Lobeck Taylor | Executive Summary: Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in Tulsa
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Executive Summary: Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in Tulsa

Executive Summary: Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in Tulsa

Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in Tulsa

The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation

Written by Natalie Deuschle

One February 23rd & 24th, the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation (LTFF) hosted a series of events on women’ economic development and entrepreneurship. The first of the three events was a public discussion featuring guest speaker Greta Schettler, former Senior Economic Policy Advisor for the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State and current Vice President of WeConnect International, a global organization that connects women owned business to corporate supply chains. When LTFF announced the public event on social media, it received both encouragement and pushback from the community. Tulsans asked, Why focus on women’s entrepreneurship? Why not focus on entrepreneurship in general?

With nearly 100 people in attendance at 36 Degrees North, LTFF’s CEO, Elizabeth Frame Ellison, addressed these questions in her opening remarks:

A NYT article a few weeks ago reported on a study that found by age 6, girls are less likely than boys to view their own gender as brilliant—in the study researchers told two gender neutral stories—one about someone that was smart and another about someone who was nice.  6 year old girls were 2x more likely to identify the nice story as a girl and the smart story as a boy.

This feeling likely grows only stronger as little girls grow into women.  In 2015, an additional study found that women are underrepresented in fields thought to require brilliance – fields that include some of the most prestigious careers in our society, such as those in science and engineering.

Women are an underutilized resource as engines of economic growth.  In the US 887 new women owned businesses launch every day but only $1 of every $232 in conventional small business loans go to women owned businesses.  In Oklahoma, growth in women owned businesses is 10% below the national average. That’s why we’re so honored to have Greta here with us tonight to talk about women and entrepreneurship.

Greta began the conversation by sharing that by closing the gender gap in labor force participation, the global GDP could rise by $28 trillion by 2025 and we would reach the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations. To explain how Tulsa can support the startup, growth and sustainability of women’s economic development and entrepreneurship, Greta referenced the indicators used to assess Tulsa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem found in LTFF’s annual State of Entrepreneurship Report.

For physical infrastructure, those managing entrepreneurial spaces should think about how they reach out and bring in people to these spaces. Tulsa should research additional capital intensive sectors can be supported and how the infrastructure throughout the city supports everyone’s ability to engage. Within the topic of promoting culture, she highlighted the fact that women are often responsible for many different unpaid duties including household management, child and elderly care and that these responsibilities cause women to be more time poor than their male peers. For greater diversity and inclusion she shared the importance of celebrating success, engaging females from a young age and understanding what women want and need to better balance their time to succeed.
Regarding support services, language used to describe events, networking and special programs has an impact on female participation. For example, since women currently have less exposure to coding, they are more likely to attend a workshop called “Introduction to Coding” rather than one called “Coding Workshop”. To make trainings more accessible to women, they should be stretched out over time rather than condensed, which is more difficult for women’s schedules to accommodate. Mentors are important Greta commented, but so are sponsors, that is, people who advocate for a woman when she needs to be more visible in their workplace, helping ensure there is an awareness of her contributions.

In the area of human capital, beyond identifying female tech developers, there is a need to bridge the gap between STEM education and girls.  For finance, she shared that the majority of women raise their own funds and that women need to become more aggressive in pursuing capital, but that they need the support of men to address the capital bias in which only 7-8% of venture capital goes to women. The fear of failure was addressed and Greta said that while women can start small, they need to overcome their fear of failure and allow themselves to think big and create scalable business plans.  Within the realm of research & development, Greta suggested focusing on creating Tulsa’s Unique Brand by investing in the creative economy and identifying what makes Tulsa unique.  To back this suggestion up, she cited that a May 2013 report on the world trade of global creative goods and services totaled $624 billion dollars.

The public and private sectors play an important role in supporting the growth of women’s entrepreneurship. A decrease in gender gaps in four key areas, education, health, economic and political participation, has a direct correlation to a country’s competitive advantage. Tulsa’s public sector should explore legal, regulatory and policy reform to create gender-responsive economic development that supports women’s entrepreneurship. Greta stated the fact that Mayor GT Bynum has prioritized entrepreneurship as an economic development strategy and that he is officing out of 36N once a month is a tremendous commitment. To continue this momentum, Tulsa should set a big vision and invite everybody in to make a plan. The private sector can enhance women’s economic advancement by focusing on three pillars: people, philosophy and process. Women entrepreneurs need additional assistance in the following areas from the private sector, financial strength and the ability to handle record keeping, access to capital other than microfinance, business acumen for dealing with large companies and pricing.

Roundtable Lunch with Community Support Stakeholders

To continue the conversation, LTFF & 36N co-hosted a stakeholder meeting at 36N that included leadership from the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, APSCO, Madison Strategies, Tulsa Regional Chamber, Riata Center for Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University, Impact Tulsa, The Mine, LEAD North, REI Women’s Business Center, Tulsa People Magazine, Girls Leadership Society, Railsbridge and the Greenwood Cultural Center.

The stakeholders brought forward questions like How can we support our female peers in the workplace? What can we do to address the fact that statistically girls already start viewing themselves poorly by the age of 6?

To support our female peers in the workplace, the group talked about the fact that women still experience sexual harassment but it’s often not brought to light. When it is called out, colleagues and supervisors often do not back the women up and this case is worse in male dominated environments. An article titled “Reflecting on One Very, Very Strange Year at Uber” written by a former female engineer at Uber, was referenced and the stakeholders shared experiences of sexual harassment as well as instances of when they stood up and protected their female peers from such mistreatment.

Greta stated that the only way to change this behavior is through education and encouraging men to step forward and be allies in the advancement of women. She shared it is important to develop a business case that shows that the advancement of women and better treatment of women is good for everyone and and a team’s overall performance.

Addressing the fact that girls statistically view themselves as less smart and capable than their boy peers, Greta shared that girls need to be exposed to more coding education opportunities and that Tulsa should develop and support coding programs that are universal for K-12 students.

A conversation on Women’s Economic Development & Entrepreneurship at Tulsa’s City Hall

The third convening that LTFF organized was a meeting with the mayor’s office of Economic Development at the City of Tulsa. Participants included both business and governmental leaders. Cassie Reese, Vice President of Nabholz Construction, asked about creating incentive to source from women owned businesses. Deidra Kirtley, Executive Director of Resonance Center for Women, explained the need to raise awareness of supporting women with prison history. Women with a criminal record, she said, have an extremely difficult time finding a job, have on average 2.3 children and need a second chance.  The group offered the idea of setting a bold goal to half the number of women who are being incarcerated and finding a way to build bigger visibility on the importance of giving formerly incarcerated women a second chance.

Teresa Burkett, Attorney at Connor & Winters, brought to attention the need to create family friendly policies that would support women to work part time. Greta introduced the concept of shared services, which is when two women who work part time to support their family fulfill one full-time job within a company. Senior leadership is key to supporting women in the workplace and supporting women owned businesses. For example, in order to increase the amount of capital going to women owned businesses, there needs to be more women in leadership positions at venture capital firms since people like to support businesses and entrepreneurs with which they identify.  Pam McKissick, Co-Owner & CEO of Williams, Williams & McKissick, brought up that many high net worth women would like to support women owned businesses but they don’t know how. Greta suggested looking into programs like Goldman Seeds, a $600 million dollar fund for women entrepreneurs as well as angel networks that that educate women on how to invest and those that invest only in women owned businesses.

It was an honor to host Greta Schettler and to engage with so many Tulsans who are dedicated to supporting women’s economic development and entrepreneurship.  The conversation does not stop here and LTFF looks forward to continuing this important work.

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