Why Focus on Women’s Entrepreneurship?
Why do the United Nations, World Bank, International Finance Corporation, World Economic Forum, US Department of State, the Boston Consulting Group, Cartier, Ernst & Young, ExxonMobil, IBM, Goldman Sachs and Walmart all think women’s entrepreneurship is a core driver of economic growth and prosperity?
Founding of Quantum Leaps
Quantum Leaps grew out of two influential international women entrepreneurial conferences organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris in 1997 and 2000, for which our CEO was the Senior Advisor. As the best practices exchange in 2000 was ending, women entrepreneurial leaders and global policymakers said, “We can’t keep reinventing the wheel! What happens next?"
Clearly, a permanent strategic vehicle was needed to share best practices in between global conferences, and to build on the momentum. After extensive planning, we received a seed grant from the Kauffman Foundation in the United States, and formally launched in 2002.
Bios of our three Co-Founders follow.
President, CEO and Co-Founder
Quantum Leaps’ CEO has been a trailblazing advocate for women’s entrepreneurship for several decades. In the 1980s, she was Vice President for Public Policy for the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) in the United States, and subsequently its National President. She and her team turned the organization into a powerful force for women entrepreneurial advocacy. She organized NAWBO’s participation in the 1986 White House Conference on Small Business, for which the association obtained 12% of the delegates – many more than the US Chamber of Commerce, whose membership was 100 times larger at the time. She was also one of the three primary architects of the Women’s Business Ownership Act – referred to as “the Big Bang of women’s entrepreneurship” in the US – which became law in 1988. Subsequently, she served two terms on the National Women’s Business Council, an advisory body created by the landmark legislation. It provides policy recommendations to the U.S. President, the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Congress (legislature).
In the 1990s, Ms. Littlejohn served as Vice President of the World Association of Women Entrepreneurs (Les Femmes Chefs d'Entreprises Mondiales, or FCEM). She was the OECD's Senior Advisor for its pioneering 1997 and 2000 best practice conferences in Paris on women owned businesses. As an outgrowth of the 2000 conference, she helped four commercial banks in Europe, Australia and North America create the Global Banking Alliance for Women.
With the beginning of the new millennium, Ms. Littlejohn began to concentrate even more on how to accelerate the sharing of best practices across countries, and with two fellow co-founders, began the planning to create Quantum Leaps. The organization formally launched in 2002, with a seed grant from the Kauffman Foundation.
Ms. Littlejohn next organized and co-chaired the OECD's Accelerating Women's Entrepreneurship Forum in Istanbul in June 2004, at which participants from 86 countries eagerly shared best practices. Subsequently, she co-organized OECD training workshops for women entrepreneurs in the Mideast and North Africa (MENA).
Quantum Leaps next incubated WEConnect International, an organization of leading multinational corporations that want to get women’s business enterprises certified and into the global supply chain. It became freestanding in 2010, and Ms. Littlejohn now serves as its Global Advisor. More recently, she served as Lead Consultant to the International Trade Centre (a joint agency of the UN and World Trade Organization) on a ten-year initiative to get women entrepreneurs into the global supply chain. She is also active in the La Pietra Coalition, affiliated with the Vital Voices Global Partnership, and was a Vital Voices Ambassador for Algeria.
Ms. Littlejohn now is focused on strategies to spur growth, and on creating Roadmaps to 2020 and Beyond, in order to accelerate women’s enterprise development globally. The first Roadmap was created in the US in 2010, with IBM as the lead global sponsor. Roadmaps will soon be rolling out in a number of other countries.
She served on Small Business Advisory Councils for both IBM and American Express, and has helped IBM develop relationships with women entrepreneurial associations throughout the world. Ms. Littlejohn has lived, worked in and/or traveled to more than 80 countries.
She has been inducted into the Enterprising Women Hall of Fame, and has won numerous awards, including the US Small Business Administration’s first Women in Business Advocate of the Year Award; NAWBO’s Susan Hager Legacy Award; and Lifetime Achievement Awards from The International Alliance for Women (TIAW) and the America-China Business Women’s Alliance.
In addition to her advocacy efforts, Ms. Littlejohn has served as CEO of the Global Enterprise Group and as Chairman of TradeBuilders, Inc., which created the world’s first virtual trade mission in 1998.
She and her husband have two sons, one in Portugal and one in Vietnam, and a granddaughter in Vietnam.
Hon. Linda Tarr-Whelan is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, a national progressive thinktank. She is the author of a prize-winning book, “Women Lead the Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership and Changing the World” (Berrett-Koehler 2009, 2011). She also serves as Chair of the National Advisory Council for the Pax World Resources Women's Equity Fund, co-chair of the CEDAW Education Initiative, chair of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles Leadership Group, and member of the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way Worldwide. A frequent commentator, she blogs for Huffington Post and MomsRising (www.lindatarr-whelan.com).
Tarr-Whelan served as Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women in the Clinton Administration and as Deputy Assistant for Women's Concerns to President Jimmy Carter in the Carter White House. Ladies Home Journal named her as one of the 50 most powerful women in Washington. She served in New York State government, as director of policy for a large public sector union and chief lobbyist for the National Education Association. As CEO of the Center for Policy Alternatives, the leading progressive policy and leadership center for the 50 states, she focused on women and the economy. She and her husband created a successful international management consultancy
Ms. Tarr-Whelan began her career as a nurse and holds a BSN from Johns Hopkins, an MS from the University of Maryland, and honorary PhDs from Chatham University and Plymouth State University. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. The Tarr-Whelans have two children and four grandchildren, and live in St. Helena Island, SC and Burlington, VT in the United States.
Linda T. Muir
Linda Muir is a Partner in The Saylor Law Firm LLP (www.saylorlaw.com) where she practices Business & Estate Planning with a focus on wills, trusts, and incapacity planning and represents clients regarding their business and general corporate matters. Dividing her time between Atlanta and Saint Simons Island, GA, in the United States, she maintains an office in Atlanta and manages the firm’s Saint Simons office.
Prior to joining the Saylor Firm in 2006, Ms. Muir developed her practice in business and corporate law and telecommunications for 25 years both in private practice and with major telecommunications corporations. She began practice with King & Spalding, was Corporate Counsel with Contel Corporation and General Counsel with GTE Corporation, and served as Director of Legislative & Regulatory Matters and then Executive Director of Corporate Outreach with BellSouth Corporation. During this time, her practice covered contracts, mergers, acquisitions and divestitures, procurement, employee benefits, management of outside counsel, representation before the Federal Communications Commission, and development and implementation of corporate telecommunications positions and policies.
Ms. Muir earned a Bachelor of Arts cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in philosophy, from Newcomb College of Tulane University in 1968, a Master of Arts in behavioral science (psychology) from the University of Houston in 1976, and a Juris Doctor from Emory University, where she served on the Emory Law Review, in 1982.
She is a member in good standing with the State Bar of Georgia (where she is a member of the Fiduciary Law and Business Law Sections), a past member of the Atlanta Bar Association (where she served as the chair of the Sole Practitioner / Small Firm Section, 2007-2008), and of the Glynn County Bar Association (where she served as 2009 Chair).
Devoted to leadership and community service and to improving the lives of women and girls at home and abroad, Ms. Muir is married with two daughters and four grandchildren.