News & Analysis

UNSW Innovations launches The New Wave initiative to encourage female students to take up entrepreneurship

- August 5, 2016 3 MIN READ

By Mary Liu | UNSW Student Entrepreneur Development

The University of New South Wales this month launched The New Wave, an initiative developed by UNSW Innovations, Capital W, and Women In Engineering looking to encourage more female students to take up entrepreneurship.

The launch event was held at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre at the UNSW Kensington Campus, with attendees including mentors and special guests from Freelancer, the CEO Institute, Deli Agency, and the NSW Department of Industry.

A panel of speakers was invited to inspire the young university female students to think about entrepreneurship as a potential career path, including Professor Veena Sahajwalla, director of sMaRT@UNSW, cofounder of Austern International Lily Wu, Jessica-Stephanie Arvela, cofounder of Project Everest, and Briella Brown, founder of Your Closet.

The New Wave aims to address the gender gap in entrepreneurship on campus and in society more broadly by encouraging more female students into the technology-based startup economy. This initiative has three core components: firstly, the New Wave Speaker Series, where a panel of UNSW female entrepreneurs/alumni entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurship and leadership advocates, and established female entrepreneurs will be invited to speak about topics specifically tailored for university female students, such as leadership and negotiation, in order to give them insights and guidance on being a female entrepreneur.

Secondly, the initiative also incorporates the New Wave Startup Program, a month-long competition looking to launch more female led startups and businesses at UNSW; the first program is slated to take place in the second semester of next year. The initiative also encompasses the UNSW Female Entrepreneurship Network Facebook group, a place where students can connect with each other and mentors as well as find helpful resources to assist in their journey as a female entrepreneur.

The initiative aims to provide a safe and supporting environment where female students can connect with the right industry mentors during their entrepreneur journeys and address the tech-based startup industry’s gender divide.

The New Wave stands out as a solution to this problem, as it directly seeks to make entrepreneurship more accessible to young women at an earlier stage. Not only does it encourages young female students to challenge the bureaucracies of a patriarchal system, but also aspires to empower more women to become future leaders of a society that is yet to achieve greater gender equality.

Professor Sahajwalla, who was a keynote speaker at the launch event, has long been a vocal supporter for the participation of young women in STEM subjects.

“My work through the UNSW 50:50 program aims to inspire girls to pursue careers in STEM so they can succeed in an innovation-driven future. It is about showing students that there are a lot of smart women in these industries. I feel that girls may be discouraged from STEM subjects because of the perception that science and technology is just for boys. We are trying to demonstrate that it is the normal thing to do. It’s not just for boys. If we can change the perceptions we will dispel the myths,” she said.

“Girls are good at lateral thinking and are much more diverse in their approach. Innovation is not just for entrepreneurs, it’s a numbers game. If half the talent pipeline is not getting into it, we have an opportunity to double the numbers which would double the talent pool, the human capital, the intellectual capital and diversify economic opportunities.”

UNSW Innovations has previously run a number of programs looking to address the issue, including the first Fashionista Hackathon in May. The event saw students presented a case from online retailer THE ICONIC, and were asked to address the challenges revolving around fitting and the transition from bricks and mortar stores to the online market. Three women-led startups also took out first prize in the university’s Startup China competition last year.