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.'
Empowering strong, female leaders and entrepreneurs
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.
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