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With 25 percent women founders, the Iowa Startup Accelerator is above the national average -- but still far from 50/50.Read about how women have fared in other programs in the Midwest after the jump.
In a room full of men - founders, mentors, journalists - the handful of women stood out at Monday's Iowa Startup Accelerator team announcement.
But the fact is, having four women founders among the 16 total accelerator participants actually puts the ISA above average on that metric.
There's no one data point that summarizes the gender gap for women in tech, but consider: 13 percent of venture capital-backed companies have at least one woman founder, according to Pitchbook. Only four percent of companies in one of the nation's most established accelerators, YCombinator, are women, as reported by Forbes. Overall, 0.34 percent of men and 0.22 percent of women nationally work on their own business at least 15 hours per week, according to the latest Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity (0.12 percent might not seem like much difference, but spread across the population, it adds up.)
"It was a big deal for us to at least make sure we were at least asking the question,” said Eric Engelmann, founder and managing director of the Iowa Startup Accelerator. “It’s making a statement that we want to do this in a way that is inclusive and diverse from day one.”
The selection process was a balancing act between wanting to be inclusive, while also selecting the most promising teams on business potential alone, ISA staff said during the media event Monday afternoon.
Four women in first ISA class:
- Blake Rupe, CEO of Re-APP
- Beth McKeon, founder of Kids Calendar
- Khristine McIntosh, Co-founder of ProduceRun
- Andrea Hansen, Co-founder of Venuefox
“To the extent that we can support people who might not otherwise be entrepreneurs, we want to do that," Engelmann said.
Lydia Brown, president and CEO of Ascent Iowa and a founding member of the ISA team, noted that the format of accelerator programs - traditionally three months of very intensive programming, and often in a city away from home - might be inherently difficult for founders who have families. However, she said simply making an explicit invitation to women founders can help.
"We said, 'we really want you to be there, we want you to participate," Brown said. "We just have to keep talking about it until we see real movement. We've got to get more women into technology. It's where the high growth is, it's where the investment is happening."
"I think it's awesome - it's honestly more than I thought it would be," she said, of her three fellow female co-founders. "The women in the program are incredibly talented, and really driven...the women that are here are poised to do great things."
"I'm pleased that it's definitely above normal," said Andrea Flemming, a co-organizer of the Iowa Tech Chicks meetup. "The norm is disappointing, so it's good that this accelerator, in its first run through, has included women. I think on every level, the first class sets the tone."
Flemming has been running the tech chicks meetup for nearly two years, and is also a coordinator for Dev/Iowa, a web development bootcamp which had 1/3 women in it's most recent class.
A frequently-cited issue in the Tech Chicks meetups, Flemming said, is a lack of role models. Positive examples are important both for young girls, who are determining their career paths, as well as for adults.
"To ask, 'how did you do what seemed impossible? How did you make it work?' and to get answers from people right here, I think will help a lot."
[wc_box color="inverse" text_align="left"] Find full coverage of the Iowa Startup Accelerator's class of 2014 here. [/wc_box]
Around the Midwest:
We asked accelerator programs around the Midwest for statistics on women in their cohorts - we will update this page if any additional responses come in.
Brian Ardinger, managing director for NMotion, writes:
Chicago: Techstars (formerly Excelerate Labs)
Troy Henikoff, managing director for Techstars Chicago, writes:
- Desiree Vargus Wrigley - www.GiveForward.com Sue Khim - www.Brilliant.org (was edulender when in our program, but hasre-branded)
- Jessica Kim - www.Babbaco.com recently acquired by Barefoot books.
- Kellee James - http://gothamgal.com/2013/04/kellee-james-mercaris-woman-entrepreneur/ - was The Exchangery, now Mercaris
- Alicia DiRago - https://whimseybox.com/
- Meghan Conroy - https://captureproof.com/
- Melissa Moline - https://listings.inrentive.com/
Omaha: Straight Shot
David Arnold, managing director for StraightShot, writes: