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Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program

The Buerk Center’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program (WE Lead) promotes the advancement of women as entrepreneurs, leaders, investors, and agents of innovation.

In 1972, there were only 400,000 businesses owned by women in the US. Today, there are more than 13 million women-owned businesses in America and counting.


Entrepreneurial students from any major will have support and scaffolding to grow and develop into confident, inclusive leaders. WE Lead welcomes students of any gender, and will feature programming and events that center the experiences of women in entrepreneurship and leadership settings. Students will be encouraged to follow their passions, and to define their own measures of success, while honing their professional and personal development through mentorship, coaching, and experiential learning.

US VC deal value for female founders reached $32.4 billion through the third quarter of 2022, already raising more capital than any year prior to the record highs set in 2021.

Pitchbook, 2022

Women, non-binary folks, and allies across the gender spectrum are welcome. We believe your ideas – and your leadership – will change the world. Come make an impact with us!

Dream, Create, and Innovate with WE Lead

Join us for WE Lead programs and events featuring content designed to support, equip, and inspire your entrepreneurial journey. You’ll make valuable industry connections, meet like-minded students, and expand your entrepreneurial leadership skillset.

A startup that made more than $1 billion is called a unicorn. A total of 595 companies joined The Crunchbase Unicorn Board in 2021, far exceeding the numbers in prior years. Of these, 83 were founded or co-founded by women, more than quadrupling that category’s count from 2020.


Whether you have a business plan and need help with next steps, are mulling over ideas on how to turn your passion into action, or are just entre-curious, this is a great place to find resources and community.

The WE Lead Student Board’s mission is to align the programming and events of WE Lead with the needs and interests of UW Students. Members of the board will have opportunities to deepen their ties with Seattle’s entrepreneurial community and take on responsibilities that will amplify WE Lead’s reach and impact on campus.

Additionally, the WE Lead Student Board are ambassadors and connectors who will cultivate a welcoming, supportive community across UW campus for woman identifying and allied students of any gender with an interest in developing as entrepreneurial leaders. Interested in joining the 2024-25 Student Board? The application is open now! Submit your application by May 30th. Contact Winona Kantamaneni at [email protected] with any questions.

2023-24 WE Lead Student Board

Cheryl Delostrinos, Board President (‘24 Master of Science in Entrepreneurship)
Iris Zhou, Vice President (‘26 Business/Finance)
Elizabeth LaRance, Director of Tri-Campus Outreach (‘24, Master of Public Policy)
Meera Patel, Director of Marketing (’26, Electrical and Computer Engineering)
Maggie Qian, Director of External Outreach (‘24, Nutritional Science)
Amy Swanson, Director of Community Development (’25, MBA)

Each academic quarter will offer mentoring opportunities to connect students with cross sector entrepreneurial leaders who can offer advice, support, and share their experiences – highs and lows – from their career. Featured mentors will be women leaders with experience navigating career transition, investing, ideation and launch of new endeavors, working cross-sector to amplify impact, working in male dominated industries, hiring and leading effective teams, and more.

Are you interested in becoming a mentor for the WE Lead program? Fill out this interest form, and we will be in touch when we have mentoring opportunities!

Through your coursework, you are learning important frameworks and information to prepare you to enter your professional field and pursue your career. Here, you can develop your entrepreneurial leadership toolkit by attending quarterly workshops, where you’ll learn valuable skills in an environment that supports learning and growth, but without grades, exams, or tuition.

Stay tuned for an announcement on workshop dates and registration!

WE Lead will partner with departments and programs across UW campus to show what entrepreneurship looks like in different settings and industries through the lens of women who’ve demonstrated entrepreneurial – or intrapreneurial acumen. We believe good ideas, and entrepreneurial leaders, come from all educational disciplines, and invite you to envision what career pathways are open to you by hearing from leaders and experts from the community.

Stay tuned for an announcement on panel dates and registration!

Having diverse teams and board leadership is just good business sense, and there is ample data showing the positive impacts to an organization’s bottom line. We all have a role to play as leaders in creating safe and welcoming professional environments, whether we are in formal leadership roles or individual contributors. If you are interested in developing your skills and competency as an inclusive leader, events in this series will support respectful discussion and exploration of topics in allyship.

Female Technology (FemTech) companies focus on improving women’s lives, such as beauty, fashion, and fertility businesses. FemTech is hailed as the next big phenomenon in women’s health market and is predicted to be worth $50 billion by 2025.

Frost & Sullivan, 2018

How can students get involved with WE Lead?

We live in a region bursting with entrepreneurial spirit and opportunity, and UW, and the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, have a wealth of resources and connections to help you get started. Attend an event, stop by our office in Founder’s Hall, and/or schedule office hours – we’re here to help!

You can find upcoming WE Lead events on the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s StartupTree page here.

If you have an idea for an event or are a UW Departmental or Student Group interested in collaborating, contact Winona Kantamaneni at [email protected]. We love to collaborate!

Dive into entrepreneurship – join or form a team, and enter one of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s three annual competitions!

Enroll in the Health Innovation Practicum (ENTRE 445/545), Environmental Innovation Practicum (ENTRE 443/543, ENGR 498A, ENVIR 495), or the Business Plan Practicum to learn how to explore and validate ideas for a new venture.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive periodic news, updates, and event information.

Check out the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s Startup Resources page, where we share on and off-campus resources for student entrepreneurs.

Open to anyone in Washington and beyond, the Certificate in Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership is a 4-month certificate program is offered by UW Professional & Continuing Education. This certificate prepares you to become a stronger leader as you join a collaborative peer network and learn from mentors and instructors who bring extensive knowledge of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. 100% online program & scholarships available!

WE Lead Advisory Board

The WE Lead Advisory Board is comprised of entrepreneurial leaders who are passionate advocates for increasing representation of cross-industry, gender diverse leaders. In addition to providing strategic programmatic advising, resources, and connections, they support WE Lead as mentors, guest speakers, and subject matter experts.

Minda Brusse, First Row Partners
Dani Cone, Fuel; Cone & Steiner
Jilyne Jarvis, Z Girls
Christy Johnson, Artemis Connection
Elisa La Cava, Trilogy Equity Partners
Rosalinda Mendoza, Mocel Mezcal
Sara Mosiman, Global Sports & Events
Sarah Studer, Techstars
Sara Weaver, IAGL


Schedule office hours with Winona Kantamaneni, WE Lead program manager

Join the WE Lead Discord channel!

Looking for team members, wanting to enter a competition, or work on a startup project? Create a profile on Startup Tree.

Read the Buerk Center blog

Support WE Lead with a Gift

Connect with the Buerk Center