Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators

Gender in Your Program

How you position (or don’t position) gender in your incubator or accelerator program may significantly impact your program’s success and the degree to which you are able to provide support to your entrepreneurs.


This section discusses how gender can be considered the lifecycle of your accelerator or incubator program, starting with the recruitment of entrepreneurs, followed by the selection of entrepreneurs, your program design and delivery, and ending on your post-program support.

Recruiting a Diverse Cohort of Entrepreneurs

Attracting the best entrepreneurs is a powerful and consistent source of competitive advantage for accelerators and incubators, enabling you to attract more funding, build a stronger brand, and achieve your impact goals.

Having gender diversity across your cohorts is a key way to diversify your and your investors’ portfolios. Running mixed-gender programs enhances the cohort’s learning experience by bringing a diversity of thought and insights into the needs of users and customers who identify with different gendered groups.

If you want to attract a diverse range of applicants, you might want to:

1. Review and revise your marketing and advertising collateral to replace any gender-charged language with more neutral words and phrases.

2. Advertise your program on a range of communication channels that cater to different gendered groups.

3. Include a number of highly-experienced female facilitators and mentors that other female entrepreneurs can relate to.

4. Partner with alumni and community groups to activate different communities/groups who work with the gender(s) you are trying to attract.

Practical Tip

Gender discrimination is sytemic, meaning that the types of entrepreneurs that you may want to apply for your program may be prevented from doing so because of other barriers that they already face in society.

Try and help to overcome some of these barriers by offering to work with interested entrepreneurs to complete their application form, if required.

Running a pre-program to attract capable entrepreneurs who need support can also help to get these ventures to a stage where your program is suitable for them.

Selecting a Diverse Cohort of Entrepreneurs

Achieving gender diversity in your applicant pool may not lead to a gender diverse cohort if your selection process advantages certain gendered groups over others.  It is important to become aware of, and mitigate, any unconscious biases that may be present when shortlisting and selecting entrepreneurs.

If you want to encourage diversity in your selected cohort, you might want to:

1. Review your selection criteria and ensure that it does not favour one gender over another.


2. Ensure that all genders are represented from the team at every stage of the selection process e.g. at networking events, on interview panels. This will ensure that diversity is ‘seen’ by applicants and decisions are made by a diverse team.

Practical Tip

You may consider removing the implicit bias that your team has by incorporating blind selection into your process.

This is done by removing or de-identifying names, age, and any other identifying factors when shortlisting entrepreneurs in the pre-interview stage of selection.

Designing an Inclusive Program

Accelerator and incubator programs can vary in duration and in how they deliver value to, and what they expect from, the entrepreneurs who they support. Entrepreneurs are also likely to differ in the way that they are able to receive, learn and apply information. Your program location and logistics as well as the way that your content is designed can be key inhibiting factors for applicants from particular gendered groups.

If you want to design your program so that it caters to a wide range of entrepreneurs, you might want to:

1. Consider the location of your program, and what could make it more accessible to all entrepreneurs, regardless of gender.


2. Understand the time and resource requirements for participating in your program and communicate these clearly to your cohort and consider adapting these if needed.

Practical Tip

Work with your entrepreneurs to understand their level of technical ability so you can cater your program content accordingly.

3. Create robust templates and frameworks for entrepreneurs to work through at their own pace to cater for different abilities and skill levels.


4. Include content to address gender and power issues within the curriculum so entrepreneurs can also incorporate gender practices in their enterprises.


Entrepreneurs will likely have a range of competing demands on their time that will affect their ability to engage with your program.

Often, these demands will be different for people of different genders and differ depending on country and region.

It is important to be conscious of how these external factors may be affecting your entrepreneurs. You may want to try to find ways to minimise the disruption e.g. by scheduling meetings at a time that doesn’t clash with family commitments.

Delivering an Inclusive Program

The way your program is delivered can greatly privilege some gendered groups while disadvantaging others. It is important to create a safe and inclusive learning space for all entrepreneurs, to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to engage with the content being delivered.

If you want to deliver your program so that it caters to a wide range of entrepreneurs, you might want to:

1. Have a gender-diverse pool of mentors and facilitators in your program.


2. Create a clear mentor/mentee code of conduct that both parties sign up to.

Practical Tip

Consider power dynamics that may occur when matching different genders as mentors and mentees. Hold regular check-ins to ensure that negative power dynamics are identified (if any) and addressed.

3. Be deliberate about creating a safe learning environment where everyone feels comfortable to contribute, and all voices are heard.


4. Have support facilitators to help with language or other areas where additional technical support may be needed.

Practical Tip

Hold relevant trainings for mentors, facilitators and all other content deliverers, so they understand how they can create a safe environment that is conducive to learning for all entrepreneurs.

  • Language plays a really critical role in not only privileging some genders but in creating negative power dynamics if not properly adapted to the context.



The role that you can play to promote gender and equality to others in your ecosystem