Women innovators and immigration reform
by Natalia Oberti Noguera, Founder & CEO, Pipeline
My voice is not represented on at least three counts in the immigration reform debate led by the VC community.
Firstly, most of the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists advocating for the startup visa, loosening of H1B caps, as well as creating visas for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates are men. I wonder how current immigration policies impact the flow of women innovators to and from the United States, and elsewhere in the world. More voices, particularly from women innovators, will provide additional insight and support for immigration reform.
Secondly, although organizations, such as NCWIT, are doing their part to increase the number of female STEM graduates, I believe we should include non-STEM graduates—women and men—into the conversation. As an entrepreneur who holds a degree from an academic institution in the United States (BA in Comparative Literature and Economics from Yale), is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Organizational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is half-Colombian half-Italian, I am an example of talent not yet recognized by immigration reform advocates when they explain “why skilled immigrants are leaving the U.S..” Game-changing ventures launched by liberal arts majors include Acumen Fund (Founder & CEO Jacqueline Novogratz holds a BA in Economics/International Relations from University of Virginia), Flickr (co-Founder Caterina Fake holds a BA in English Literature from Vassar College), and Sustainable South Bronx (Founder Majora Carter holds a BA in Film Studies from Wesleyan University). Immigration reform should support skilled talent inside and outside of STEM.
Thirdly, many women innovators and social entrepreneurs choose to launch nonprofits. I’m an advocate for collaboration and knowledge-sharing between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Practically speaking, depending on the mission of a social venture startup, a different legal structure will make sense. This is why a broader view provided by the social entrepreneurship landscape that includes nonprofit alongside for-profit startups is needed when advocating for immigration reform.
What if a co-founder could sponsor her non-U.S. citizen co-founder for a green card? What if employees could sponsor their boss? What if foundations awarded visas, in addition to grants? Let me know what other ideas you come up with that take into account women innovators and social entrepreneurs who do not fit the STEM profile, or the for-profit requirement. I will explore these three proposals and your ideas in my next post.
Natalia is Founder and CEO of Pipeline. She is passionate about women’s empowerment, harnessing her knowledge of co-mentoring practices, talent development, social innovation, and change management to support and promote women innovators. Natalia holds a BA from Yale in Comparative Literature & Economics, and an MSc in International Health Care Management from Bocconi University. She is currently completing an MA in Organizational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. In addition to English, Natalia is fluent in Spanish, Italian, and French (she is proficient in Russian and is determined to learn Mandarin). Natalia serves on the founding board of Fast Forward Fund, a youth-to-youth social venture fund, and you can find her on Twitter (@nakisnakis).