I have been making it a habit to give out copies of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to strong women I know to help bolster and empower them above and beyond their existing natural talents and strengths. The book tackles the particular situation of talented and ambitious women, that somehow underestimate themselves. The book certainly resonated with me and the many women I have come to know in the Zell program.
It spurred to give them copies, but also more importantly to get more women to give the book to! I have asked myself often why more women do not apply…Sheryl Sandberg poses some interesting data to suggest that women tend to undervalue themselves in view of set criteria and do not apply for positions unless they meet all 100% of the criteria, whereas men don’t seem to have this problem (of course this is a gross generalization and gender is not only sex based). The data for applications to Zell certainly reflect this: far more men without the required qualifications (whether, grades, experience and even the prerequisite finance course!).
At the Google for Entrepreneurs Trailblazers Summit this Fall, they announced that there would be an initiative to tackle this particular phenomena and get more women to apply for entrepreneurial programs. When the application to participate in the program came up, I and many of the partner organizations here in Israel applied. The 40Forward Initiative is the result and we were chosen to participate, along with our Israeli buddies the Junction, Siftech, Campus for Moms, and the Elevator and UpWest Labs to try to increase enrollment in our programs by 25%. Each has taken the initiative in its own special direction (see UpWest Labs blog post), but we plan on holding a joint event for all the partners in Israel in the summer!
Funding in hand, a bunch of us brainstormed together one night (Michal Waltner from Google, Liraz Sharabani from Zell and Nitzan Cohen-Arazy from the Junction) on what the best use of the funding would be. We decided to focus on communication skills as the crux of being able to empower women to ‘lean in” and step up to the challenge.
We enlisted Abigail Tenemaum, Zell faculty member and communications skills expert who serves as an official TED speaker director-coach to create specially tailored workshops for this endeavor.
Next I reached out to the deans at IDC Herzliya and the leadership of the IEC, IDC’s student run entrepreneurship club many of whom I know in my capacity as the executive director of IDC’s new Adelson School of Entrepreneurship and asked the to refer us to the best and brightest women they know. We sent them personal invitations to our special event.
The “Zell Jump Start” event kicked off a special pre program workshop to encourage women to apply to the program. The Kick off event set in the beautiful new offices of the local headquarters of the Palo Alto venture capital fund, Innovation Endeavors, where Zell alumnus Daniel Goldstein is the community curator, took place against a beautiful sunset.
The event had a great turnout including representatives from Innovation Endeavors, Zell faculty, members of Zell 13, and over twenty-five prospective Zellot women. The event began with an introduction by me about the program’s application process followed by Adelson School of Entrepreneurship Partnerships Director and Zell alumnus, Liraz with a personal story about her experience in the Zell program and a motivating talk to embolden the attendees to take the challenge and apply. The first part of a two-part workshop followed. Abigail led the workshop sharing some tips for effective messaging and communication in an interactive and highly engaging workshop with smaller follow up sessions at IDC.
and the impact? Well, the cards are still out for the final tally, but so far so good, the amount of applications by women doubled! compared to last year. Computer science student women candidates tripled (but in general we saw an increase in CS student applications, which we are thrilled about). Stay tuned for the final numbers…