It is 2026 and women entrepreneurs no longer struggle to raise capital for their ventures compared to men, perceptions of their competence are based on merit and actual performance, and they are equally represented in entrepreneurship. Being female is no longer a barrier to be managed in entrepreneurship.
That’s the ideal future state set before the workshop I hosted with Ed Steidl from Microsoft Innovation Centers as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Palo Alto, California, on building startup communities. Ed discussed what he’s learned on innovation globally and I discussed the specific challenges women entrepreneurs face in our present reality.
Ed and I invited the group of women entrepreneurs, investors, and program managers to take some time to do an abbreviated design thinking exercise around the challenges they are facing as an ecosystem, their ideal future state, and what would have to happen to get there. Working back from 2026, the group task was to describe the social changes that made the ideal future state possible.
o What social and systems changes made this possible?
o Which problems had to be addressed and what programs were designed to address them?
o What did people try that didn’t work?
o Which common assumptions had to be challenged?
Making entrepreneurship attainable for women is imperative to our economic future. The group expressed that within their entrepreneurial community, there needed to be thoughtful action around how women are included by policymakers, investors, entrepreneur support networks, and entrepreneurs themselves. With a balanced look at the realities of the challenges for women entrepreneurs and a celebration of successful women entrepreneurs, we can begin to address the societal understanding of the role of women in entrepreneurship.
Here are some of the ideas and thoughts that arose during the design thinking activity as presented to Twitter.
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