a center for women’s entrepreneurship.”

Troy said she hopes to kick off the initiative in fall 2018 with a series of guest speakers, followed by a J-term immersion program in Cincinnati and San Francisco to show students a variety of entrepreneurship experiences.

“This doesn’t look like just one thing. It could like someone who’s just running it out of their home. It could look like a multi-million dollar company. It could look like a shop on Etsy. It could look like running your own entrepreneurial incubator. It could look like anything,” she pointed out.

In spring 2019, Troy hopes to offer a course that looks closely at female entrepreneurship, the struggles that women face and the opportunities that they have.

Senior international business management and entrepreneurship major Morgan Langhammer believes such a program could fill a gap in the learning environment.

“I think the main thing this program could offer that isn't currently readily available is a different perspective. In the entrepreneurship world, it is easy to picture an entrepreneur as the mid-20 something white guy in a hoodie, a la Mark Zuckerberg, and not much more than that,” Langhammer said. “The entrepreneurship/startup spotlight is largely homogeneous in who it focuses on, despite the fact that women and minorities make up such a large chunk of small business owners. I think that just realizing and acknowledging that diversity can be a really powerful catalyst towards empowerment and action.”

“There is great power in simply providing a space for women to come together, talk, and share their experiences and struggles,” she said.

Troy notes that the time is ripe for Miami and the Farmer School to take this step.

“I think the (gender) gap begs for us to be targeted with it,” Troy remarked. “If that is a hurdle that our women have to overcome, if we want women leaving this university to be as successful as the men, and we’re in a prime position to focus on that and help them overcome that, let’s do it.”

Women in entrepreneurship graphic