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Marisa Mejric at SoGal meetup in Sarajevo, June 2019

On the Mission of Economic Equality

For us at Startup Grind, June is the month we celebrate women in entrepreneurship, female leaders making a difference in their communities and around the globe. Some of them we know, some we read about and admire, while some unfortunately go unnoticed. To honor all of their work, we will dedicate the following weeks to women’s entrepreneurial stories!

The second June story is about Marisa Mejric, business development specialist and leader of the Seattle chapter of SoGal, an organisation aiming to educate and empower diverse entrepreneurs, and close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship. Marisa also founded the Sarajevan chapter of SoGal, enabling local female entrepreneurs and those interested in pursuing entrepreneurship to network and learn from one another. She shared with us her view on the importance of female entrepreneurship, and on its state in Bosnia and Herzegovina today.

Hello Marisa, and thank you for agreeing to do the interview with us. Can you tell us a bit about your career path and how that led you to SoGal?

I started my career back in 2008, in IT, working for several IT companies in Business Development and Product Management. Having honored a senior position relatively early in my career it was clear to me that the underrepresentation of women in IT and women in senior positions poses a serious problem to economic equality. There are many factors that contribute to disparity in the IT space. Participation of women in Entrepreneurship and VC is one, another is the inclusion of women in Education, specifically STEM studies, other factors include Gender Pay Gap and Gender Inheritance Systems.

For example, in Seattle, as one of the largest and fastest growing software development hubs, backed up by Microsoft, Amazon, Google and other giants, the gender wage gap is one of the highest in the nation. We might as well ask why? On average, only 26% of U.S. tech jobs are filled by women. In Seattle, that number drops down to about 21%. The more educated Seattle women are, the wider the gender pay gap becomes.

This pattern points to a continuing struggle with gender equality not just in the beating heart of Seattle’s economy (the tech industry), but on a larger scale.

How did your interest in female entrepreneurship come about?

History tracks Ada Lovelace as the first programmer and writer of the world’s first machine algorithm. I was intrigued by how to solve the problem of economic inequalities and early on I came to the realization that tackling gender inequality and diversity is one of the first steps. Inclusion of women in tech followed by inclusion of diverse teams seemed to be an early solution for challenges we face in the IT industry.

If we recount that women only get 3% of VC investments, we might as well acknowledge the fact that it is based on ingrained biases, as investors tend to invest in similar backgrounds to their own. Today in US we have less than 10 % of Female decision makers at VC firms.

Female entrepreneurship is one of the key factors in the re-distribution of wealth and economic equality.

How did the founding of SoGal Sarajevo Chapter come about? What were some activities you had while you were working on the initiative in Sarajevo?

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a vibrant female startup scene, having Bizbook as a successful domestic startup. I wanted to connect Bosnia to US female-funded VC companies to introduce more diversity, equality and opportunity to both. SoGal came to know about Bosnia and Herzegovina and supports the mission of empowering and investing in the startup scene from day one.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country with diverse nationalities, should be at the forefront of SoGal initiative in solving the gender gap in entrepreneurship and VC. SoGal Sarajevo builds a stronger entrepreneurship community with access to a global network.

A crowded SoGal meetup in Sarajevo’s famous Meeting Point Cinema, June 2019

What is the state of female entrepreneurship in Bosnia and Herzegovina? How do you see it developing in years to come?

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a growing startup scene, however it is one led by female and diverse entrepreneurs. I do believe that Bosnian and Herzegovinian reform in STEM could help female entrepreneurs to create and build sustainable products that could improve the economic state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I would love to see more domestic products with a special focus on tech products that are developed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and launched globally. We all do need to support, protect and invest the beating heart of Bosnia’s economy, the tech industry.

For those reading who would like to support or join SoGal in Sarajevo, how should we go about it?

Currently the chapter lead in Bosnia is Erna Sosevic, CEO of Bizbook. sarajevo@iamsogal.com SoGal Sarajevo supports all female and minority entrepreneurs as a vibrant community that can connect to 100K+ network and with 50+ chapters globally. SoGal Sarajevo is open to local sponsors and partnerships that support female and diverse entrepreneurs. SoGal global competition pitch is held every year in San Francisco.

I lead the chapter in Seattle, and I am open to connect with anyone who needs our support in US.

Thank you for reading our story!

We are a small team dedicated to the startup community of Sarajevo, who collects entrepreneurial stories for sarajevo.tech and organizes awesome fireside chats and panels within Startup Grind Sarajevo. Stay updated for more events and stories and subscribe here.

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