Preparing Women to Lead

The Jane Nelson Institute for women’s leadership empowers future c-suite execs, entrepreneurs and public officials

Women hold 5% to 12% of top executive positions in U.S. corporations, according to the Pew Research Center.

The number of women in the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, is at an all-time high at 24%, but women make up 51% of the U.S. adult population.

Texas Woman’s University (TWU) is aiming to change these dynamics.

Building on historical strengths and contemporary potential, TWU is focused on preparing women to lead. In 2018, the university established the Jane Nelson Institute for Women’s Leadership — the first of its kind in the state — to prepare more women to take on successful roles in business and public service. Through the institute’s three specialized centers — the Center for Student Leadership, the Center for Women Entrepreneurs and the Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy — TWU ensures women have the education to establish careers as successful C-suite executives, the skills for building entrepreneurial businesses and the framework needed to run for public office.

TWU students and regional communities are given opportunities to dig deep into pressing issues for women in diverse industries, leading innovation and change. The Center for Women Entrepreneurs awards microgrants to women entrepreneurs in the region while educating ambitious women in entrepreneurship. The university has graduated founders and CEOs of successful companies such as BuzzBallz/Southern Champion, a company that started as an MBA capstone project for then-high school teacher Merrilee Kick and, in 10 years, has grown into the only woman-owned winery/distillery in the U.S. with annual revenues of $50+ million and 100 employees in 300,000 square feet of operations space. The Center for Women in Politics & Public Policy aims to address the “ambition gap” between men and women considering running for office. Through research, leadership development and “political boot camps,” the center creates a talent pipeline of female elected leaders. Students learn from political industry experts, faculty and successful formerly elected women on opportunities in the political industry.

While the institute is young and growing, the opportunity and need for diverse women leaders in entrepreneurship, business and public policy are also growing. TWU’s leadership in the space shows the importance of diversity and leadership in DFW.

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.