Increasing Women Entrepreneurship: StartOut's Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentorship Program

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Apply by April 12, 2012 to be a mentee in the pilot entrepreneurship program! By Leanne Pittsford (Founder & CEO, StartSomewhere & Board Member, StartOut)

There’s been an increased focus recently on the gender inequality in startups, in Silicon Valley and especially among VC firms. If you’re like me, these stats probably drive you a little crazy. Though there’s the big rallying cry to get women more involved, it seems at times like an insurmountable challenge. Broken down into smaller pieces, though, we can make a measurable impact.

If conventional wisdom dictates that success with your startup success yields experience, money and connections; and it follows logically that experience, money and connections gets you a seat at the Tables of Influence (boards, VCs, etc.), then the first step is to do whatever we can to help startups be more successful, faster. Though each of us may not have every key to success, we should start somewhere, anywhere, in the areas of our own expertise.

To that end, StartOut wants to do their part and help lesbian entrepreneurs. StartOut is an organization focused on building the next generation of LGBT business leaders through entrepreneurship. If we’re talking about women in business, why focus on lesbians? Well, because gay men and women in business face unique challenges - not only in building a business, but in being an out gay person in areas and among people where acceptance is not the norm (and let’s face it, there are still a lot of those). Helping lesbian entrepreneurs serves the dual goals of building a stronger entrepreneurial community, and building a stronger gay community.

StartOut is doing that by starting the Lesbian Entrepreneur Mentorship Program. In speaking with lesbian entrepreneurs, it became clear that mentoring was high on the list of needs, and a simple way to provide immediate value to new business owners. We’re piloting the program here in San Francisco.

We’re excited to announce we’re taking applications for our first Mentees now.

Click here to apply by April 15, 2012.

We’re looking for 10 lesbian entrepreneurs who currently run their own business - or plan to in the next year - to be a part of our pilot program launching in June.

We’re also looking for Mentors to these new lesbian entrepreneurs. We’re looking for mentors from any industry, and with at least two years of experience with your own company. Whether you’re well into your success or have only been doing it for a short time, you have valuable knowledge and experience that ‘newbies’ can benefit from. If you would like to learn more about being a mentor, please email me at leanne@startout.org.

Feel free to share this with appropriate women in your network, and thanks in advance for sharing your experience, bringing in new entrepreneurs to strengthen StartOut, and helping develop the next generation of women and lesbian entrepreneurs. To learn more about StartOut, click here.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. Leanne Pittsford is the Founder and CEO of StartSomewhere. She is also a Board Member of StartOut. Leanne is an investor and advisor to Solar Network Solutions, a woman-owned solar tech startup. Prior to founding Start Somewhere, Leanne was a Director at Equality California, the largest statewide LGBT organization in the country. She lives San Francisco and Chicago with her partner and their dachshunds Sauce and Magoo. Find her on Twitter at @lepitts.