Illustration of woman ascending stairs

Developing Women Leaders to Close the Confidence Gap

Three business schools recognized the need to close the women's confidence and gender equity gaps in organizations and developed programs to address them.

Research studies have been telling us for years that while confidence is as important for success as competence, women tend to be less self-assured than men. Women generally do not ascend to the highest levels of leadership and, according to Forbes, often opt out after losing their ambition.

Three business schools recognized the need to address these challenges and developed programs aiming to close the confidence and gender equity gaps in their organizations. They strive to inspire courage and self-assurance in their students and prepare them for taking leadership roles both in the academic and professional domains.

Terry Women's Initiative

University of Georgia, Terry College of Business (United States)

Terry Women’s Initiative (TWI) was created in response to the gender imbalance that was found in the University of Georgia’s top business majors of finance and accounting. In addition to being disproportionately represented, women students were not applying for leadership roles in Terry’s student organizations and reported feeling unconfident during the recruitment process. TWI seeks to overcome the challenge of unrealized leadership potential and an unfavorable self-perception in students by engaging them in confidence-building activities and experiential learning opportunities.

The program participants are provided with numerous opportunities to expand their network and receive guidance from experienced professionals. Coffee conversations and “flash” mentoring appointments are some ways in which students can connect with Terry alumnae and business leaders and seek their advice on job search, confidence-growing strategies, and more. In addition, the initiative features an Annual Golf Clinic, where students learn the basics of the game, explore the importance of golf as a relationship-building tool, and engage in a networking reception.

Further, through panels, workshops, and presentations, the Terry Women's Initiative introduces students to potential career paths and helps them learn valuable soft skills. The highlight of TWI is the Sea Island Scholars program, which offers participants an annual, experiential learning opportunity facilitated by notable Terry alumnae and supporters. Scholars in the program take an inside look at the business operations of an internationally recognized resort and get the chance to further develop their personal and professional goals.

The Young Women in Leadership Programme

Massey University, College of Business (New Zealand)

Having recognized that the message young women receive at an early age affects how they view their leadership potential in the future, Massey University developed an initiative called the Young Women in Leadership Programme, which seeks to help women develop their leadership identities before they leave high school.

The program is aimed at 15- to 16-year-old female students who are not in leadership positions and are rarely, if ever, exposed to leadership training opportunities. The initiative is founded on the belief that leadership can be exercised in a variety of ways and contexts, and that values and passions directly connect to the successful development of a leadership mindset. Thus, if these young women can identify their values and passions, they will be able to take the initiative and become effective leaders in their domains.

Participants in the Young Women in Leadership Programme attend a day-long workshop that educates them on the topics of leadership, teambuilding, and project planning, and features an inspirational woman guest speaker. Further, with guidance and mentorship from Massey University, students develop a small-scale project that makes a difference within their community. The projects are focused on important social topics such as awareness-raising, educational programs or campaigns, fundraising for charity, and a variety of others.

Later, students attend a second half-day workshop where they present their projects and participate in a session on reflective practice. To recognize participants, Massey University awards them certificates on their successful program completion.

WomenLead: Closing the Gender Equity Gap

Georgia State University, J. Mack Robinson College of Business (United States)

Now, more than ever, employers recognize the value that women candidates bring to the workplace. Based in the Robinson College of Business, the WomenLead program seeks to bridge the gender equity gap in the corporate, STEM, and government workplaces by empowering young women to aim for leadership roles. To achieve this goal, WomenLead equips undergraduate women students with the skills, experience, and networking opportunities needed to excel among business leaders.

WomenLead is a one-semester for-credit program that provides women students with an opportunity to choose from four Signature Experience courses: WomenLead in Business, Policy and Politics, Science, or Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The program takes learning far beyond the classroom—as part of the course, participants engage with top community leaders through discussion panels, company visits, service projects, and networking events. In addition, students can also connect with community leaders on an individual basis through engagement interviews and mentoring relationships.

Further, through a series of assessments, WomenLead helps students understand their personal strengths and skills and how those skills can translate to success in the workforce. The course culminates in a final project evaluated by faculty and community leaders, where students share the personal takeaways and development strategies they learned in the program.

Within five years of its existence, WomenLead developed strong relationships with multiple organizations both inside and outside of Atlanta. Partners include The Coca-Cola Company, CNN, UPS, and Delta Airlines, as well as the Committee of 200, a community of the most successful women entrepreneurs and corporate business leaders. WomenLead has excelled in providing its participants with unique opportunities to effectively connect to the corporate world and learn from some of the best professionals in the business field.

About Innovations That Inspire

Since its launch in 2016, Innovations That Inspire has collected 840 innovative practices across a variety of themes and areas within business education. For each challenge year, a selection of innovations is featured at the International Conference and Annual Meeting (ICAM). Further, current members of AACSB’s Business Education Alliance have the ability to browse through all innovations using DataDirect. AACSB continuously highlights submitted examples in publications, events, presentations, and in other media as examples of business schools doing innovative things that push the boundaries of business education.


Karina Podymova, AACSB International Marketing and Communications Intern, master's student, business analytics and information systems from the University of South Florida Muma College of BusinessKarina Podymova is a marketing and communications intern at AACSB International, earning her master's degree in business analytics and information systems from the University of South Florida Muma College of Business.