On Friday, April 21st, something historic happened at Yale University, one of the oldest institutions in the country. Female founders dominated all four startup competitions, taking home a total of $100,000 in prize money to help fund their ventures.

The event, called "Startup Yale," was hosted at Yale's School of Management. It represented a collaboration between the Yale Center for Business and the Environment, InnovateHealth Yale, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, and the Yale School of Management. It brought together teams from across the university with new venture ideas that addressed public health, education needs, environmental issues, and technology solutions.

The teams competed for four $25,000 prizes. Vichi Jagannathan won the Aetna Foundation Prize for Health Equity Innovation with MyHealth Ed. She is developing a mobile app called Real Talk that uses stories from teens to engage middle schoolers on sexual health topics. Arix, founded by former ExxonMobil engineer and School of Management MBA student Dianna Liu, won the Miller Prize for a corrosion-identifying robot and data analytics product. The Sabin Sustainable Venture Prize was awarded to Katrina Barlow for Powerhouse, an app that lets consumers control their carbon footprint and utility bills. Finally, Victoria Chen and Victoria Doan took home the Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education for BridgeYear, a product that "delivers career exploration and support services that expose high school seniors to local high-growth careers, and empowers students to develop a purpose for community college enrollment."

These wins are part of a growing trend at Yale, where women's participation in entrepreneurship is growing dramatically. "When Founder's Practicum launched in the Fall of 2014, women made up just 26% of the class," reports Jennifer H. McFadden, Associate Director & Lecturer in the Practice of Entrepreneurship, Program on Entrepreneurship. "That percentage has nearly doubled, to 46% this semester. These efforts, combined with initiatives created by my colleagues across the campus to make entrepreneurship more inclusive, are making Yale a great place for all students --and particularly female students -- to launch new ventures."

Cassandra Walker Harvey, Associate Director of Social Entrepreneurship, takes it one step further. "At Yale we are changing the face of entrepreneurship. From all across the campus, we are seeing women engaging in entrepreneurship, focusing on critical problems, and developing solutions to solve the world's most important challenges. At Yale, we are committed to building an ecosystem that supports diverse entrepreneurs, inclusive and welcoming of creative people regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, or disability. We still have a long way to go, but Friday's results were indicative of an exciting change at Yale that will have an impact on the world at large."

According to the Center for American Progress, women currently account for just 14.6% of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Efforts at Yale and other top universities to nurture and cultivate female entrepreneurship will be the key to changing this paradigm. Given this context, the fact that 100% of this year's prizewinners were women is even more exciting.

Published on: May 1, 2017