The UCL School of Management hosted a panel titled “Shattering the Glass Ceiling: Empowering Women Entrepreneurs” on Monday 20 November, aligning with the global celebration of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. The event featured an engaging panel discussion drawing over 90 participants, including students, academics, and industry professionals. Moderated by Pierre-Jean (PJ) Hanard, School Lead for Entrepreneurship, attendees gathered eagerly to gain insights from successful entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship enablers.
The panel included recent UCL MSc Entrepreneurship graduates Anushka Desai, co-founder of Himayat Pune and Application Ally, and Ina Jovicic, co-founder and CEO of eNOugh. Other panelists were Rachael Twumasi-Corson, CEO and Founder of Afrocenchix; Yang Liu, co-founder and CEO of JustWears; Noa Havazelet, Head of Google Accelerator, Europe; and David Horne, author of “Funded Female Founders”.
Here are the key insights from the discussion:
- Funding: The panelists shared their personal experiences with funding. They advised entrepreneurs to explore various funding sources, including competitions, university grants, accelerators, loans against inventory and personal networks, rather than relying solely on venture capital. They emphasised the importance of viewing money received from family and friends as an investment in the venture, not a gift.
- Leadership: The discussion also highlighted the need for women entrepreneurs to leverage their unique characteristics, build their ventures around these, and assemble a team that amplifies their strengths. While there may be situations that require women entrepreneurs to present themselves in a certain way, they should not have to change their leadership style. Instead, they should seek a fit between their unique style, their venture, and their team.
- Work-Life Balance: The panelists stressed that work can be intense and achieving balance, especially in the early stages of a startup, can be challenging. One example involved making an important call to an investor while breastfeeding a baby. They underscored the importance of effectively integrating personal life into work life, tailoring work-life to individual priorities, and seeking harmony between the two. They especially highlighted the need for supportive partners, family, and friends.
- Networking Strategies: The panelists discussed the challenges women face in networking and strategies to overcome them. They emphasised the importance of standing out at industry events and building a recognisable presence before seeking investment. They suggested that women entrepreneurs participate in all relevant networking events and look for ways to stand out. They also advised choosing niche, specialised events that apply to them and their startups, whether these events relate to their gender, industry sector or cultural background. When encountering negative experiences, they advised sharing the experience with others to get support and help others in avoiding these experiences.
- Diversity and Migrant Entrepreneurship: The panelists, most of whom were migrant entrepreneurs themselves, shared their experiences and perspectives. They discussed the significant challenges they faced without a proper network and support system. However, they also highlighted the opportunities their unique backgrounds presented, which they could leverage as strengths in their entrepreneurial journey and use to set themselves apart from other entrepreneurs when pitching.
PJ Hanard, reflecting on the panel, remarked,
“This gathering of exceptional women and enablers in entrepreneurship was not only about highlighting challenges but also about inspiring the next generation of women entrepreneurs. The insights shared today underscore not only their spirit of resilience but also the importance of creating supportive ecosystems for their success.”
This panel discussion is a reflection of UCL School of Management’s commitment to promoting diversity and supporting entrepreneurial endeavours. It underscores the vital role of inclusive networks and policies in creating an environment where women entrepreneurs can flourish and succeed.