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Where Are the Female Entrepreneurs?

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Modeling the behaviors and ideals you want to see is one of the oldest and most common teaching methods. The value of teaching and training future business leaders is so obvious; there are schools, conferences, publications and organizations dedicated to the cause. So, why are the students decades ahead of the teachers when it comes to gender equality?

Experiencing an About Face:

I have been mulling this over for a while now. About a month ago, I had the great honor of conducting a roundtable on entrepreneurship at the leading global conference for small business and entrepreneurship in Fort Worth, Texas. This is a global conference that offers outstanding research on pedagogical issues, workshops on experiential learning and roundtables on timely topics.

I was as elated as I was nervous. Here I was with the world's leading business and entrepreneurship professors; most had doctorates -- and most were men. Even though I was a successful entrepreneur who had defied logic, gender and about every other possibility, I found myself feeling like the only girl at the good 'ole boys club.

Within hours of the opening activities, the handful of women (myself included) out of 500 attendees, grouped up and shared our disbelief over what we were seeing. Where are the women? Why are there 15 white male fellows, and why are we just now seeing a woman achieve this highest honor from her peers?

We also discussed the number of women rising faster than their leaders in academia, on boards and in corporations. It is like a reverse mirror image.

The Case for Women:

1.Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men.

The highest risk for a student is that they graduate unprepared for the entrepreneurial age -- a new age being led by women. For the past 20 years, more businesses have been started by women than men each year. Yet the institutions that represent the future direction of our economy and society are not representative of this shift.

2. Women are producing more profitable companies when they are on boards.

The value of having women in leadership roles is quantifiable. Women withstand economic downturns better, and are more loss averse than overconfident compared to men. Figuring out what higher education has not -- that women bring a clearly competitive advantage and get better results when they're added to a board -- is confounding.

3. Women have a strong presence but are underrepresented in academia.

Enrollment of women in secondary institutions surpassed that of men in the 1980s and continues to climb. Yet the absence of women serving as tenured professors is pervasive and problematic. Institutions that set the standards such as Harvard and Yale are aware of this disparity but struggle to fix it.

A Sense of What is to Come, She Who Holds the Purse Strings:

Women's progress is like a train that cannot be stopped. Although the number of female executives, politicians and academic leaders is not an adequate representation of the population today, it soon will be. Nearly one million women have achieved a level of wealth that places them among the nation's top one percent, and more than 88 percent of women are actively involved in spending decisions for their families. Representing the diversity we see in life is the best way to truly unleash entrepreneurial potential, and getting rid of any disparity in educational leadership is a crucial step to making this ideal a reality. I am proud to support my fellow female business leaders and entrepreneurs. Full steam ahead!