Revealing only 17% of venture-backed companies across the globe are founded by women, Kendra Scott, designer and CEO of her eponymous jewelry company, unveiled the plans for her UT Austin Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute at a campus event on Tuesday. Scott said the Institute will open in spring 2020.
To address the lack of representation of women in business, the Institute seeks to establish a community of diversity and inclusivity. Scott said it will redefine leadership and entrepreneurship by making a space for women to learn from industry successes and become creative female leaders.
Following the event, the Texan and other news outlets spoke further with Scott about her plans for the Institute and her partnership with the University. The Texan also spoke with Jan Ryan, UT executive director of entrepreneurship and innovation, who will head entrepreneurial student involvement with the program.
Q: During your Sept. 24 Female Power panel, actress Freida Pinto mentioned that preparation is everything. How long have you prepared for this partnership, and what thought has gone into the building’s layout and location?
Kendra Scott: It’s been almost two years. It sparked as an idea long before then because we were already doing so much with the University. I have 49 UT grads working for me at our corporate headquarters, so UT is a big part of our company. This space is part of having a place where women feel safe, where they can gather and be vulnerable, where students can be there for each other, network and learn. As an artist, I’m excited about this space being in the fine arts building. It is going to be beautiful and awe-inspiring come September 2020.
Q: What do you think the impact of this program will be, and how will it influence UT business and entrepreneurship?
Jan Ryan: I believe we will look back in one decade and see this as the beginning of something that significantly changes Austin. I also think it will open a lot of doors that have never opened before for our students. It will galvanize the community. It will bring more mentors. It will have more leaders step up and help. I think we’re beginning something that’s going to significantly impact our University and our city.
Q: Kendra mentioned that Dell will be sponsoring the Institute. To what extent will Dell support the building, the program and the UT students involved?
Ryan: This is a new relationship, so I’m not sure we know a lot of the details. But it’s a technology partnership, and it’s one of many that will happen. It will empower women at the University to use tools they didn’t have access to before and understand more about how the technology world works by having mentors and leadership within Dell come alongside us.
Q: What is your most significant piece of advice to women who enter a room full of men when they’re the only woman there?
Scott: Immediately go in with your head high knowing you have confidence and you know your material. You have a seat at that table — do not be afraid to show it. You don’t have to do that by being loud. You can do it by being vulnerable and honest. I think honesty is refreshing in any boardroom today.