Nearly a decade ago, a male Stanford University professor instituted a female entrepreneurship seminar as a way to encourage diversity of thought among the school’s students.
Offered by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “Entrepreneurship from the Perspective of Women” has become one of the most popular courses on the curriculum. Led by Vista Venture Partners managing partner Fern Mandelbaum, the class has revolutionized the conversation about business matters on campus and continues to
impress both students and faculty members with its intellectual and social capacities.
Unlike many of today’s MBA courses at universities around the country that concentrate on corporate strategy, raising money and developing ideas, this course discusses topics such as handling risks, developing balance between personal and professional lives, managing expectations and emotions, and establishing a diverse culture. Noting that many women lack confidence when first entering the classroom, Mandelbaum hopes to alleviate this self-doubt and empower them to make strong choices in business and in life.
The course now includes a series of guest lectures from investors and CEOs, most of them women. The most recent examples include Eventbrite president and co-founder Julie Hartz, as well as Medallia president and co-founder Amy Pressman. For each guest lecture, Mandelbaum invites a student to introduce the speaker and requires that this chosen ambassador for the class perform additional research that can benefit the rest of the class.
Another Stanford University professor, Deborah H. Gruenfeld, had been the course’s previous instructor. She invited Mandelbaum to serve as a guest speaker to share her insights about gender differences.
Eager to help students pursue their entrepreneurial visions, Mandelbaum believes that all students could experience a great number of benefits from these lessons. In fact, nearly 10 percent of the course’s students are men. Bridging the gap between men and women has emerged as one of the more important topics now driving the weekly curriculum.