L.E.V8 Women image

It is our duty and responsibility as a world-leading institution to offer women a platform that will enable them to develop their entrepreneurial purpose. The direct societal benefits of this approach are deep and sustained – it’s something that we all need to be part of.'

Ana Bakshi
Director, The Oxford Foundry
Women entrepreneurs

Empowering strong, female leaders and entrepreneurs

Read about the latest cohort of L.E.V8 Women Ventures

We launched our L.E.V8 Women programme in 2018 to encourage, empower and nurture Oxford's current and future female leaders and founders to pursue their entrepreneurial purpose. Through an intensive programme, the Foundry aims to inspire and skill up female students to stride forward confidently into their professional lives post-University. 

The L.E.V8 Women programme is as much for women who aspire to leadership roles within established organisations as it is for those who have start-up ideas that they want to develop, launch and scale. It includes immersive learning workshops, guidance and advice from mentors, and access to a strong and diverse network of visiting experts, plus a pre-accelerator and a suite of e-learning resources, frameworks and templates. 

When it comes to recruiting women in leadership roles, or achieving salary equality, the vast majority of corporations and organisations still have a long way to go. Studies show that companies with women in leadership roles perform better across the board. However, globally, fewer than 1 in 5 organisations currently have a female founder or leader, and the percentage of venture-backed companies founded by women has stood still, at around 17%, since 2012. The level of both conscious and unconscious bias that women professionals continue to experience in the workplace today represents a major global and societal challenge.  

With thanks to our L.E.V8 Women Ambassadors

Arlan Hamilton, Founder and Managing Partner, Backstage Capital, Honorary Advisor to the Oxford Foundry

Nicole Vollebregt, SVP Global Purpose, adidas

Marcus East, EVP & CTO, National Geographic Partners

Helen Riley, CFO at X (an Alphabet company)

Jenny Tooth OBE, Chief Executive, UK Business Angels

Srin Madipalli, Product Manager, Airbnb

Kal Patel, former EVP, BestBuy, Inc and CEO, BestBuy Asia

Niamh Gavin, Venture Capitalist and start-up advisor     

Kathy Harvey, Associate Dean, MBA & Executive Programmes, Saïd Business School

Did you know?

  • Only ~6% of UK women run their own businesses, compared to ~15% of women in Canada, almost ~11% of women in the US, and over ~9% of women in Australia and the Netherlands
  • Just 8.6% of all UK women surveyed said they plan to start a business in the next three years, compared to 14.3% of men
  • Less than 1% of UK venture funding goes to all-female teams and just 4% of deals
  • Only 39% of women are confident in their capabilities to start a business compared to 55% of men

Reference The Rose review of Female Entrepreneurship 2019 

So what are we doing about it?

Key elements of L.E.V8 Women include:

  • showcasing positive female role models – building an online resource centre specifically to highlight global female entrepreneurial talent, providing inspiration to those at the start of their journey.
  • Female founders startup clinics – hosting monthly drop-ins for women at the University who are interested in starting up their own business, providing business guidance and advice.
  • Practical workshops for team members of every gender on topics such as recognising unconscious bias, active listening, and working and thriving under female leadership. 
  • Immersive learning workshops to help women entrepreneurs skill up and move their business ideas forward.
  • Access to a network of female entrepreneurs - regular 1:1 slots for female students with notable, high-profile female entrepreneurs from a range of sectors. 

Shaking up some commonly held preconceptions about entrepreneurship and gender are key to the Foundry's activities in this area, as Foundry Director Ana Bakshi explains:

"Being taken seriously as a woman in a board room or in investor meetings is definitely still a challenge.  It's crucial that female founders can see that there is a network of support available to them, that giving up isn’t an option, and that we can only change the status quo when  more women feel empowered to pursue their desired ambitions, without the fear of failure or judgement that they may currently experience. As part of L.E.V8 Women, we are actively profiling female leaders and entrepreneurs from our network and beyond. As the adage goes: if you can see it, you can be it, and we know that the more examples of strong, successful women we can show, the more women will feel empowered and encouraged to engage with start-up life, and to take their ideas forward with confidence and resilience. "

Additional plans include working with local schools and communities to reach and inspire young women and girls, to tackle stereotypes around entrepreneurship and business building, and to show that it's a path open to everyone, whatever their gender.

Further information about the L.E.V8 Women pre-accelerator is here