Oct. 11, 2022

Workshops designed for one purpose: Guiding women in the entrepreneurial landscape

Through interactive sessions and coaching, ‘From Lab 2 Fulfillment’ helps women transform research and discoveries into products and companies; participate in Social Innovation Week Oct. 11-14
Orly Yadid-Pecht
Courtesy Orly Yadid-Pecht

Orly Yadid-Pecht sees a gender gap in entrepreneurship. And she’s doing something about it.

Universities and other organizations that drive innovation in Canada are not fully leveraging the abilities of women to be successful entrepreneurs and employers, says Dr. Yadid-Pecht, DSc, professor in the Department of Electrical and Software Engineering. The result is underrepresentation of women in Canada’s STEM workforce and women entrepreneurship.

Yadid-Pecht sees this as an opportunity to drive change and help women have equal representation as patent inventors, startup founders, board members, and CEOs.

As an inventor, entrepreneur, and professor in STEM, Yadid-Pecht saw these gender gaps and realized overcoming them can be taught. She started by coaching colleagues and quickly expanded from there with the creation of From Lab 2 Fulfillment (FL2F). FL2F is a purpose-driven workshop that teaches women in science, technology, engineering, math and health (STEM-H) how to transform their research and discoveries into products and companies.

Yadid-Pecht recently spoke with UToday about FL2F and why social innovation is so important.

From Lab 2 Fulfillment

Q: Where did the idea for FL2F come from?

A: I have been a professor in STEM academia for many years now and was mainly involved in licensing technologies for the first 10 years of my career. Only later did I start being involved with startup creation myself. 

There is a struggle, especially for women striving for more life-career balance, to take it upon themselves to grow yet another baby, a creation of their mind, and starting a company based on it. It was only when I started coaching that I realized what I did, being a woman entrepreneur, while being an academic, is something I can teach based on my experience.

Q: What is your vision with FL2F?

A: We want to provide women entrepreneurs with the knowledge, confidence and networks needed to succeed in the STEM-H entrepreneurial world and decrease the evident gender gap. We provide institutional clients with a launch-ready women-centric program solution to decrease the gender gap in STEM-H entrepreneurship, so that they don’t need to develop such a program from scratch.

Specifically, currently there are only 14 per cent women inventors on patents, we want to increase this number to 30 per cent by 2030. Currently there are only 10 per cent women owners of companies, we want to increase that to 40 per cent. Our vision is to eliminate the gender gap in entrepreneurship.

Q: What can be done to help women succeed as entrepreneurs?

A: Several problems must be solved to encourage and improve the success of women as entrepreneurs, including, for instance, in patenting. There is a clear gender gap in patent inventorship. This translates to women being underrepresented in terms of funding and founding commercial ventures. Women education and training regarding intellectual property, strengthening it, and how to bring it to life (entrepreneurship) is important to change this dire state.

Q: Are there other who have contributed to the success of FL2F?

A: Yes! I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge all the interns from UCalgary that helped us get to this point. Currently our staff consists of interns alone, but we hope this will change soon as we are at the verge of scaling up! I also would like to thank the supporters we had and have in the department, the school and at the university, for believing in us from the start. I would also like to thank Innovate Calgary for encouraging us with this endeavour and the different mentors and supporters we had and have on the way. Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge all our alumni that help us improve and promote the program with their continuing feedback!

Q: What is the time commitment for the program?

A: FL2F is a three-week purpose-driven program that teaches women in STEM and health (STEM-H) fields how to transform their research/discoveries into commercial products and companies. FL2F entails small interactive sessions with one-on-one coaching to cultivate a supportive space to ideate and pivot ideas into businesses. The program helps women in STEM-H fields make their scientific innovations more impactful by showing them how to overcome hurdles, find supporters, and build strategic plans and alliances.

Q: What will someone learn in your workshop?

A: The workshops (up to eight women in a cohort) are delivered to provide practical knowledge of, and solutions to, the process, challenges, and barriers associated with the following aspects of entrepreneurship. This includes learning about intellectual property, what can and cannot be protected, how to strengthen your ideas, how to find early customers, strategically plan your project, build your alliances and one part which I personally thought women in STEM would not like as much but is important — resilience. Turns out, though, that the women appreciate all aspects we teach, which is lovely!

Q: What results have you seen with your workshop?

A: We have seen incredible results of our participants! From each cohort, women write more patents after the workshop. Many women reach out for collaborations with industry. Some women develop collaborations with other participants.  Quite a few (20 per cent) of our alumni open companies themselves! I think our best ambassadors are our women!

The impact

Q: Where to from here?

A: We are currently working with organizations to expand the FL2F offering in Alberta and nationwide. Specifically, we are looking at several offerings in different locations in Alberta, as well as offerings in different locations in B.C. and Ontario with our partners. The scaleup is an exciting stage in every business and I’m glad we can experience it with this social endeavour!

This year we are also planning on teaching trained facilitators, which can enable scaleup and more impact. From FL2F’s preliminary data, the alumni do significantly better in patent inventorship, collaboration, and company creation after the workshop. With more women graduating the training, the word spreads and the community will get closer to a gender bias free in this regard.

Q: What can folks expect at your booth at the Social Innovator Celebration?

A: We will be having our intern from the Haskayne MBA program, Sai, represent us in the booth. We will present some statistics that provide food for thought regarding women in patenting and company creation. We will present a video describing the FL2F program and what it teaches. We will continue by providing more details of where we are at, as women in business, and show those interested what FL2F does to change the statistics.

We will show you our vision, some success stories and what our alumni attribute to the program. We invite you to the booth and spread the word! If you’d like to “start something,” come and see how FL2F can help you; if you want to bring FL2F to your community or organization — let’s have a chat how can we work together to decrease the gender gap in entrepreneurship and innovation!

Innovate Calgary is the innovation transfer and business incubator centre for the University of Calgary. As part of the Office of the Vice-President (Research) portfolio and as a member of the UCalgary innovation ecosystem, we work closely with researchers, faculty, and students to help bridge the gap between discovery and creating economic and societal impact.

Social Innovation Week puts the spotlight on those who help mobilize academic research into solutions that benefit society. From Oct. 11 to 14, participate in a mash-up of activities hosted by members of UCalgary’s vast ecosystem and community. Learn more

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