THE BLOG
03/09/2016 03:30 pm ET | Updated Mar 09, 2016

FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS: CHALLENGES, SUCCESS STORIES & INSPIRATION

Should Hillary Clinton become the next president of the United States, her victory would historic. However, we don't need a female president to prove that women are carving out roles at the highest levels of politics and business.

Consider Megan Smith, the United States' Chief Technology Officer, who oversees IT policies and initiatives across every sector of the economy. Or that when Google's parent company, Alphabet, needed a new chief financial officer, it hired one of the most powerful women on Wall Street, Ruth Porat of Morgan Stanley. She joined a roster of brilliant women making a mark in Silicon Valley, including Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, YouTube CEO Susan Diane Wojcicki, and Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz.

Still, female entrepreneurs have a long way to go. The hurdles they face vary from place to place. Compared to Silicon Valley, London entrepreneurs are three times more likely to be women; in Israel it's three-and-a-half times. But a major issue across the board is getting funding for their ventures.

That's where organizations such as Springboard come in. It's a network of innovators, investors, and influencers dedicated to building high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women. Springboard sources, coaches, showcases, and supports women-led growth companies that need financing and human capital. Its accelerator programs have helped about 600 companies, raised $7 billion, created tens of thousands of new jobs, and generated billions of dollars in annual revenue.

I can vouch for Springboard's ability to nurture talent. About three years ago at a Springboard bootcamp, I heard a woman named Luan Cox present her company, Crowdnetic. She sparked my interest. I agreed to serve as a coach and mentor for Luan as she started to build the business. Over time we developed a strong relationship, and Thomson Reuters and Crowdnetic now have a fruitful and valuable partnership, with Luan's company making P2P loan data available for Thomson Reuters clients on our platforms.

Another effort worth applauding is Fin4Fem, an educational program for women that's about to launch in the U.K., and which focuses on helping them gain access to financing for their ventures. It's the result of a partnership between innovation consultancy ENTIQ and the U.K. Business Angels Association, which seeks to identify, empower, and showcase top technology entrepreneurs. I'm looking forward to participating in the launch event this week in London.

By the way, it's not just about women supporting women--men are a crucial part of the equation. Thomson Reuters recently joined 36 other companies to launch the Power of Diversity program, an effort to nurture the widest possible range of talent in London and start a conversation about diversity on boards. My colleague Stephen Boyes attended the launch on behalf of Thomson Reuters. His contribution to the project was essential, which is no surprise--he's long been a tireless advocate for workplace diversity.

Female entrepreneurs face the same challenges as women climbing the corporate ladder. They need to be encouraged to step up and take risks, and we need to work to eradicate the unconscious bias that holds women to higher standards than their male colleagues--whether it be in running for political office, striving for the corner office, or getting funding for a business venture.

I find the fact that so many women are embracing entrepreneurship to be immensely gratifying. Women like Luan Cox aren't afraid of getting out over their skis, so to speak. After all, risk isn't about being in a comfort zone. Today's female entrepreneurs are an inspiration not only to their peers, but to those of us who have been around for a while--and have something to learn from the zeal and passion these women embody.

CONVERSATIONS