Features, Science

‘Next in STEM Challenge’ creates opportunities for female entrepreneurs

Meagan Lauber profile
Meagan Lauber, Boston University’s Her Campus Labs technology scout for the “Next in STEM Challenge.” The challenge invites female entrepreneurs in college communities to pitch product ideas to venture capitalists at Procter and Gamble. COLIN BOYD/DFP STAFF

Women make up 47% of the United States workforce but are extremely underrepresented in the fields of STEM, according to Her Campus Labs. This is what the “Next in STEM Challenge” aims to change.

Female entrepreneurs in college communities are invited to pitch product ideas to venture capitalists at Procter and Gamble as part of the “Next in STEM Challenge.” Students, faculty and alumni alike can partake in this challenge run by HER Campus Labs, which is part of Her Campus Media.

Meagan Lauber, Boston University’s Her Campus technology scout for the challenge, said they are looking for people who are just past the “idea stage.”

“There is a little bit of dreaming and aspiration in college that maybe you don’t get to have once you’ve joined corporate,” Lauber, who is also a PhD student studying computational neuroscience at BU, said. “If nothing else, then providing opportunities for women will show other female entrepreneurs that hey, there is a space for us in this industry.”

Participants in the Next in STEM Challenge must come up with an idea for a product in one of the challenge categories, which include non-toxic home and garden, healthy skin and more, she said. The best ideas will then be chosen to present to P&G as potential products.

Lauber said she is in charge of reaching out to potential nominees through student organizations and clubs as well as spreading awareness through places on campus like the BU BUILD Lab. She also mentioned the importance of the challenge being only for women.

“I think this is a great opportunity for female entrepreneurs, because from my knowledge about pitching to venture capitalists, it seems like a ‘boys club,’ ” Lauber said.

Her Campus was originally founded as a women’s magazine and online publication, Windsor Western, the co-founder and president of Her Campus Media, said.

The Next in STEM Challenge is part of Her Campus’ efforts to reach more women interested in STEM fields and entrepreneurship, Hannah Miller, the Her Campus associate of integrated marketing, said.

“We know historically [women in STEM] haven’t always had the resources and have been underrepresented in the field,” Miller said. “We’re looking to connect their ideas with P&G ventures, and give them that opportunity to pitch and workshop those [ideas].”

Western also mentioned the importance of an all-female setting.

“It’s anywhere from 2% to 11%, depending on which source you look at, of venture capital dollars going towards businesses founded by women right now,” Western said. “Women are 51% of the population, women are earning more bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees than men. So clearly there’s something broken.”

Western said she believes it is important for girls and young women to see people like themselves in traditionally male-dominated fields like STEM. She said in many cases “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

Miller said regardless if a nominee’s product becomes a great fit for P&G ventures, the challenge is a great opportunity to show girls and women that “they are seen.”

“It just gives [girls and women] another little nudge to say we see you, we appreciate you, we want to champion you,” Miller said.

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