I just got back from a family trip to Israel. Besides being an incredible country with incredible history, friendly people, and amazing food, one of the best things we did on this trip was to spend a day learning about the entrepreneurial environment that has made Israel one of the most dynamic economies in the world. Did you know that despite its relatively small population, Israel has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than any other country in the world except the United States?
What is it about Israel that has led to this result?
You could read a whole book about the Israeli experience—the most famous being Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle. But I’m here to give you the abbreviated explanation.
First, because Israel has no natural resources and is located in the middle of the desert, it has had to invent many different technologies just to survive. Israelis invented drip irrigation so that they could farm in the desert. They also invented a remarkable machine that looks like a water cooler, but turns air into drinkable water. Think about the impact that could have in developing countries, where women spend hours walking back and forth and carrying heavy loads to obtain clean water!
Second, because Israelis must complete mandatory military service, they learn to work in teams and solve problems on the fly. Many Israeli tech companies have been started by people coming out of a particular intelligence special forces unit. These people have been identified from an early age because of their analytic aptitude and then given additional training and opportunities to use their problem-solving skills. Other facets of Israeli society also help foster this start-up ecosystem.
All of this got me thinking about the ecosystem—or lack thereof—that we have in the United States for women entrepreneurs. Like the Israelis, women often start businesses out of necessity. They need a particular product or service and realize that it just doesn’t exist, so they go out and make it happen. Sometimes, that basic need is for financial stability. Whether they have recently gone through a divorce or loss, or simply decide that they want to be more financially independent, many times the only option for women to achieve financial independence is to go out and start something themselves.
But imagine how many more women-owned businesses there would be—and how much more successful—if we consciously tried to create an ecosystem to foster and support women’s entrepreneurship. If girls learned actual business skills in school. If young women saw more role models of successful women business owners in the various media they consume. If government at all levels invested in helping women entrepreneurs succeed. If the “system” were already set up to support them.
Yes, there are organizations that are working on this. Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Philadelphia is one example, and there are lots more, including Her Corner. But it’s not enough. We need to completely overhaul the business ecosystem in this country in order to see the kind of change we want. I’m curious to hear what you think about this. What are some tangible things you think would help to bring about an ecosystem that supports women’s entrepreneurship? We’re talking about this on our FB page today. Stop by and join the conversation.