When 171 nations gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, to discuss the future of entrepreneurship, it showed that entrepreneurship has moved beyond the fringes of economic development planning. Each country was represented by some officials in the highest levels of their respective governments, emphasizing the importance of the role entrepreneurs play in building stronger economies.
We need to remember that many countries aren’t so fortunate. While at GEC, we spoke with two entrepreneurs from Venezuela. They work aggressively to infuse entrepreneurship into their homeland, and they believe entrepreneurship can transform communities. However, they are facing innumerable obstacles with an economy in disarray and a government not supportive of entrepreneurship, currently making Venezuela one of the toughest countries in which to start a business. For these two entrepreneurs, at least, conditions are so challenging, they run their activities from exile.
We in the United States face countless barriers to take an idea and make it an economic reality. However, we should also be thankful that we have the support of our governments – federal, state, and local.
In the U.S., systemic barriers have left women too far behind in starting and growing enterprises. In 2018, women are still half as likely as men to own employer businesses. That’s unacceptable.
In addition to advancing the Kauffman Foundation’s strategies in reducing barriers for women entrepreneurs, we as an organization have been working on being more aware of our own unconscious bias. One thing that was troubling throughout GEC was how representatives from some countries talked about entrepreneurship. To some, they believe entrepreneurship was a male-only venture. It was even more obvious when those same individuals were on more diverse panel discussions and attempted to dominate the conversation by talking over women panelists. It’s something that we all need to be more alert to and speak up on.
Our nation needs to take note. Other countries are approaching the work of supporting entrepreneurship with a passion and zeal. We can no longer take for granted that the U.S. is on the cutting edge of innovation and change. Countries like Estonia, Congo and the Philippines all see entrepreneurship as a pathway to a better future for their communities and nations. They are working aggressively to support entrepreneurs through coordinated strategies that enhance education, training and eliminate barriers to access of capital and the start-up process.
We need to keep moving forward, and quickly, or others will outpace us. We can do it, but we can’t be complacent in our approach. We must act with intentional urgency.