For the past week, Boston youth have been focused on revising Boston’s public image. These young women are participants in the GoGirls Entrepreneurship Program.
For their community project, students focused on Boston’s bad social rep. In response to the city being rated by Travel + Leisure Magazine as the 5th Rudest City in America, students created a video showcasing the kindness of Boston residents.
While the students at the GoGirls Program are focused on changing Boston’s negative image, the program itself is focused on changing another negative stereotype. The tech and innovation economy also has a bad rep: the lack of diversity. To help fix this issue, the GoGirls Entrepreneurship Program has two goals. First, to get Boston’s young women of color interested and educated in the field of entrepreneurship, business, and innovation. Second, the program aims to change preconceived notions about who can enter the field.
Kora 15, saw parallels between the project they had chosen and the overall goals of the GoGirls Program. She said of the project “You can prove what is on the outside is not always as what is on the inside. It is like people saying ‘Do not judge from the cover.’”
While Boston’s business and startup sector is still 70 percent white and 71 percent male (according to a study out by the Mass Technology Leadership Council) change is afoot. The city saw a 21 percent growth in female employees, and a 69 percent increase in Latino hires between 2009 and 2013. These numbers are projected to climb, particularly with the help of Boston area female CEOs including Gail Goodman (Constant Contact) Sheila Marcelo (Care.com) and Brenna Haysom (Blowfish). These numbers differentiate Boston from other tech and innovation centers. Silicon Valley, Boston’s rival in the competition to attract the best talent, is doing much worse. The Valley’s largest companies, including Facebook, Apple, eBay Microsoft, LinkedIn and Google, saw a paltry two percent increase in female hires and a 1 percent increase in non- white hires, according the the research firm Gigaom.
While the GoGirls Program was meant to expose the young women in the class to the world of business, it also helped the programs’ director learn what it means to create and run a venture. Leah Rapperport will be returning the Mount Holyoke College in the fall. Says Leah “I like to be in an environment where I must continue to learn new things. I like to look at problems in an in- depth way, and try and find the solution that works the best.” Leah plans on starting her own company after business school.
The GoGirls Program students are also looking towards the future. One wants to open her own hospital in an unresourced area in the U.S. Another wants to bring innovation to the field of pediatric health care. A third wants to bring diversity and innovation to the world of beauty.
When asked what women and minorities can bring the world of business, Ese, 17 says “we have different experiences, and different lifestyles. We could use those differences as advantages.” Jade, 15, noted that increased visibility of minorities and women will help break down barriers for these groups. “When I think of entrepreneurs, I think of a man in a suit; a stereotype. Women are breaking that stereotype.”
About the GoGirls Entrepreneurship Program: The GoGirls Program is a 5 week summer entrepreneurship course for young women located in Roxbury, MA. To view the Student Project Video, go to http://www.gogirlsentrepreneurshipprogram.com/gogirls-community- project.html