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Yale SOM Initiative Looks to Take Female Entrepreneurship to the Next Level

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It’s going to be easier than ever for female founders to unite and learn from each other thanks to the newly launched Women Entrepreneurs at Yale (WE@Yale) Initiative. Developed by Cassandra Walker-Harvey, manager of the Social Environmental Innovation Program at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and Jennifer McFadden, SOM ’08, associate director of entrepreneurship and management lecturer at Yale School of Management (SOM), the initiative’s goal is to spark discussions around innovation and formalize the collective efforts of Yale’s female leaders. It’s part of the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (Tsai CITY).

WE@Yale is a collaborative movement meant to help build a vibrant entrepreneurial community of women inventors. Last year, when all four winners of the Startup Yale event were women, Walker-Harvey realized that the time was right to take the school’s current programs for female entrepreneurship “to the next level.” The new initiative seeks to shift what entrepreneurship looks like on the Yale campus and beyond by hosting weekly event series that bring women together through skill-building sessions and storytelling sessions, as well as one-on-one coaching, signature events, and more.

In a news release from the university, Walker-Harvey talked about We@Yale’s connection to Tsai CITY and how the new initiative aligns closely with the center’s focus on increasing diversity. “Tsai CITY is well-funded, and this is a priority, so when it comes to sponsoring events or bringing in speakers from outside Connecticut, we have been able to increase the diversity of women we can attract,” she said. She went on to talk about how both WE@Yale and Tsai CITY aim to help people who may not feel like a part of the typical startup ecosystem realize their potential in entrepreneurship.

McFadden, who teaches practical courses on entrepreneurship at Yale SOM, emphasized the importance of improving gender balance in classes, on discussion panels, and more. “We are in an incredibly privileged position and have the ability to impact the next generation of female leaders,” she said.

And WE@Yale plans to grow its impact this year by launching its own website with a directory of resources for students across the Yale campus. In addition, there are plans to establish an advisory board, identify new coaches and mentors, advise students on new ventures, and connect with other universities about best practices. The initiative will also continue the Yale Women Innovator discussion series, which brings interesting speakers to campus every week.

“Things are moving slower than we hoped, but this has been more of an organizing semester, especially with Tsai CITY getting off the ground,” said Walker-Harvey. “I’m excited for next semester, when we’ll be able to take things up a level.”

To learn more about the initiative, visit the WE@Yale page and stay tuned for their new website, coming soon.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.