Providing resources, research & advocacy to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs

In recent years, we have seen vast numbers of women start their own businesses both in the United States and across the globe. But despite great numbers, women entrepreneurs employ fewer employees, have less sales, and obtain less financing than their male counterparts.  The dual problem -- too little support for women-owned startups and a dearth of women at the helm of successful, high-growth businesses -- require a holistic solution that will cultivate and support women along their entire entrepreneurial journey.   
By combining the resources of Barnard College with those of the venture community at Columbia University – both located in New York City, a growing center of entrepreneurial activity,   Athena is uniquely positioned to provide education and training needed by today's underrepresented and highly undercapitalized women entrepreneurs - Athena is developing a unique and innovative program, specifically tailored to women, that will serve as a model that can be replicated across the nation. 



Student Programs

Studies show that teenage girls as early as the ninth grade begin to internalize messages that ultimately dissuade them from entering technology or startup fields. These perceptions persist throughout high school and manifest in low enrollment in departments that serve as funnels for entrepreneurship after college graduation. For women who beat the odds and decide to launch ventures, a landscape with few channels of support and limited mentorship is disproportionately challenging.  Athena’s programs help to change these messages and offer much needed support and mentoring for young women entrepreneurs:
Athena Mastermind Groups:  Athena Mastermind groups of eight women pair promising Barnard students who are actively running start-ups with experienced women entrepreneurs for monthly accountability sessions and hands-on support. The first Mastermind cohort, launched in 2012, has already resulted in the acquisition of a student venture by a Silicon Valley startup and other promising successes.  Beginning in fall 2013, Athena will sponsor two Mastermind groups, providing leadership to the groups and monthly dinners. LEARN MORE
Office Hours for Entrepreneurs:  Beginning in Fall 2013, Athena will hold regular office hours for student entrepreneurs.  Drawing upon successful women entrepreneurs, Barnard alumnae, parents, and program staff, these one-on-one sessions will provide mentoring and support for Barnard students and provide information on available resources such as workshops, brainstorming labs, pitch-fests, competitions and hack-a-thons offered by the Columbia Venture Network and the New York startup community. LEARN MORE
Leadership Lab Workshops:  Each year, the Athena Center offers 40 – 50 Leadership Lab workshops to Barnard students on a wide range of leadership skills, from financial literacy to effective negotiation to story-telling and communication.  Ranging from two-hour to full-day sessions, the workshops are taught by experienced trainers and professionals and feature interactive, hands-on components.  Among the offerings is a special series designed for young entrepreneurs. Taught by experienced entrepreneurs and angel investors, these workshops help Barnard students learn the basics of starting their own businesses, strategies, project management and team building that are necessary for successful startups.  LEARN MORE
Entrepreneurs in Training:  In collaboration with Barnard’s Office of Pre-College Programs and leading business and STEM educators, Athena has launched an intensive 10-day summer program for female high-school students called Entrepreneurs-in-Training.  During the Summers 2013 and 2014, participants designed businesses, pitched their plans to respected investors from the startup sector, and were exposed to core entrepreneurial concepts.  The program will foster the confidence and develop skills young women need to launch their own ventures.   LEARN MORE



Additional Programs & Partnerships:

  • Athena hosted the White House’s Urban Economic Forum. This full-day program featuring Senior White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and an extraordinary group of successful entrepreneurs, brought to campus over 400 women business owners from across New York.
  • Athena co-sponsored the nation-wide pitch competition for Make Mine a Million, where hundreds of women pitched their businesses for a chance to enter Count Me In, a program that helps women grow their businesses into million-dollar enterprises.
  • Athena partnered with the Girl Scouts of Greater New York in July 2013 to create a leadership training institute, which kicked off with the ten-day intensive summer program, Entrepreneurs in Training. LEARN MORE 
  • Athena collaborates with the Columbia Venture Community to provide mentors, counseling, forums and informal social events that introduce the Barnard community to innovators and entrepreneurs from diverse fields.  We have also co-sponsored several hack-a-thons with HackNY
  • Athena is sponsoring a promising new student-run startup, Athena Digital Design, that will provide web development training for Barnard students and cost-effective web site development to the community.