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Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught? An Ode to Thanksgiving

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"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -- Margaret Mead

"When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears." -- Anthony Robbins

I just visited California, dubbed by Patrick Hanlon "The New State of Innovation." I went to participate in the 11/25/13 social entrepreneurship forum, "The Future of Education in a Globally Connected World" sponsored by Hack for Big Choices in Palo Alto, CA. I went because I was making a stand on behalf of female entrepreneurs everywhere. I was on a mission to prove that entrepreneurship today involves not only disruptive innovation but thought leadership and civic engagement for real world problems needing collaborative, creative and male- and female-generated solutions, such as how we educate our children. I went because I was the lone female panelist at this particular event. As Vivek Wadwa tweeted: "Good, there's a woman on the panel. This is Silicon Valley, and you don't see many!"

Women have historically shined in the education and healthcare arenas, having a noticeable presence and impact. It has been more difficult to break into the entrepreneurial and technology arenas, and promote change, due to a variety of factors. They include limited access to sponsorship and mentorship by other women, venture capital and persisting risk aversion. Which is very troubling, because entrepreneurship is the new reality, according to many thought leaders, such as Martin Zwilling:

This next frontier lies in building your own enterprises as an entrepreneur, rather than waiting for innovation and opportunity from large corporations. They have become a by-product of innovation rather than the cause of it. Customers today demand products and services personalized or tailored to local needs with embedded quality of life services. Scaling is done first by customer alliances through social media, and later by distributed joint ventures and cooperation.

The real question being asked these days, results from the nature vs. nurture debate of innovation: Can entrepreneurship be taught? This question was also raised by Alice Marwick the same day it was posed to me and the other panelists at the Hackathon in Palo Alto. According to Marwick:

A common myth about entrepreneurship is that it was an inherent personal attribute that could not be taught. Entrepreneurialism is a loaded concept that incorporates male-normative notions of behavior and success -- and because entrepreneurs are so high status, this means that women have been systematically excluded from the highest levels of the technology scene.

Not for lack of trying or foresight. Timing is everything, and female entrepreneur can now produce both disruptive innovation (mobile technology/Apps) and thought leadership for social and educational reform. It is becoming easier to harness and synthesize the intellectual drive, energy, and mindset of developed hubs such as Silicon Valley with the emotional attunement, resonance and mindset of less developed hubs in Africa, Asia and India. As the open source technology and its sibling, the social technology movements have taken off, more women have opportunities to be linchpins in this brave new world. Thought leadership is a foregone conclusion now as social entrepreneurship is a byproduct of the new economic reality after The Great Recession. It is therefore a choice and a civic duty to partake, so that change is orchestrated across the world and across domains: education, healthcare, technology, commerce.

Women today are getting better educational access through a variety of portals, combining learned lessons with the already inculcated skill sets to participate and even excel in this new frontier: collaboration and problem solving. A great example of this are the two female senators who worked together to end the government shutdown. As Sally Steenland wrote, "Ironically, it was the everyday experiences of women senators--along with their outsider status in a male-dominated institution--that helped give them the skills and allies they needed to make the government work for the American people."

So where does that leave us, on the eve of Thanksgiving, as we take stock of what we have to be thankful for, while obviously being mindful of what's missing and what we still hope to accomplish? As both an educator and entrepreneur, I believe in both the collective intelligence and creativity of women to pioneer innovation and change. I believe in the inherent goodness of humanity and in the power of gratitude as a profound change agent for the greater good. I believe that entrepreneurial thinking re: the steps leading up to innovation can be taught. On behalf of my Entrepreneurial Sisterhood, I would like to express my thankfulness for the roads taken, not yet taken, the people we meet along the way, and the ones we hope to connect with in the future:

I'm honored to be on this journey,
To have the chance to learn the "lay of the land"

I'm enjoying meeting other entrepreneurs
Embracing change and making a stand

I'm in awe of their depth of knowledge,
Their devotion and love for their craft

I'm thankful for all my actual and virtual mentors,
Who answer my myriad questions, without thinking me daft

I'm amused I've joined the Twitterati
Furiously typing, clamoring to be heard

I'm enchanted by all the bloggers
Whose thought leadership I share, with the click of the "bird"

I'm humbled by my clients
For their unwavering support and belief in me

I'm appreciative of my social media followers
For taking time to read my writings, for taking time to see

I'm so happy for my iOS Zite App
Helping me "stay in the know"

I'm so thrilled for my Apple iPad
Which has become essential to my workflow

I'm grateful for this opportunity
To make a difference; somehow, somewhere

I thank The Huffington Post for its content and diversity,
For letting me contribute, for letting me share

Happy Thanksgiving!