We’ve been wanting to get women to feel more welcome & confident in the startup sector in Gaza. And boy have we succeeded! Half of the participants at Startup Weekend Gaza are women this year, but not only that, they’re taking the event by storm.
On the first day, we had 71 pitches. 36 of those were by women (count courtesy of Ibrahim alJabour). Women and men alike pitched with the kind of public speaking skills you’d expect from a ToastMasters expert: right on the one-minute mark, with powerful presence and enthusiasm, clear and to the point. “My name is Nalan alSarraj, my idea is called Sammime. Vote for #35!”
How did we do this? There is a ton of female talent in Gaza, but fewer women participated in past events, and fewer women played leadership roles. What changed this year?
- We made it clear that women are leaders. Even the logo for Startup Weekend this year had a clear female theme.
- We looked at gender when selecting participants. Statistics show that women-led companies outperform companies with no female leadership. Check out this amazing article to learn more.
- We prepared women in advance. Our Intalqi program was in response to Google’s #40Forward challenge: how to bring more women into the sector. We said, “Pshaw! The Gaza ecosystem has tons of women. What we need is women founders.” We chose the top 10 women entrepreneurs, the top 10 potential entrepreneurs, and paired them in a Big Sister / Little Sister program. Many Little Sisters arrived with no awareness of the concept of a scalable, high-revenue potential startup. Many had never spoken in public. Within two months, some of them developed the best ideas and pitching skills we’ve ever seen. Many of them used that experience to pitch at this Startup Weekend.
Nalan al-Sarraj, a woman in her early 20s, got the most votes on the first day of the event. Let’s see who wins at the end!
PS: We have a prize this year for the top women’s team (defined as at least 50% women, including 50% women in key positions, and a woman does the final pitch). Do you think that team can take the overall first prize, too? Excited to see!