Diversity & Inclusion
Career development / DEI / Entrepreneurs / Women in tech

PSL is leading with a focus on women and nonbinary founders in 2024

The entrepreneurship nonprofit launched a mentorship program and is partnering to host a pitch competition at the Grace Hopper Celebration in Philly this fall.

Philly Startup Leaders CEO Isabelle Kent and Women in Tech Summit founder Gloria Bell in December 2022 (Courtesy Shawn Reid)
The image of a stereotypical “tech bro” might seem outdated, but stats show women are still highly undervalued when it comes to venture capital.

Between its new mentorship program, a new nonprofit partnership and an ongoing collaboration, Philly Startup Leaders is addressing this disparity by purposely focusing on ways to support female and nonbinary founders.

Widely known as PSL, the 15-year-old organization that supports entrepreneurs and startups this month launched the Ceiling Smashers initiative in partnership with the Women in Tech Summit.

The initiative will include in-person gatherings, but it’s about more than just convening, PSL CEO Isabelle Kent told Technical.ly. The Ceiling Smashers Leadership Training Program will run from May to September and cover topics such as sales, operations, investing, leadership and people management.

“Not only did we want to create an event series that convenes senior women leaders and rising leaders in the spirit of mentorship,” Kent said, “we wanted to create a transferable upskilling opportunity for women as founders and CEOs.”

Only 7% of US climate tech venture capital funding went to female founders in 2023, according to GreenBiz. Across all sectors last year, women only made up 13.2% of startup founders, according to Carta, and held just 35% of tech jobs in the US, per the Women Tech Network.

PSL is also partnering with AnitaB.org, a national organization that supports women and nonbinary people in the technology field that is hosting the Grace Hopper Celebration in Philly this fall. The conference for women and nonbinary technologists hosts the annual PitchHER competition.

“AnitaB.org wanted to ensure that this year’s iteration of PitcHER focuses on local partnerships to contribute to the growth and development of the existing ecosystem of entrepreneurs,” said Amanda Hill-Attkisson, AnitaB.org’s VP of individual impact.

It’s an opportunity to highlight the region’s innovation and entrepreneurship community in an inclusive way, Gloria Bell, chairperson of the org’s Legacy Leaders Council, told Technical.ly.

“With this partnership, we want to see a strong Philadelphia region representation in the applications,” Bell said. “We know there are a number of great companies being built by women and nonbinary founders in this area and we hope to see them represented in the competition. “

The competition targets entrepreneurs from all industries running early-stage tech startups. Competition finalists will be in the running to earn a share of $100,000 in funding. Winners will also receive mentorship from competition judges and be invited to next year’s Grace Hopper Celebration.

Applications are open now through April 12. Semifinalists will be announced on April 22 and receive coaching from PSL. 10 finalists will be announced in May. These entrepreneurs will give 3- to 5-minute pitches at the conference and three winners will be chosen.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Women in Tech Summit / Philly Startup Leaders

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