tl;dr – special SW Lex promo code for women!
Melissa Chipman recently wrote an excellent article on the upcoming Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame (EHoF) induction ceremony, another event happening during Global Entrepreneurship Week. After highlighting the five Kentucky entrepreneurs who will be inducted this year, she pointed out some interesting statistics about EHoF inductees: “It’s worth noting there is only one woman in the Hall of Fame — iPay Technologies’ Dana Bowers — and there are 29 men. There also is only one person of color.”
When you’re the only one of something in the room (as Melissa was the only woman at SW Lou in 2012), it can feel kind of awkward. You may ask yourself questions like, “Am I supposed to be here?” or “Am I good enough for this?”. As Melissa’s team went on to win SW Louisville in 2012, the answers to those questions became quite apparent: the Y chromosome is not the carrier of some magical entrepreneur gene. Melissa has been an outspoken champion for improving diversity of age, gender, and race in Kentucky’s startup communities ever since. With this article she highlights that while times are changing, the EHoF’s recognition of historical achievements noticeably lags behind the present.
So, how about some self-assessment on diversity in our Kentucky startup scene? If we use EHoF inductees as a dataset, we’re not as bad at diversity as local university presidents. But it does seem odd that for a state with demographics of 50.8% women, we only have 4% women in the EHoF (25% for Emerging Entrepreneurs, a more current category). Our numbers aren’t quite as far off when it comes to people of color, as Kentucky is only 12% non-white and EHoF inductees are 4% non-white (10% for Emerging Entrepreneurs). Since it takes a while to grow a large company (and to make a cultural change), we don’t expect any sudden changes in these demographic numbers for Hall of Fame inductees, but we do expect the Emerging Entrepreneurs category (showcasing success-in-progress) to more accurately reflect the diversity of Kentucky’s population.
The Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame states that, “Our mission is to raise awareness of the impact that entrepreneurship has made in the Commonwealth and encourage others to pursue similar ambitious endeavors.” I think it’s doing a good job with Part 1, showcasing that successful entrepreneurs are not all from California or New York, but are Kentuckians just like all of us. Yet for Part 2 of the mission statement, Melissa’s note reminds us that people are often more inspired by stories similar to their own. I’m more inspired by Ralph G. Anderson, a UK Engineering grad like myself, than by Mark Zuckerberg (who kinda went to Harvard for a while).
We can’t change Kentucky’s past, but we can change our future. To help do this in one small way, we’re offering a special scholarship rate to women for Startup Weekend Lexington 2015. Enter promo code women2 to save 50% off registration, and bring your crazy startup ideas, exquisite design sense, and elite hacker skills with you for the Nov. 20th – 22nd event!