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?
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.
Julie R. Weeks
Roadmap to 2020 Policy and Program Consultant
Julie Weeks is the President and CEO of Womenable, a for-profit social enterprise that works to enable women’s entrepreneurship worldwide by improving the systems – laws, policies, programs and research-based knowledge – that support women’s enterprise creation and growth. Ms. Weeks is one of the world’s leading experts in the field of women’s enterprise development, with experience in both the private and public sectors in the areas of research, public policy and program management. She is an accomplished oral and written communicator, with proven ability to translate data and complex information into clear, concise, and actionable knowledge.
Weeks has over 30 years experience in research, public policy, and communications. For three years, she served as Executive Director of the National Women’s Business Council, a federally-funded bipartisan policy advisory body created by the U.S. Congress to serve as an independent voice of women’s entrepreneurship and an advisor to the President, U.S. Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration on women’s entrepreneurship issues. Prior to that position, Ms. Weeks spent nine years as the Director of Research and Managing Director of the Center for Women’s Business Research, a nonprofit organization that conducts research about women business owners and their enterprises. She has also served as Deputy Chief Counsel for Statistics and Research at the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Vice President for Research and Public Policy at two market research firms.
Ms. Weeks has been personally responsible for much of the extant information on the state of women business owners and their enterprises in the United States. Additionally, she has led, coordinated or consulted on research projects focused on women business owners and their enterprises in nearly two dozen other countries.
Ms. Weeks has a BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan, and a Master’s degree from that same institution in Political Science with a concentration in research methodology.
In addition to her work leading Womenable, Ms. Weeks chairs the board of the Association of Women’s Business Centers, serves on the board of the Global Banking Alliance for Women, and is on the editorial advisory boards of Enterprising Women magazine and the International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship. She also served on the editorial advisory board for the inaugural Roadmap to 2020 for the United States, and has assisted with the development of Roadmap methodologies and templates.
Research, Analysis and Communications Consultant
Research, Analysis and Communications Consultant – Clayton Johnson is a business analyst and consultant who has lived and worked in Asia for 10 years. Now based in Vietnam, he provides research, analysis and communications services in the areas of economic development, entrepreneurship, international trade, energy, the environment and sustainability, including sustainable supply chains. He studied design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and received a Bachelors Degree in History at American Military University, from which he graduated with highest honors.
Dr. Laura Strong
Owner of Studio Strong, an interface, website and communication design company specializing in the development of online media, products, and apps, as well as brand identities, for organizations and businesses engaged in the process of manifesting beneficial change in the world. Over the past two decades, her clients have included a wide spectrum of nonprofit organizations, environmental organizations, community services, alternative healthcare practitioners and large corporations. Laura holds a BFA in Advertising Design from Art Center College of Design, an MA/PhD in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, and has undertaken additional studies in Interface Design and Information Architecture at San Francisco State University. This varied background enables her to combine the marketing needs, product ideas, and technical requirements of her clients with a deep understanding of the cross-cultural aspects of storytelling and archetypal imagery to produce elegant, functional designs, media and products for businesses throughout North America and abroad.