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Athena Center for Leadership Studies


The Athena Center for Leadership Studies is dedicated to the advancement of inspired and courageous women leaders around the world.

Established at Barnard College, a pioneering force in undergraduate women’s education since 1889, the Athena Center for Leadership Studies is dedicated to the advancement of inspired and courageous women leaders around the world.  Our ground-breaking programs:

  • Create and promote innovative approaches to leadership development;
  • Educate and develop new generations of women leaders;
  • Challenge—and change—cultural stereotypes of leaders; and
  • Foster research and public dialogue that expands our understanding of leadership. 

Why are we committed to creating a bold new vision of leadership?  It is simple: When more women are leaders, we change society’s understanding of what a leader looks like, how they operate and how they respond to social, political and economic needs.  When more women are leaders -- particularly when they are powerful, visionary and strategic ones -- then communities and organizations are more innovative, productive and successful. When more women are leaders, we raise the aspirations of women and girls around the world.

Launched as a special initiative of Barnard President Debora Spar, Kathryn Kolbert, the Constance Hess Williams ’66 Director, joined as its founding director in fall 2009. Since then, the Center has developed a wide range of signature initiatives: 

  • The Athena student leadership programs are unique models for leadership development for young women.  They include the Athena Scholars Program and Leadership Labs for Barnard students, the International Women’s Leadership Program for international college students (launching summer 2014),  Entrepreneurs in Training, a summer camp for enterprising high school students, and the Girl Scouts Leadership Initiative;
  • The Athena Film Festival, developed in partnership with Women and Hollywood, is a unique 4-day celebration of women and leadership that attracts thousands of filmgoers to Barnard;
  • The Athena Film Festival’s partnership with UN Women, the Athena Global Shorts Program, a collaboration with the International Network of Women’s Film Festivals, and the Barnard Global Symposia generate conversations about leadership across the globe;
  • Customized professional development training programs based on the Athena Core 10 provides leadership education for a wide range of women leaders at corporations and NGOs;
  • Athena Power Talks, TEDx Barnard College, Visiting Scholars and Fellows highlight extraordinary leaders and the latest research in the field;
  • New programs for young women entrepreneurs including workshops, mastermind mentoring groups and Office Hours with experienced entrepreneurs. 

These ambitious programs would not be possible without the generous support of many extraordinary donors and sound guidance from our Faculty and Student Advisors, Board of Advisors, Leadership Council, and exemplary Staff.