Women in MassChallenge was created as a space for female founders, staff members, mentors, and sponsors to gather together and learn from each other. They discuss the challenges of being a woman in the professional and entrepreneurial community, as well as ways to improve their leadership skills.
One lesson Women in MassChallenge teaches is that female founders have the potential to contribute to a growing trend in company culture that encourages women to take maternity leave and supports their medical needs in this time. This is nice to hear considering the U.S. is still one of only four nations in the world where women (and men) are not safe to assume their company will provide paid maternity (or paternity!) leave.
For example, Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, extended Yahoos parental leave and added other perks for families, including giving new parents a $500 stipend for buying groceries and baby clothes in 2012. She used her position as a mother and powerful business woman to motivate Yahoo employees to view maternity leave in a positive and encouraging way.
While male founders and CEOs often do and should care just as deeply about this issue, it really hits home for female founders, because it likely will at some point affect them just as much as it will their employees. The unique advantage that female founders of startups have is that they can set a precedence from the get-go. These are young companies. By making policies like health care for female employees a priority from day one, they are sending a powerful message.
Sure, huge companies like Netflix, Johnson & Johnson, Google and many others have participated in this movement, and yes, they have male CEOs. However, those are well established companies with a lot of capital and financial security. This is not meant to minimize the importance of their decision to make the changes they have, but it is also important to recognize that they can easily afford to do this. Startups on the other hand are willing to make big sacrifices for the cause, which make their actions more meaningful in the context of fighting for womens rights in business and health care.
The Women in MassChallenge Showcase is an excellent place for females in business to discuss this and many other important issues. It is not only an amazing opportunity to network with those who truly understand what it is like to be a woman in entrepreneurship, but it is also an environment that cultivates a positive attitude for change and progress. Women in MassChallenge empowers and supports female founders, and while it is fundamentally a place for women to support other women, it is not gender restrictive! Anyone who seeks to support female entrepreneurs is more than welcome. WiMC aims not only to educate people on the gravity of these issues, but also to give startups the tools that enable us to eventually see positive changes in the culture.