Courtesy of Cornell University

Entrepreneurship program W.E. Cornell accepted a total of 22 women to its first cohort.

November 19, 2018

Women’s Entrepreneurship Program Aims to Address Gender Imbalance in STEM

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W.E. Cornell, a new entrepreneurship program that provides women in STEM with entrepreneurial skill sets and confidence, recently accepted 22 women as its first cohort of students.

Andrea Ippolito ’06 M.Eng ’07, executive director of Cornell’s engineering management program, created W.E. Cornell with the help of the Center for Regional Economic Advancement after observing the gender imbalance in Cornell’s existing STEM-based entrepreneurship programs.

“We spoke with STEM women who had ideas and asked why they weren’t participating in these programs,” Ippolito said in an interview with The Sun. “We heard things like, ‘I have an idea but I’m not quite ready yet,’ or, ‘I’m not sure if my advisor will go for that.’”

Driven to increase the number of women in entrepreneurship programs, Ippolito spoke with many members of Cornell’s entrepreneurial community including Department of Engineering chairs and entrepreneurship professors at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management for the planning of this program.

With a grant from the President’s Council of Cornell Women, W.E. Cornell began its recruiting efforts over the summer and officially launched the program two weeks ago with its first cohort of students.

“We originally were looking for a cohort of five to ten women,” Ippolito told The Sun. “We received an overwhelming set of applications from brilliant, passionate women who are tackling really important societal needs.”

The program decided to expand the size of its cohort to stay true to its mission of providing women with entrepreneurial confidence and increasing the participants’ exposure of entrepreneurship endeavors.

“It feels right to have a larger cohort rather than a smaller one that is more competitive,” Ippolito explained.

Alyssa Holman M.Eng. ’19, accepted into W.E. Cornell with the idea of repairing human hearts with biomaterials, looks forward to the larger size of the program for “the cohort of people.”

“There are a lot of people with different skill sets, and I think that will be really helpful in finalizing ideas and really finessing what I want to get out of this experience,” Holman told The Sun. “There are people in mechanical engineering, material science and areas that I haven’t been exposed to as much.”

In the upcoming semester, participants will gain hands-on experience in entrepreneurial skill sets such as customer discovery, commercialization, funding and pitching. W.E. Cornell will also partner with the new Bank of America entrepreneurship program designed to support women entrepreneurs to help the participants further practice these important building blocks.

The program is about a two hour commitment over the school year and a ten hour “intensive” commitment in January, according to the W.E. Cornell website. During this time, participants will take part in “interactive workshops,” network with mentors,  and partake in the National Science Foundation I-Corps Short Course — a program that encourages scientists and engineers to push their research projects to “commercialization.”

According to Ippolito, the program will culminate with a campus-wide entrepreneurship celebration in April where the participants will demonstrate their semester-long efforts.

“At the end of the program, we will be talking about the next step with them,” Ippolito said, “whether it is applying for grants or other entrepreneurship programs on campus.”

Ippolito hoped W.E. Cornell would increase the diversity of other entrepreneurship programs by “getting women excited about entrepreneurship early in their journeys.”

“It’s been a true pleasure meeting these brilliant women,” Ippolito added. “I look forward to knowing them more and working with them.”