The U.S. Department of Commerce cites a three-to-one ratio of men to women in positions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). And a recent study from the University of Washington suggests that women pass on careers in STEM because of a “masculine culture.”
The 17th Annual League for Entrepreneurial Women’s Conference, held Oct. 19 at Temple University’s Alter Hall, addressed the STEM gap and its stigma. The theme of the event – Climbing the Chromosomal Ladder: Creating Your Own Domain – brought close to 200 women and men from throughout the Philadelphia region to Temple’s campus.
The conference is the annual featured event for Temple’s League for Entrepreneurial Women, and serves as an advocacy initiative to address the growing challenges and interests of entrepreneurial women in the region.
More than a half-dozen innovators, entrepreneurs, self-starters, and STEM professionals shared their personal stories of turning ideas into career paths.
The number of American businesses increased by 47 percent from 1997-2014, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners, and during that span, the number of women-owned businesses soared by 68 percent. Those figures demonstrate that “female entrepreneurs in this country are a force to be reckoned with,” said Elizabeth H. Barber, associate professor at Temple’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management and the League’s co-founder.
Barber and fellow League co-founder Betsy Leebron Tutelman, Temple’s senior vice provost for strategic communications, along with Ellen Weber, executive director of Temple’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI), hosted the event.
Keynote speaker Lori Bush, FOX ’85, spoke of the leadership and cultural differences between men and women in the workplace, and how women can leverage their strengths to take a step forward and break the glass ceiling. “If anything I’m saying today resonates with you, find a way to incorporate it into your life and your career tomorrow,” said Bush, who completed her MBA at Temple.
Recently retired chief executive officer of Rodan + Fields, Bush often arranged town hall meetings for her colleagues. And while there, she would encourage Rodan + Fields employees who happened to be celebrating an anniversary with the company to share their favorite professional memories. “Often times,” Bush said, “they’d relive a moment where their group came together to overcome a problem.”
Those reminders – that she and her colleagues were working toward something bigger than themselves – fueled Bush’s professional fire.
The League for Entrepreneurial Women welcomed Dr. Amy Goldberg for an open conversation and question-and-answer session. Goldberg is chair and professor of surgery at Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, and serves as surgeon-in-chief of the Temple University Health System.
Goldberg also founded the Cradle 2 Grave program, one of very few of its kind, which educates middle- and high-school students from North Philadelphia, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York on gun violence, violence prevention, and the medical and emotional realities of gun violence.
“Temple has changed me, personally and professionally,” Goldberg said. “It’s helped me embrace the mission of Temple, which is providing service to the community.”
The League for Entrepreneurial Women’s conference also provided a platform for three female entrepreneurs to share their success stories during Temple Talks.
- Bethany Edwards, SMC ’06, co-founder of LIA Diagnostics, developed the first eco-friendly and flushable pregnancy test
- Dana Donofree, a breast cancer survivor, founded AnaOno, an intimate apparel company for women who have undergone mastectomies
- Kriti Sehgal, a restaurateur, co-founded three fast-casual restaurants in Philadelphia
Kriti Sehgal, a restaurateur, co-founded three fast-casual restaurants in Philadelphia
This year’s event included a new segment – Power Pitches – during which four female entrepreneurs who are Temple students or alumnae, introduced their ventures with brief presentations.
At the conference, Gina M. Saffo, POD ’86, DPM, was inducted to the League for Entrepreneurial Women Hall of Fame. Saffo is a podiatrist and partner with the Washington, D.C.,-based Foot & Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic, and supports young women studying at Temple’s School of Podiatric Medicine.
“I am always inspired at events like this, when I’m surrounded by driven women who have the head and the heart to achieve great things,” said Temple Provost JoAnne A. Epps.