Babson College Helping Empower Women in School and Beyond
Despite improvements in recent years, women remain underrepresented in MBA classrooms and don’t participate in the global economy to the same extent as men. It’s a persistent issue, but one that many business schools and foundations are working to address by demonstrating successful female leadership and implementing programs to empower women in business. As a part of that effort, Babson College and the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business recently announced that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would address their undergraduate and graduate students during their commencement ceremonies.
“We are so excited to have President Sirleaf deliver Babson’s Commencement address this year,” Danielle Yetman, Senior Associate Director of Graduate Admissions at Babson College, told us in an interview. “As a global leader, first female president of an African nation, and constant advocate for women, President Sirleaf is an inspiration to our students that courage, leadership, and an entrepreneurial vision can truly create positive global change.”
About President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President Sirleaf is a Nobel Laureate and the first female president of an African country. Internationally known as Africa’s “Iron Lady,” President Sirleaf is a leader in peace, justice and democratic rule. During her term as Africa’s first democratically elected female president, she has led Liberia toward freedom and peace while implementing economic, social and political change since her election in 2006.
Sirleaf is seen as a global leader for women’s empowerment. In 2007 she was awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom for her personal courage and commitment to expanding freedom and improving African lives. Just four years later, near the time of her re-election, she was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in securing women’s rights.
President Sirleaf’s journey is detailed in her memoir This Child Will Be Great, and an overview of her accomplishments can be found on the official Babson website. “President Sirleaf’s global leadership and historic election reflect an entrepreneurial spirit that resonates with our global Babson community and will serve to inspire our students as they seek to employ the transformative power of entrepreneurship and create positive change in the world,” said Babson College President Kerry Healey.
Babson Women MBA Students
Choosing a prominent woman as a to speak at commencement speech is by no means the only thing that Babson offers that empower women in its programs.
“We are very committed to enrolling women in our graduate programs at Babson,” said Yetman. “Each fall we host a Women’s Preview Day to highlight all the resources our campus and community offer. We also have several merit scholarships specifically intended to help women fund their MBA studies These include our Women’s Leadership Scholarships and Forté Fellowships.” These scholarships are key, considering that 38 percent of women cite financial issues as the key reason for not attending graduate school, compared to 20 percent of men.
In addition, Babson women have an opportunity to participate in a variety of forums, coaching workshops and conferences throughout the year. “These are designed to help women learn about the benefits of studying at Babson,” explained Yetman. “We are also a founding member of the Forté Foundation, a non-profit consortium of leading companies and top business schools working together to help women access business education and professional opportunities.”
This commitment to women is also reflected in Babson’s focus on creating a community of support and inspiration. The Babson Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL) offers speakers, mentorship and co-curricular learning opportunities to all members of the School’s community. There’s also the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab, which provides women entrepreneurs with a network designed to help launch or transform their businesses. For MBA students specifically, there’s the Babson Association of Women MBAs (BAWMBA), a student-run group that organizes networking, coaching, and personal and professional development opportunities.
How Babson Helps Empower Women Entrepreneurs
And, most recently, in celebration of women’s history month, the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab assembled a group of top female executives and leaders to share their advice and insight with an audience of aspiring women entrepreneurs. As Ashley Lucas, Director of the WIN Lab Boston, told the Babson Newsletter, “we highlight relatable women leaders and peer role models because we see the impact and inspiration it brings to our founders. We believe this is paramount in increasing the number of women in top leadership positions and successful women entrepreneurs.”
“At Babson, we provide women strong role models, in and outside the classroom,” said Yetman. “We pay careful attention to advocate for balanced gender ratios in our classrooms, as well as among student leadership roles, and campus speakers. Our CWEL and BAWMBA resources contribute to a culture where women are encouraged to speak their minds and develop an entrepreneurial mindset within a challenging and supportive community.”