On Wednesday, February 12, AnitaB.org partnered with Envolve Entrepreneurship to host a Congressional Day of Action focused on strategies for inclusive entrepreneurship. The event, “Realizing the American Dream & Redefining Inclusive Entrepreneurship,” convened senior policy makers, AnitaB.org PitcHER™ finalists, Envolve Award USA grantees, and stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The main event of the Day of Action was a roundtable hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, wherein entrepreneurs and advocates from groups such as Black Girl Ventures and Rise of the Rest engaged Committee staff in a dialogue about the challenges facing underrepresented entrepreneurs.
There were four PitcHER finalists in attendance — Dr. Fereshteh Aalamifar, Shanel Fields, Dr. Sanna Gaspard, and Dr. Safia Siddiqui. They represented their enterprises and shared stories of obstacles they overcame on their paths to becoming entrepreneurs, which resonated with many female founders. Among the topics discussed were the burdens on entrepreneurs to get access to capital — something that participants pointed out as being especially difficult for entrepreneurs from communities without networks of investors or fellow digital entrepreneurs. Additionally, PitcHER finalists shared the difficulties unique to software and hardware startups in securing traditional loans, as they’re often operating without any collateral and revenue generation is a long-term venture.
After the roundtable, participants attended a reception where they were joined by advocates interested in learning more about inclusive entrepreneurship, as well as Members of Congress interested in further supporting these efforts, including Reps. Lucy McBath and John Sarbanes.
Why it Matters
Women-founded enterprises continue to be greatly underfunded relative to male-founded startups. According to Pitchbook, women-owned companies received just 2.8% of all venture funding in 2019. The investment gap widens when it accounts for the intersectional disparities faced by women of color; according to Project Diane, Black women received just .06% of all venture investment made between 2009 and 2017.
Access to networks, investors, and their capital is crucial to the survival of any tech start-up. These resources are not equally accessible to all entrepreneurs or would-be entrepreneurs. Those without access are unable to get their enterprises off the ground. One way to enact change is to inform policymakers of how these obstacles are personally impacting female founders and provide them with recommendations to make business-ownership possible through federal policy.
If you’re an entrepreneur and interested in learning more about federally-funded opportunities for support, contact your local Women’s Business Center. If these are issues that are important to you, consider writing to your Congressional representation and letting them know how you think they can help.
Learn more about the annual AnitaB.org PitcHER competition and how you can participate here.