A new paper, published by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation – the world’s largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship – argues that women should be actively encouraged to start companies in greater numbers.
Weili Dai is the co-founder of Marvell Technologies, a semi-conductor company that has grown from a three-person start-up in 1995 into one of the world’s largest chipmakers, with 6,000 employees internationally. As the vice-president of a company with a market capitalisation of $9bn, Weili is often cited as the only female entrepreneur to have created a multibillion-dollar technology company from scratch.
Born in Shanghai, Weili Dai moved with her family to San Francisco in 1978, completing high school there before studying computer science at the University of California, Berkeley. Between the ages of 9 and 14 she played semi-professional basketball in China, and the sport remains her passion. She spoke to Women at the Top:
Once upon a time, female entrepreneurs were hard to come by. Women were not all that interested in starting their own businesses, or so the theory went. They were seen as risk averse, lacking access to start-up capital and saddled with biological timelines that made it difficult to start a business and a family.
But in recent years, female entrepreneurs have become a powerful force in the US economy. Today, more than 9m women own businesses there, representing about 40 per cent of all enterprises in the country, according to data from the US Census Bureau.
A few months ago, this blog asked: do you have to be a guy to be a geek? The question has been raised again several times in the past week.
Maija Palmer, writing in the FT, explores possible reasons why fewer women are pursuing careers in technology than a decade ago. “Women accounted for just 18 per cent of UK technology professionals in 2010, down from 22 per cent in 2001,” she notes.
Writing for Edge magazine recently, Clint Hocking, creative director at LucasArts, the gaming company founded by film director George Lucas, makes a plea for more women to enter the games development industry – in particular to provide “balance”.
Ask any entrepreneur the things he or she has given up for the sake of a business and you’ll hear a long list of sacrifices: sleep, personal time, hobbies and – perhaps most important – time with family.
Earlier today I was interviewing Olivia Lum, founder and chief executive of Hyflux, a global water treatment and filtration company based in Singapore.
On May 11, the Financial Times publishes the next Women at the Top page as part of its flagship project on female business leadership.
Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of Ebay who failed to get elected as California’s governor last November, is not at home tending her backyard. Since then, she has joined the boards of Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble (which she left during her campaign for the Republicans) and Zipcar. Most interestingly, she has joined Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, as a special adviser, helping to evaluate digital investments.
Tomorrow in the UK, the Woman’s Hour programme on the BBC’s Radio 4 launches a new thread titled “Women in Business”, which will follow the fortunes of three women entrepreneurs and their mentors. It follows recent reports of a large increase in the number of women starting businesses from home.