Rebecca Minkoff has been on a social mission ever since she launched her fashion business. Her “I love New York” T-shirt design hit it big when actress Jenna Elfman wore it on The Tonight Show shortly after the September 11th terror attacks. She donated all proceeds from sales of those T-shirts to the 9/11 relief efforts.
Now Minkoff is a fashion industry leader selling luxury handbags, apparel and accessories all around the world, but her company’s agenda still has a greater purpose. One goal is promoting female entrepreneurship and empowerment. The other is to encourage women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or what’s called “STEM”.
Minkoff is part of growing trend in American business where companies are making social goals a key part of their corporate strategy. Minkoff and other CEOs talk with Fortune about their commitment to “leading with purpose” in an interview series conducted in partnership with The Aspen Institute Business and Society Program (https://www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/business-and-society-program/purpose-of-the-corporation/).
Intel has tapped Minkoff to be its “ambassador” to convince college-age women to choose careers in STEM. Minkoff explains her dedication to the cause: “I want to hire female engineers and I can’t because there aren’t enough of them.” And she adds that her leadership in female empowerment has also set a positive tone with her employees, who are mostly women: “I think when they see as a leader I want women to do well, that it’s not about cattiness, it’s not about hitting the other one down, it’s all about helping each other, I think that makes it really exciting because at least in my world, fashion, is notorious for being the opposite.”