Women in Innovation: Did You Know?
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Women in Innovation: Did You Know?

Happy International Women’s Day from the Harvard Innovation Labs. In honor of Women’s History Month, learn more about women in innovation at Harvard and beyond.

six diverse women founders

Harvard is among the best universities for female entrepreneurship and funding, according to Pitchbook data.

According to Pitchbook’s fall 2023 rankings of the number of female founders coming out of top global universities, Harvard University ranks first for undergraduate students, with $6.1 billion raised, and second for graduate students, with $7.4 billion raised.

More than half of the ventures accepted into the Launch Lab X GEO accelerator are led by women.

For the last two years, the Harvard Innovation Labs’ alumni accelerator cohorts have achieved gender parity, with more than 50% of accepted ventures being founded or cofounded by women.

Meet this year’s Launch Lab X Geo cohort.

Batten Hall, the home of the Harvard Innovation Labs, once housed the WGBH studio where Julia Child filmed her cooking show.

WGBH occupied 125 Western Avenue, now known as Batten Hall, from 1964 until 2007. Julia Child, the pioneering chef, author, and television personality, filmed her iconic TV show, “The French Chef,” in Studio A, previously located on the second floor of Batten. Her exuberant personality, passion for food, and emphasis on accessible culinary techniques revolutionized home cooking and inspired generations of cooks worldwide.

Watch: Henry Becton, former president of the WGBH Educational Foundation, tours Batten Hall shortly after the i-lab’s creation.

Companies founded by women receive less than 3 percent of all venture capital investments, according to a recent article from the Harvard Business Review, and under 15 percent of all investors identify as women.

Studies have shown women are more likely to invest in companies founded by women, so increasing the number of women venture capitalists could help counter these trends. Cue Isabella Mandis ’26, a sophomore studying computer science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. She aims to bridge the gender gap in venture capital with Girls Into VC. According to Forbes, which included Isabella on its 30 Under 30 Boston list, it’s the “first organization focused on increasing the number of women in venture capital, particularly at the high school and collegiate levels. Within its first six months, [Girls Into VC] has grown to over 2,000 members from 40 countries across six continents.”

More than 50 women entrepreneurs currently support i-lab students and ventures through our Office Hours and mentor programs.

Additionally, 100+ women are participating as judges in this year’s President’s Innovation Challenge!

Nine semifinalists in the President’s Innovation Challenge are focused on improving the lives of women and girls.

The President’s Innovation Challenge is our global venture competition that celebrates innovative ventures led by students and select alumni from all 13 Harvard schools. Save the date for the awards ceremony on May 1 when we announce which teams will receive a share of $515,000 in nondilutive funding to propel their ventures forward.

Semifinalist ventures that are working to address unmet needs for women at all ages and stages include:

  • B Love (Harvard Business School) is a topical liquid applied to the nipple during pregnancy that helps women proactively prepare for breastfeeding and help prevent bleeding and cracking.
  • The Black Girl’s Dream Initiative (Harvard Graduate School of Education) transforms education for young African women by providing out-of-classroom experiences that improve technical skills and soft skills.
  • Free My Period (Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts & Sciences) supports the design, production, and distribution of menstrual underwear to help girls and women achieve financial, mental, and physical freedom.
  • Lotus (Harvard College) is a digital community that fosters connection and conversation among adolescent women+ with reproductive health conditions and/or concerns.
  • Mai Soli Foundation (Harvard Graduate School of Education) uses education and entrepreneurship to prevent child marriage for at-risk young girls in Bangladesh.
  • Selene Health (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) provides personalized supplements, herbal remedies, and a digital health app for women experiencing menopausal symptoms.
  • shoal (Harvard Business School) is a fitness platform that helps women build workout habits with tight-knit social groups and engaging livestream content.
  • Society of Women Coders (Harvard Graduate School of Education) battles gender-based digital inequality in low to middle income countries and marginalized communities.
  • Systole Health (Harvard Business School) is transforming women’s heart health through group telehealth, leveraging the power of modern medicine, technology, and community.

Register to join us at the 2024 President’s Innovation Challenge Awards Ceremony on May 1.