By Ella Gorodetzky
Ariel Beck, 19, is a 2022 recipient of the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award. Beck was recognized for her nonprofit organization Girls Who Start, which she founded in 2016 when she was 13. Since then, the organization has grown to 50 chapters with over 2,500 members.
Beck is a Bethesda native, a graduate of Sidwell Friends School in Washington, and attends Harvard College in Cambridge, Mass., where she will be a sophomore this fall studying economics and government.
What is Girls Who Start?
Girls Who Start is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The primary difference we seek to make is to combat the gender inequality embedded in the business world. Our mission is to inspire middle school, high school and college girls to become entrepreneurs and leaders, and we do this in three ways. We inspire by creating events that showcase new entrepreneurs; we build by creating workshops and hackathons to help girls develop their leadership skills; and we connect by creating a community of future female entrepreneurs and leaders who want to change the world.
Also, our local chapters develop speaking events, design challenges, skill building workshops and also engage in discussions about female entrepreneurship and leadership. We’re currently in the U.S., Canada, China, Switzerland and India. Also, many of our members have started their own ventures as a result of our programming, only proving that we really can impact and increase the number of women founding companies and impacting
What motivated you to start your organization?
I’ve grown up with a female entrepreneur as a mother and so I’ve always been surrounded by female entrepreneurship, but I never really knew how it had an effect on my life until I was 13. I had the opportunity to attend Amazon’s first Women Entrepreneurs Conference in 2016. And at this conference, I listened to women detail the lack of credit and representation that they’d received throughout their careers, and in this moment, I realized how fortunate I had been to be surrounded by female role models my whole life. But I wanted to help other young women gain the same experience and I knew I wanted to become more invested in promoting female entrepreneurship.
When I went home, I did more research on this, and I uncovered startling information. At the time, I discovered that only 5% of venture capital funding went to female founded companies, meaning 95% of all venture capital funding went to male founded companies. And these numbers were absolutely striking to me and I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to changing these statistics.
What is your favorite aspect of Judaism in college?
In college, I think it’s really interesting to seek out that community of Jewish students from all over the world, but also find those people who have similar interests, both within the Jewish community but also outside, whether that’s academics or extracurriculars. I’ve definitely been able to find that Jewish community that I’ve been seeking out at Harvard by attending events and meeting new people.
Upon arriving at Harvard this past year, I sought out the Jewish community by connecting with my fellow students at both Hillel and Chabad. I attended Chabad for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah services. I also lit the Chanukah candles with my economics professor and the president of the university. Also, in my free time at school, I like to bake challah at the Harvard Hillel and all of the proceeds go to the local homeless shelter.
What is your advice to women wanting to make a change?
Anyone can change the world no matter their age, it really just starts with seeing a problem you want to solve and then starting by doing one thing to try and solve it and one thing leads to the next thing. For example, with Girls Who Start, under 10 attendees showed up at our first event and today we’re at over 2,500 members. If you told me back then that this is where we’d be today, I wouldn’t believe it, but it really does start with taking one step.
I would also say, “be the change.” It’s easy to have an idea, but it’s hard to start. And again, even one event could turn into something you never even imagined. It’s important to find the gap. In order for an idea to be new and innovative, you need to solve a problem. So think about something in your own life or ask family members and friends problems that they have faced and really target one of those.