ITI Presents Advancing EntrepreneuHERship: Tech’s Role in Supporting Women Minority-Owned Businesses

On March 31, ITI and Walker's Legacy facilitated an important conversation on ways the tech industry can support and empower minority women-owned businesses.

The event featured:

  • Ayris T. Scales, Managing Director, Walker's Legacy

  • Denise Quarles, Head of External Affairs, SE Region, Siemens

  • Nedra Dickson, Managing Director, Client Global Supplier Inclusion & Diversity Lead, Accenture

  • Natasha Bethea, Senior Director, Membership and Marketing, ITI (moderator)

In case you missed it, you can find a recap of the event below or watch the event here.

Natasha Bethea opened the conversation by discussing how women from underrepresented communities are driving economic growth and putting their mark on the United States’ business landscape. However, she notes that minority women face many challenges throughout all stages of the entrepreneurial process.

“Lack of funding, business education, mentorship, and available resources have limited some businesses from getting off the ground or surviving in today’s competitive market. Whether it was out of passion or pure necessity, women entrepreneurs can no longer be ignored or overlooked.” – Natasha Bethea, Senior Director, Membership and Marketing, ITI

Ayris T. Scales built on Natasha’s introduction by highlighting the barriers to entry that exist for minority women, especially as the steps for reinventing policy have not been taken, barring the ability to reach the plethora of resources that have been at the disposal of others. She accentuated how important it is for companies to offer “connection pieces” to open the doors up for minority women who are entering the industry to garner mentorship from other minority women who have been able to enter the space.

Denise Quarles shed light on minority women who stepped into the entrepreneur space as a result of the inadequacies of other industries. She noted that minority women often do not have a starting point to pivot from, therefore the tech sector needs to be formulating partnerships to offer spaces of support and resources for entrepreneurs, and those entrepreneurs need to make the active effort to occupy such spaces.

“We’ve got to let them know if you have that idea, there’s this community behind you that’s willing to do it.” - Nedra Dickson, Managing Director, Client Global Supplier Inclusion & Diversity Lead, Accenture

The conversation transitioned to a discussion about what can be done to ensure women minority-owned business leaders get the resources they need. Nedra Dickson highlighted Accenture’s Diverse Supplier Development Program, where Accenture mentors diverse suppliers across the globe, including by providing specialized advice and support.

Denise Quarles discussed Siemens efforts to develop partnerships with minority women entrepreneurs, such as access to tools that include a supplier diversity site, memberships with various minority supplier councils, a Supplier Diversity Coordinator, a cross functional workstream for feedback, and local meet and greets with other entrepreneurs. She also described the partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Centers where nine Black-owned businesses were awarded grants and generated new opportunities.

Ayris T. Scales also recognized Walker’s Legacy’s business training program that provides coaching to women entrepreneurs in areas such as how to raise funds through non-equity-based funding and certifications that pave the paths to be competitive.

“When you have real, great collaborations, I think it allows for better policy that is able to better serve the constituencies that we are intending to serve and to support. It may take a little longer, but I think the end result is much better and it has a greater buy-in.” - Ayris T. Scales, Managing Director, Walker's Legacy

When asked about the role of mentorship from larger companies in the tech industry to support women entrepreneurs, Denise Quarles pointed out how mentorship programs can help new business owners navigate entrepreneurship and support individuals in constructing the building blocks of a new enterprise. Nedra Dickson underscored the fact that mentorship is designed to help business owners capitalize on their brilliance and break down the barriers that exist currently. Ayris T. Scales underscored that the tech industry can expand their avenues to mentorship through coaching, sponsorship, and guidance.

Nedra Dickson discussed that there needs to be more platforms created for minority women entrepreneurs, even as small as making the active effort to share their business to a broader network. She also identified the importance of bolstering minority female entrepreneurs onto headlines.

“Firms have to be willing to carve out play for these women and minority owned business because the more work they prove they can do, what’s going to happen, the more work they are going to receive. Somebody has to give them that shot.” - Ayris T. Scales, Managing Director, Walker's Legacy

Ayris T. Scales expressed her hopes to see more contracts for these business owners, coupled with their exposure on media. She broke down the necessity to compare the numbers and set clear targets to engage women entrepreneurs. Moreover, she underlined the significance of fostering policy changes, both on the public and private side to meet these goals

The bottom line: While important and meaningful programs are ongoing, there is still more work that needs to be done on part from tech industry to support minority women entrepreneurs. Proper conversation and outreach must continue to occur across organizations and the industry to end the cycle of barriers and inequality minority female entrepreneurs face.