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Startup Weekend Women’s Edition Planned for this Weekend.

Prior to the Ukrainian political upheaval of 2014, two entrepreneurs scheduled a Startup Weekend Women’s Edition in the country’s capital city, Kiev. Kateryna Dehtiar and Tetiana Siyanko originally scheduled their women’s event for the last weekend of February 2014.

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However, as Kiev erupted, so did their plans and the event needed to be cancelled.

Following a month of tense reorganization and with renewed perspective on their efforts to empower Ukrainians, Kiev’s Startup Weekend Women’s Edition is finally happening this Friday. 51 entrepreneurs are expected to show up, pitch ideas, and contribute to the future of Ukrainian business.

While Siyanko and Dehtiar may have different personal motivations for contributing to Ukraine’s entrepreneurial community, one old, sexist joke bonds the organizers in their quest to empower women:

“Do you know how a girl can earn $1 million?”

“Find a guy with $2 million, marry him, and take one.”

“This joke is still told today,” lead organizer Siyanko says. “The majority of Ukrainian girls get married in their 20s, have kids, and become good wives.”

According to research by Lisa Gurley in 2005, 56.4 percent of all Ukrainian woman polled were full-time housewives. Gurley’s research suggests the situation is evolving slightly in large cities, where women are more likely to seek positions of leadership within business. Despite the academic and technical opportunities available to women in urban areas– and despite her progressive parents – Siyanko ostensibly continues to face a traditional, loaded question:

“When will you have children?”

“I think our society is pretty archaic in some sense,” Siyanko says. “For women, not knowing where to start and having ‘the husband/family first’ thought embedded into their minds from childhood doesn’t leave many options outside the beaten path.”

According to Siyanko, there are few female entrepreneurs in Ukraine (and even fewer successful ones) which makes building a supportive community of business knowledge difficult. As the joke goes, women are forced to crutch themselves on the knowledge and experience of their male counterparts.

“My story is about how one weekend changed my life,” Siyanko says. “I want to help others make this leap.”

Siyanko graduated from university in 2006 and went to work immediately in a corporate environment. After attending Kiev’s first Startup Weekend in 2012, Siyanko’s team was accepted into a local incubator program, before traveling to the United States, and receiving funding for their project.

Dehtiar attributes her path into entrepreneurship as a combination of hard work and serendipity. Dehtiar credits her “luck” for delivering a full-tuition waiver to earn her MBA, as well as a mentorship that advocated for entrepreneurialism. Dehtiar has directed her work ethic towards startup communities ever since.

“In most cases, [People who choose to be entrepreneurs in post-soviet Ukraine] have already deep-dived into Western culture, either through foreign studies, or through work for Western companies,” Dehtiar said. “During my last year in University, I contributed as co-organizer of several startup events, and helped my friends start two companies.

According to the International Organization for Migration, over 60 percent of all Ukrainian women have higher education (undergraduate-level and above;) however, the unemployment rate for women is disproportionately high when compared with men of the same academic background (80 percent of all unemployed persons in Ukraine are women). Women make up 54 percent of Ukraine’s population, and 45 percent of its labor force.

Siyanko and Dehtiar feel Startup Weekend is a healthy place to contribute to the future of their nation. The Startup Weekend they organize will function to ease women into the language, agenda, and headspace of entrepreneurship, while driving them towards an essential goal for professional solidarity: the chance to meet other women.

Keep updated with Startup Weekend Kiev!

 

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