Editorial: Becoming AWARE of those underrepresented in entrepreneurship

It’s good, but it’s not enough.

University enrollment of African-American students increased 5.4 percent in the past year, but the University enrolled more African-American students in 1968 than in 2015.https://www.dailyillini.com/article/2015/09/dmiJT

Over the past three years, the College of Engineering increased enrollment of women by 25 percent, but women still make up less than 20 percent of engineering students.https://www.dailyillini.com/article/2015/09/engineeringJT

For every piece of positive news about the progress made in diversity and equality, an inevitable qualifier lurks around the corner to rightfully undermine it. We managed to plant a few trees, but the forest continues to be cut down.

So when the University’s Research Park received a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the amount of entrepreneurial startups and small businesses created by women and minorities, looking for the following qualifier seemed only natural.JT

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    According to a survey by Pew Research Center, in 2012 women owned about 36.2 percent of the nation’s businesses and earned 11.3 percent of the total revenueJT. Black, Asian and Hispanic owned businesses comprised 28.6 percent of the nation’s total businesses and earned 10.4 percent of the total revenue.http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/09/01/businesses-owned-by-women-minorities-lag-in-revenue-share/JT

    The Accelerating Women and underRepresented Entrepreneurs program created by the grant stands as an excellent effort to expand the amount of resources available to underrepresented groups.

    The wealth of connections and resources at the University’s disposal places it in a unique position to directly gear such opportunities toward people who may have a harder time coming by these resources.

    Nevertheless, the $100,000 grant given can feel like a drop in the ocean when used as an effort to balance the $1.6 trillion earned by minority-owned businesses in comparison to the $12.7 trillion earned by white male businesses.JT

    The continuing, seemingly unending efforts to fight against inequality can be exhausting, especially when such an imbalance not only should have been corrected long ago, but also should not have even come about in the first place.

    Progress takes time, and efforts like the AWARE program are essential to help women and underrepresented groups achieve the advances that should have been available to them long ago.

    Even so, the struggle for equality at times can feel like the plight of Sisyphus, constantly rolling an immense boulder up a hill with no end in sight.

    It’s good, but it’s not enough.