When someone asks me what we do at WomHub, I usually say we solve for pain. That is at its essence what entrepreneurs do. Find a pain point and figure out a solution. Sometimes the solution is easy, other times it’s complex, especially when you look for a sustainable solution not just a band-aid. So, this women’s month marks almost 18 years of building various solutions to solve the pain of the lack of women in STEM. We define it as science, technology, engineering, mining and manufacturing. This is a personal pain as women engineers turned entrepreneurs turned investors. We have found as we evolved that at each point in the value chain women remain underrepresented, underfunded and underestimated. We also have the hindsight to have been working on supporting women in STEM, the foresight to build what’s next and the insights from our work. Collectively we have built the entire ecosystem for women in STEM. But what does this mean.
The Chinese have a proverb that says the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best is now. Almost 20 years ago we planted the seeds of STEM for girls. We had to start early as research from leanin.org showed that girls as young as 6 are socialised into thinking that maths and science are difficult, and it is what boys are good at. We challenge these misconceptions and showcase a world of engineering to girls, brought role models into their space and made a commitment to empower 1 million girls around the world into STEM. I was on a call a few weeks ago with our partners at Sasol and one of the engineers said to me she became an engineer because of us and the power of the GirlEng programme. The seeds have grown into incredible trees. I posted this on LinkedIn and had my comments inundated with similar stories of women who because engineers because of us. Their lives irrevocably changed.
I think about this and the entrepreneurship ecosystem where we are supporting female entrepreneurs in STEM. You can’t have an industry without talent. I think about Pamela from Shareopps who was a fellow on our university programme and started a company. There are many like her who are senior engineers and deciding to journey into entrepreneurship. They are funding us and I’m so excited to support their growth. I received an email from Byeronie. She and her business partner Dineo are both WomEng fellows - they were on our university employability and entrepreneurship programme and have started a company. She needed meeting space for a strategy session and our co-working and innovation spaces provided that for her. In fact, this month, we partner with Cisco and launch the first female focus super tech spaces. The power of Cisco and WomHub collaboration brings fintech labs, full stack observatories for cybersecurity, VR and health tech boys. It’s a techie paradise democratising access to deep tech. But none of this means anything if we can’t move capital into female founders. It’s embarrassing that only 2% of VC dollars is going to women in Africa. So, we are solving for that pain, by investing in entrepreneurs like Thato who is also a WomEng fellow.
This is a coming-of-age story, that the WomHub group has been working tirelessly on. From talent to entrepreneurship to spaces to capital. The only entity in the world to comprehensively build the entire ecosystem for women in STEM and in doing so ignite the ecosystem. This is only the beginning. I can’t wait to show you what we solve next. Watch this space.