Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Women's Leadership

Babson College: The Gender Enlightened Business School

Harvard Business School recently launched a new Gender Initiative “to support research, teaching, and knowledge dissemination that promotes gender equity in business and society.” We applaud and welcome Harvard to this vitally important discussion. The Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) at Babson College—now in its 15th year as the thought and action leader for gender enlightened and inclusive business schools—encourages all of our peers in higher education to advance gender equity as a growth strategy for individuals, organizations and society.

There is an extraordinary opportunity ahead for leaders who understand how gender diversity improves corporate performance, increases collective team intelligence, and expands economic opportunity. Just as important is the “perspective dividend” that a gender diverse workforce brings to the table: men and women often experience, see and solve different problems leading to more comprehensive innovations. The global leaders of tomorrow must learn how to bring all human potential to bear on the world’s most pressing problems and extraordinary opportunities.

WIN Lab participants

WIN Lab participants

At CWEL, we know that changing deeply held, often unconscious assumptions about leadership and power requires entrepreneurial approaches to education which start with campus-wide culture change. This kind of deep shift begins with courageous self-examination of existing dominant norms from teaching materials, to classroom dynamics, to institutional narratives and optics.

Babson’s approach to creating a gender enlightened campus uses the same Entrepreneurial Thought and Action™ method we teach our students: all that is needed to start is the desire for a new direction. You then work with the resources at hand (engaged faculty, staff and students); determine what you are willing to invest (resistance, reputation, time, budget); and enroll others in the journey (College leadership, alumni and partners in the external eco-system).

Over the past 15 years, we’ve been moving ahead one fast, smart experiment at a time to create a robust portfolio of Gender Enlightenment activities including gender awareness education for all undergraduates; explicit goals for gender balance in campus-wide events; multiple faculty “gender research roundtables” each year; a task force that examines gender in the classroom; and a speaker series that brings gender experts to campus including Jackson Katz, Donald McPherson, and Liz Canner.

Filmmaker Liz Canner

Filmmaker Liz Canner

This year alone, CWEL’s award-winning programs and news-making events include:

  • Launching the Gender Film Initiative, a series of video vignettes designed to engage students in understanding gender at work
  • Delivering “Gender Matters” presentation at the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business annual Deans Conference
  • Sponsoring the pioneering research report Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital, which provided the first comprehensive analysis of U.S. venture capital investments in women entrepreneurs in 15 years
  • Completing our second year of the award-winning Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab, a rigorous program for women entrepreneurs that provides education, resources, peer community and networks to grow early-stage businesses
  • Forming a partnership with the City of Boston’s Women on Main initiative and welcomed five Boston-based women entrepreneurs to the WIN Lab, tuition free
  • Announcing the first annual Babson Breakaway Challenge; scheduled for March 2, 2016, the Challenge will boost the visibility of female entrepreneurs; support the winner with a $250,000 prize; and build a pipeline of women venture capitalists

As a leading business school that takes great pride in its commitment to understanding and teaching gender equity, we’re heartened that other institutions are realizing how critical this mission is. At Babson College, we will continue to do what we’ve been doing for the past 15 years: advancing gender equity as a growth strategy for individuals and for organizations of all sizes, everywhere in the world.