Salesforce and social enterprise Stemettes have launched the first startup incubator designed to help teenage girls create technology and science businesses.
Outbox Incubator was established by female-focused organisation Stemettes and funded by Salesforce, and will bring 45 girls into a programme where they will stay together and receive mentorship from Salesforce and its partners to develop their startups and ideas.
The programme will run from 27 July to 5 September, and take in applicants aged 11 to 18 from a variety of backgrounds. Some of the girls will have startup and business ideas and others will have a healthy interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Stemettes founder Anne-Marie Imafidon told V3 that she hopes this approach will encourage the girls to work together and share ideas.
"It's all about bringing these girls together under one roof into this incubator format where they get mentoring, and have sessions where they learn the nuts and bolts of converting STEM knowledge and passion into a real business. And they also get funding," she said.
"The hope is that the girls who didn't have ideas will either join and become a part of a startup, or will have their own ideas and form their own teams and will have a better understanding of how to do that."
She added that having the girls living in one house for six weeks will be important in helping them to develop networking skills.
Imafidon explained that part of the goal is to address the lack of women in the technology industry.
"Two out of three girls that graduate in STEM don't go into the industry at all and those are skills that we need because we have a skills shortage," she said.
Imafidon hopes that the Outbox Incubator will be a way of nurturing girls with STEM skills and persuading them to pursue careers in related industries in a bid to build gender diversity in the technology and science sectors.
"It's rather amiss really that we don't have better representation of women building products and understanding the language of technology which is ubiquitous at the moment. So that is fundamentally wrong because you need diversity of thought in [technology]," she added.
Salesforce is the core sponsor of the Outbox Incubator, and is funding it through the Salesforce Foundation which channels one percent of the company's products, equity and time into philanthropic endeavours.
Melissa Di Donato (pictured), Salesforce's area vice president, is the executive sponsor of the Outbox Incubator and told V3 that her direct involvement in the programme will hopefully create future role models for women in technology.
"I'll be around very frequently. I want to be as visible as I possibly can, not just to be a mentor and a role model, but to encourage them because these girls are the role models for the future generation," she said.
Di Donato added that female and male mentors from Salesforce and partner organisations will help to educate the girls with the skills they will need to bring their startups and ideas to fruition.
Salesforce and Stemettes will run a 12-month follow-up programme when the incubator ends to track the girls' progress and help to ensure that the funding and skills they gain are being put to use correctly.
"It's a beginning of the journey together. I can't wait," she concluded.
A lack of female technologists in the IT world remains a major topic for the industry. Microsoft recently called for a diverse approach to get more women into technology.
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