Our Story

Founded in Allyship, Inclusion, and Innovation

Simmons University was founded by Boston businessman John Simmons over a century ago to empower women to develop financially independent and impactful lives. The college offered a pioneering liberal arts education that integrated intellectual exploration, professional work experience, and community outreach. Its founding spirit of allyship and inclusion also forged a groundbreaking pathway for African-American and Jewish women to earn degrees.

(Photo: Founder John Simmons was an early male ally and upstander role model.)

Portrait of founder John Simmons by building


Globally Renowned for Women’s Leadership

Simmons University has earned the reputation as a global authority on women’s leadership—broadening the scope of our academic curricula and community outreach to embrace the multi-faceted dimensions of race, class, ethnicity, and gender identity. Simmons opened the world’s first MBA program specifically designed for women. The founding deans, Margaret Hennig and Anne Jardim, published The Managerial Woman, widely considered a primary text for women in business. Our Center for Gender in Organizations is renowned for its groundbreaking research on the positive impact of equity and diversity in the professional workplace. The annual Simmons Leadership Conference, established in 1978, inspires new generations of women executives with advice from role models such as Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Brené Brown, Maya Angelou, and Oprah Winfrey.

Over the decades, the University has broadened the scope of its academic curricula and community outreach to embrace the full range of intersecting identities including race, class, ethnicity, and gender.

Photo of the Academic Quad with the Main College Building in the background


A New Institute to Foster Equity in Leadership

The founding of Simmons University Institute for Inclusive Leadership in 2019 builds on the University’s rich heritage of igniting positive action, fostering everyday leadership and striving for lasting social justice. Our vision is simple: Manifest equity in leadership in our lifetime. We accomplish this by offering leaders groundbreaking inclusivity programs that support underrepresented populations. We design, build, and deliver innovative on-site and online instruction that can be customized for any organization’s leadership journey.

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