Kauffman Foundation Awards UM Grant to Research Women in Entrepreneurship

December 11, 2015

MISSOULA – The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a leader in advancing education and entrepreneurship, recently awarded the University of Montana’s Blackstone LaunchPad a $25,000 grant to further understand women’s participation in pre-entrepreneurial stages.

Blackstone LaunchPad aims to help UM students and alumni jump-start their own businesses by nurturing young entrepreneurs and providing them the skills and network necessary to succeed. They will use the one-year grant to better understand why female students may choose not to engage and to foster better participation by women in entrepreneurial programs.

Research shows that women are less likely to become entrepreneurs, and the disparities between men’s and women’s entrepreneurial inclinations appear at the earliest stages of the process. UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research and the Blackstone LaunchPad will administer the grant and conduct the research.

“Our Blackstone LaunchPad data show only 28 percent of students registered in our program are women, and just 31 percent of students, staff, faculty and alumni who are registered in our program are women,” said Paul Gladen, Blackstone LaunchPad director. “These data mirror national data of women in entrepreneurship, and that’s a real problem when women-owned businesses make a huge difference in our local communities and beyond.” 

National data from the American Community Survey, which can be accessed online at http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_B24090&prodType=table, show women comprise only 35 percent of self-employed workers.

“When we examine barriers that prevent women from engaging in entrepreneurship outlined by the Small Business Administration, we see women have more domestic responsibilities than men, they are more risk averse than men, they face more discrimination than men and more,” said Bryce Ward, BBER associate director. “However, a startup incubator like Blackstone LaunchPad is pretty low-risk and knocks down some of those barriers, so why aren’t the numbers different? Or, how can we make those numbers different?”

BBER and Blackstone LaunchPad have designed a one-year research plan to better understand why female students may choose not to engage in entrepreneurship and to pilot and test various activities and initiatives to increase female participation. The plan includes:

  • A survey of UM and Montana State University students.
  • Development, implementation and evaluation of a system for increasing female engagement with Blackstone LaunchPad.
  • Development and implementation of a rigorous method for tracking LaunchPad participants through the startup process and evaluating that data for evidence of gendered barriers.

UM’s Blackstone LaunchPad is designed to introduce entrepreneurship as a viable career path and develop entrepreneurial skills and mindsets through individualized coaching, ideation and venture creation support. Developed as part of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, the program currently is available to over 350,000 students on 15 campuses in six regions across the country. For more information visit http://www.umt.edu/launchpad/.

BBBER is a research department within UM’s School of Business Administration that produces a variety of economic and industry data including annual economic forecasts for the United States as well as Montana, its industries and its counties. For more information visit http://www.bber.umt.edu/.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that aims to foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success. Founded by late entrepreneur and philanthropist Ewing Marion Kauffman, the Foundation is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and has approximately $2 billion in assets. For more information visit http://www.kauffman.org/.


Contact: Paul Gladen, director, UM Blackstone LaunchPad, 406-243-5723, paul.gladen@umontana.edu. .