Entrepalooza Empowers Women Entrepreneurs


What does lead anchor of BBC World News Katty Kay have to do with entrepreneurship? Last Friday, this well-known television news personality and best-selling author of The Confidence Code and Womenomics made a convincing connection as to why students, and women in particular, can benefit in both career and life from an entrepreneurial mindset.

In her keynote address at Entrepalooza, the University of Michigan’s campus-wide entrepreneurship event to kick-off the academic year, Katty Kay discussed women’s role in entrepreneurship, and, specifically, how to empower women to overcome the confidence gap and achieve greatness. As she explains in  The Confidence Code, Kay believes what holds women back is the disparity between their innovative ideas and their confidence. “It’s that women’s perception of their ability skews below their actual ability,” Kay says. “It’s not that they are just saying, ‘I’m not very good,’ but actually thinking they are not really good. They don’t believe they are as good as they are.”

The most inspiring thing about Katty Kay is how she made those in attendance feel.

“She was very knowledgeable,” said one female student. “I really enjoyed how she shared her insights. And even though she’s so successful, she’s experienced things that are very common to women. I’m definitely going to buy her book.”

Another female student said, “The confidence gap is definitely real. I’m sure every woman in that room has felt that.”

Another female attendee told me, “I enjoy executive, professional women coming forward about their experiences. But I really relate to Katty. I relate to her more than the “Lean In” women. It’s good to hear stories like my own.”

Even the men in attendance enjoyed the speech. One student said, “I think it’s important to empower our female counterparts. I have three younger sisters that I’m definitely going to pass this along to.”

“It shows what men can do,” another agreed. “To help women out. We have the ability to learn from this.”

Even those who weren’t anticipating the topic of female empowerment seemed to enjoy Kay’s talk. One student, who is involved in optiMize, said, “I was expecting her speech to be focused on entrepreneurship. But then it ended up being about women. It was interesting, though, and I think the confidence thing is relatable for everyone.”

Later in the event, Kay’s speech was still resonating in the minds of the Unconference attendees. I was able to join the group discussing engaging women in entrepreneurship, monitored by Women Who Launch’s Marianna Kerppola, and the confidence gap was central to that discussion.

“How do we close that confidence gap?” one member asked. “And how do we do that from a young age?”

The idea of educational initiatives was explored, along with showing young girls examples of successful women, and encouraging “safe failure.”

Discussions like these, and speeches like Katty Kay’s, are one of the ways the Michigan entrepreneurial community is working to engage a diversity of views and backgrounds in entrepreneurship.  Entrepalooza was co-sponsored by Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, the Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering, the School of Public Health’s Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship program, the School of Information’s Entrepreneurship Program, the School of Music Theatre and Dance’s EXCEL Program, and Innovate Blue, the University’s campus-wide entrepreneurship initiative. Addressing diversity with the theme of “Entrepreneurship Through The Kaleidoscope,” this year’s symposium blended entrepreneurship from across the university, because, according to the co-sponsor’s “we believe combining diversity in approach and expertise adds up to something great.” The event explored how diversity through ideas and backgrounds can propel innovation on campus and worldwide.

Following Katty Kay’s keynote speech, a series Ted-Style speakers aided in fulfilling this theme, discussing entrepreneurship among all U-M schools and departments, entrepreneurship among students, and educational innovation. And the event’s Unconference allowed for diversity in entrepreneurship to be discussed among the attendees.

Missed this year’s Entrepalooza? Check out a video of the speakers.

By Hannah Gordon, Innovate Blue Student Associate


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