Since its inception, the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership has made invaluable contributions to the Babson community and the world through its influential programs, cutting edge research, and collaborative partnerships.
The Center was founded in 1999, on the thirtieth anniversary of Babson’s admission of female undergraduate students, when President Lee Higdon formed a task force to study the experiences of women students. That same year, the College admitted the first entering class of the Women’s Leadership Program (WLP). The following year, the Center for Women’s Leadership (the CWL, precursor to the CWEL) was founded, and Professor Nan Langowitz named Director. The CWL was the first major comprehensive academic center focused on Women’s Leadership at a premier school of business.
Under the leadership of Directors Langowitz, Professor Susan Danish, and Professor Jan Shubert, the CWL built a strong foundation of innovative campus programming and initiatives, including: WLP events and Special Interest Tower housing; mentoring programs for graduate and undergraduate women; Gender and Diversity dialogues and workshops; Moving from Managing to Leading Executive Program; community building for women faculty; the pioneering CWL website and blog; and the powerful Women’s Leadership Annual Conferences from 2000–2009. The CWL’s efforts also included crucial work on campus, like providing resources for students, faculty, and staff in the areas of gender and business, leadership, and academia; advocating for balanced gender ratios among students, student leaders, and campus program speakers; as well as offering role models to students, faculty and staff.
Over the years as the Center grew, its leaders and programs made an immense impact on campus life and beyond. A small sample of Center publication achievements include: the Top 100 Woman-Led Businesses in Massachusetts and Initiator of GEM Women research Reports. There were also projects on women in family business, women’s business centers, and women of color entrepreneurs; Projects supported by the Babson Faculty Research Fund; Babson Scholars leading their fields with innovative research on gender, and many, many more.
In addition, the list of CWL collaborations and partnerships, extends far beyond the following impressive list: Founding Forte School; Supporter of Springboard Enterprises; Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on GEM Women data; The Commonwealth Institute on Women CEOs; Association of Women’s Business Centers on WBC impact; Center for Women’s Business Research on Symposia for Women Entrepreneurs of Color; Ernst & Young’s Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women Competition, and the Center for Women’s Business Research.
In May 2010, a new Taskforce focused on the CWL, issued a report entitled Babson CWL 2020: What’s Needed to Make an Outsized Impact? The report documented CWL’s tremendous decade of accomplishments and called on Babson to “reinvest” and “refocus” resources in order to realize the Center “as a living laboratory for advancing the progress of women as contributors to social and economic value ... everywhere.”
In 2011–2012, new leadership to the renamed Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, builds on a strong history and works toward the Center’s strategic initiatives. Our outsized impact can be felt on the Babson campus and beyond.
2012 also marked the year that the CWEL team launched a new, innovative program specifically designed to address the needs of women entrepreneurs. After seeing female entrepreneurship students participating in startup programs on campus at lower rates than their male counterparts, the CWEL staff got to work launching the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab, where Babson undergraduates, graduates, and alumnae spend five months building their businesses on their own terms. After a successful three years executing the program, interest arose in the City of Miami to launch WIN there as their startup ecosystem continued to grow. With a major donation from the Knight Foundation, Miami WIN Lab was launched in 2015, making Babson College the only institution offering an accelerator for women entrepreneurs.