Features: A woman’s world of opportunity

The businesswoman. She is the attractive brunette checking her watch as she hustles to an appointment, portfolio in hand and proposal in mind, ready to reap the benefits of a world where it is possible for the innovative ideas to become profitable – even if they come from a woman.

The aspirations of female contemporaries mirror those of Sarah Jessica Parker and her friends in HBO’s “Sex and the City” and the power house of law chicks in “Ally Mcbeal.” The intelligent, successful working girl is the norm, but many females lack knowledge of the basics essential to attain this power position.

This March, GW juniors and seniors can register for the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at the Mount Vernon Campus to learn what it takes reach the top. The two-semester program combines classroom learning, personal and professional development labs, case studies, networking events and mentoring to give students the knowledge, skills and experience needed to create an entrepreneurial program.

One of the program’s creators Janet Nixdorff, a doctoral fellow at GW’s Department of Management Science program, is eager about the program’s start. A luncheon last Tuesday at the University Club served as a gathering for a group of eager women and men in anticipation of next month’s registration for the new program at GW.

“The time is right for this kind of learning experience,” Nixdorff said. “We have a speaker series, a mentoring program and a focus group to compliment our intensive syllabus. After completing the program, the young women will have the contacts and experience to use as networking sources.”

The Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, an organization dedicated to entrepreneurial success for all ages of students awarded GW a grant to support the development of the program. Additional support came from the Women’s Business Research Center and Springboard Enterprises, a national non-profit organization that coaches female entrepreneurs.

According to the Kauffman Center, women-owned businesses are growing in number and economic clout. The number of firms run by women in the United States more than doubled from 1987 to 2000. Almost three out of four women-owned firms operating in 1991 were still around three years later, compared to 66 percent for all firms. Women-owned firms also make a great contribution to the economy. From 1996 to 1999, employment in women-owned firms tripled, totaling 27 million jobs.

The GW program aims to increase self-confidence in women through simulation, focus groups and critical thinking workshops. Women completing the program will prepare a proposal that they can pitch in the real business world once they are done.

The program, run through the undergraduate School of Business and Public Management, is open to juniors and seniors.

“The more diversity, the better,” Nixdorff said. “Pre-med students who want to eventually open a practice and artists who want to freelance independently need a program like this. This program provides the nuts and bolts for planning a business and doing it realistically.”

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