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Increasing the chances for women entrepreneurs

19 July 2018

The New Wave is a female entrepreneurship initiative at the University of NSW. The Founders Program is UNSW's platform to embed entrepreneurship in all staff and student's experience.

The program also aims to address the gender gap in entrepreneurship by encouraging more female students into the technology-based start-up economy.

Mary Liu

The initiative is headed up by Mary Liu (above), Associate, Student Entrepreneur Development at UNSW Innovations.

Ruby spoke with Mary about New Wave.

 “At a maximum, two out of every 10 students walking through our door [at UNSW Innovations] with start-up ideas might be female. I hope to increase the number to 5 out of 10 with the help of The New Wave” says Mary.

“As a female entrepreneur myself, I feel this is something we need to change. Most girls are interested in entrepreneurship, they just don’t know where to start and part of that comes down to role models. There aren’t enough female role models to teach and inspire girls to make them feel like, ‘hey, I can do this’,” says Mary.

The New Wave program includes a speaker series and runs intensive incubator sessions. The speaker series is aimed at engaging and inspiring female students in thinking about entrepreneurship and leadership as a potential career path. Speakers include representatives from some of the worlds’ biggest and most influential corporations, such as, Google, YouTube, Microsoft, and the McDonald’s Headquarters. Topics include the role of people and culture in driving a successful business - advice for female leaders.

The second element of the program is the pre-accelerator program, which is aimed at launching more UNSW female led start-ups.After two weeks participating in the intensive New Wave Founders' Incubator, female founders are ready to pitch their bright ideas. On Thursday 26 July, it's free to come along  and network with the next generation of women entrepreneurs, and hear their pitches.

There is also The New Wave Facebook Group, a place where students can connect with each other and mentors as well as find helpful resources to assist their journey as a female entrepreneur. Members consist of UNSW students, mentors and VCs.

The whole program aims to provide a safe, supportive environment in which female students can connect with industry mentors during their entrepreneur journey. Those networks create opportunities for women to witness role models in action and to become role models themselves.

“Creating gender-diversity, particularly in tech-based start-ups, where most of the founders are male, is important,” says Mary, who is an advocate of Professor Veena Sahajwalla’s 50:50 program.

Veena spoke at New Wave’s launch and is an Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awardee.

The UNSW 50:50 program aims to inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM so they can succeed in an innovation-driven future.

“I feel girls may be discouraged from STEM subjects because of the perception that science and technology is just for boys,” says Veena.

“Girls are good at lateral thinking and are much more diverse in their approach to problem solving. If half the talent pipeline [women and girls] is missing, then tapping into that missing segment creates the opportunity to double the numbers, which would double the talent pool, the human capital, the intellectual capital and diversify economic opportunities,” finishes Veena.

Mary started her entrepreneurial journey at the age of 19 where she co-founded a charity, she then established a business which supported international students to find local work experience in Australia at 21. She is busy now on her new idea to provide kindergarten-age children and their parents with an Australian school experience.

“I think you may as well start young,” says Mary, who also believes in Gap Years.

“University is an important step in a person’s development and it provides you with fantastic networks which are priceless. The downside is the lack of a practical component. There needs to be vocational, skills development. Work experience and internships prepare you for finally getting a job,” says Mary.

For more on young entrepreneurs, see here.

Westpac has a number of scholarship programs available, for example the Westpac Young Technologists Scholarship supports undergraduates who are keen to become the tech innovators of the future.

Westpac Foundation