Celebrating International Girls Day by making an impact
Published 3:50 pm, Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Improving women’s participation in the workforce requires investing in them from a young age, entrepreneur and financial commentator Jennifer Openshaw told nearly 100 business leaders at an event observing International Girls Day on Wednesday.
If young women are encouraged to develop hard skills and think like an entrepreneur early on, there could be big changes in how they influence industries, said Openshaw, a Greenwich resident, at the event at Fairfield’s Delamar Hotel. Perhaps more importantly, she told the audience of men and women, there’s a benefit to businesses and society when women are included.
“Girls can be the engine to innovation and jobs,” Openshaw said.
Underscoring her point, Openshaw and University of Connecticut professor David Noble presented a recent analysis of the university’s entrepreneurship competition. Among the findings, Noble highlighted that his five-year study of around 300 teams involved in the program shows that women can play a significant role in whether projects win funding.
According to the study, though less than 18 percent of participating students are women, more than half of the winning teams included a woman.
That finding is “startling,” Openshaw said in a statement. “Just a fraction of women participate in venture competitions, but they’re rising to the top — bringing powerful perspectives, experiences and new products.”
This, along with other results from the study, show that the “key to more female college students participating in entrepreneurship and innovation programs is intervention at the junior and high school levels,” the report states.
This is why Openshaw founded Girls With Impact, she told the audience. Her program gives teenage girls the opportunity to learn business and leadership skills through a curriculum she has refined with a pilot program that involved a handful of girls across Fairfield County.
Openshaw co-hosted this Girls Day celebration with one of her sponsors, Fairfield County’s Fund for Women and Girls, in part to introduce her venture to the business community, she told Hearst Connecticut Media prior to the event.
Included in the event’s lineup were several presentations from the pilot program’s participants, who are in the middle of creating their own companies.
In the coming months, Openshaw said she hopes more businesses will decide to partner with Girls With Impact, including by offering it as an employee benefit.
“We’re equipping high school girls to be the next generation of leaders,” Openshaw said.
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