Challenging Assumptions About Entrepreneurship

photo of El-Java outside the Whitman School, posing with a suit and mask

Challenging Assumptions About Entrepreneurship

The undergraduate and master’s level elective course, Minority and Woman's Entrepreneurship: Race, Gender and Entrepreneurial Opportunity, is a hidden gem that presents perspectives on entrepreneurship not often studied.

"Readings, assignments and guest speakers cover practical and theoretical information on topics ranging from propensity and motivation to performance and growth strategies," says El-Java Abdul-Qadir ’98 (A&S), G’01 (Falk/A&S), director of the Southside Innovation Center (SSIC) and adjunct professor who teaches the course. "Our conceptualization of traditionally marginalized populations includes ethnic and racial minorities, women, immigrants and refugees, individuals with disabilities and veterans. We also discuss the impact of socio-economic status, cross-sectionality and socio-political factors that impact challenges and opportunities entrepreneurs face in the contemporary global economy."

In the course, Abdul-Qadir supplements scholarly work in the field of minority and women entrepreneurship with his firsthand experience from the clients with whom the SSIC works, many of whom fall into one of those categories. In 2020, these entrepreneurs are facing challenges never before seen with the impact of a pandemic on their small businesses and start-ups. Many have had to make major business decisions very quickly with or without the necessary resources and funding. Creativity and innovation, as well as persistence are needed, according to Abdul-Qadir, and it's not always easy to reflect on what these individuals are going through.

"It is unique because it provides a good mix of practical and theoretical content while engaging students to challenge their assumptions about entrepreneurship in a manner that is both critical and empowering," he says.

Designed to provide a clear sense of historical and ideological perspectives appropriate to the phenomenon of entrepreneurship as it pertains to individuals from marginalized populations, it is the first course from the Whitman School to be included as part of the University’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) initiative.

Kimmy Kimball