Academic programs focused on engineering entrepreneurship are growing in number and popularity at American universities. However, the fields of engineering, entrepreneurship and technology-based entrepreneurship struggle to recruit and retain female students: a historic and endemic failure at obtaining gender-balanced participation. Understanding the motivations of women engaged in such academic programs can influence recruitment and retention strategies and lead to the creation of transformative learning environments and entrepreneurial ecosystems. This study investigates the motivations that women have for participating in the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program at Penn State. In this five-year study, females from diverse academic majors cited the following to be their top motivations for participating: a) becoming a global professional; b) making a difference; and c) applying theory learned in school to address a problem. In contrast, males cited 1) making a difference 2) participating in an exciting real-world project and 3) applying theory to address a problem, as their top motivations. Studying the motivations and perceptions of enterprising women and men provides compelling insights to help make academic engineering entrepreneurship programs more appealing to both female and male students.