We had the good fortune of connecting with Avni Barman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Avni, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Having worked for various tech companies and always being the only female on the team, I was compelled to personally reassess the lack of gender diversity in technology. While many companies have already addressed this with numerous diversity initiatives for recruiting more women, only 20% of women hold these tech jobs. While this bottom-up approach is essential, we remain far from achieving a gender balance in leadership positions and our general workforce. Worse, every day fewer women are starting their own companies due to a variety of factors stemming from an absence of moral support and guidance at a young age, understanding of entrepreneurial risks, and lack of resources to pursue an idea.
Culture shifts start from the top. I believe that if we approach this problem top-down as well, with a goal to have more women and non-binary people leading companies, the workplace culture will naturally shift towards improved diversity. With this approach, we can more rapidly attain gender balance in the workplace.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I was a student in the [USC IYA](https://iovine-young.usc.edu/) program, where every senior develops a project that ideally leads to operational prototypes and viable enterprises. I knew I wanted to do something to close the gender gap. This was a topic I felt extremely passionate about and I spent the summer before my senior year doing tons of research and talking to a lot of people. From all this research, I concluded that if we expose young girls to entrepreneurship when they are most impressionable and still developing their interests, we may empower more young women to be leaders. Teaching young girls entrepreneurial skills early on increases the likelihood of long-term success with their ventures.
Our first major initiative was inviting high schoolers in Los Angeles to attend our She Leads Entrepreneurship Makeathon on March 9-10th at Snap Inc. headquarters. During these two days, students actively engaged in discussions with female entrepreneurs (i.e. founders of Sugarfina, Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP, Knock Knock Stuff etc.) and learned design thinking, ideation, product development, and marketing from industry leaders at Snapchat, General Assembly, verynice, and more. Students were able to gain effective communication and leadership skills, alongside a fully developed idea in preparation for a pitch competition at the end of the makeathon.
We found a unique niche in the nonprofit sector. Although entrepreneurship programs exist for high school students, none focus exclusively on girls. While we do not limit our platform to women, we believe that catering our brand to that demographic is important. Current brands that do target young girls (like Girls Who Code) do not emphasize ownership and entrepreneurship. However, our intention is not to compete with organizations like Girls Who Code but to supplement the leadership skills that may be missing from their program.
Unfortunately (or fortunately?) our She Leads makeathon brought a lot of attention to our org and the owners of the She Leads trademark owners reached out asking us to stop using their TM. So we took She Leads, built upon it with everything we learned, and created Generation She (Gen She for short). We’ve grown a lot since our beginning, and the She Leads’ mission still drives us.
Since I was graduating in a few months, we decided to have a re-org. Lots of team members left and joined. We had proven people really wanted what we were offering and that we had lots of potential to grow and expand this org into something much bigger. I moved to SF to work full-time at Atlassian as a product manager and the team officially had its first remote team member. We were ready to bring Generation She to SF. In January 2020, we had our second makeathon in SF at Lyft HQ and it was immediately sold-out success! This past year, we also had over 6500 attendees tune into your virtual makeathon. Check it out here: [https://706b1ac0-267a-46ce-b7ce-a2fc31317b7e.filesusr.com/ugd/808717_6c70d4ea9538478f90304b0ab50f03f6.pdf](https://706b1ac0-267a-46ce-b7ce-a2fc31317b7e.filesusr.com/ugd/808717_6c70d4ea9538478f90304b0ab50f03f6.pdf)
In the long term, we want to reach more girls beyond California. In order to expand the brand globally, we’ve launched the Generation She High School Clubs Program. Our High School Clubs Program aims to encourage more young women and non-binary people to pursue careers in business and leadership. We achieve this by giving high school students an inspiring and supportive community to grow their entrepreneurial skills through our unique curriculum, resources, and network. We already have over 70 sign ups from 10 countries, and are so excited to be able to reach more girls and non-binary people worldwide! Any interested high schoolers can apply to start a club at their school at generationshe.co/clubs!
We’re here to nurture an entrepreneurial spirit within high schoolers by providing a foundation for idea exploration and implementation through workshops in real industry skills. We cultivate community throughout the year with exclusive access to mentorship for makeathon attendees, an online community for girls to meet female founders, discuss solutions, and dream big with one another, and our high school clubs curriculum. There is no better way for girls to prepare for the future than to harness their intellectual curiosity and channel it into something extraordinary. Gen She encourages young people to take the leap and create their own “something.”
Ultimately, we envision the girls that make up the Gen She community today leading the powerful, global workforce of tomorrow — one that is female positive.
We plan to be at the forefront of this movement. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The Gen She core team! I want to highlight the incredible work they have done in launching the Generation She High School Clubs Program. The program was created to reach and empower more high school students to realize their entrepreneurial potential. No matter where you are in the world, you have the opportunity to bring Generation She to your own school and join us in our initiative to close the gender gap. I know that as a high school student I would have greatly benefitted from a program like this, and we are beyond excited to be sharing this program with the world!