Diversity in the professional world is an ongoing challenge, and the issues that industries face today are often more dejecting than inspiring. While today more women graduate from college than men, according to research from Catalyst, only 4.6% of S&P 500 CEOs are women, and on average those women will receive between 54 cents (Latina women) and 78 cents (white women) on the dollar for the same work done by men. These statistics did not appear in a vacuum, and are in many ways a byproduct of the problems facing women and minorities throughout much of their lives. At the undergraduate level, it is crucial to undo much of the damage already inflicted on marginalized groups. By showing them the opportunities that do exist for them, they may be encouraged to pursue opportunities they might have never been previously encouraged to consider.
One year ago, co-founders Shelby Sly and Hannah Poplack saw an opportunity to meet those needs. In previous years on campus, they both began to see a distinct need – in their classes, extracurriculars, and general interactions – for an organization like WIB to exist. Their experiences made clear that the university was not always an equitable space for women – an all too common occurrence on college campuses and in the corporate world. As underclassmen Finance and Information Systems students, Hannah and Shelby struggled to find mentors and role models in the college community who “looked like them.” Not unlike the finance or tech industries as a whole, women in these types of majors are severely underrepresented and the Finance and IS majors house only one female faculty member each. With this in mind, they set out to create a platform that not only gives female students the training they need to meet the unique challenges they will face in the business industry, but also connects students with mentors and role models they can relate to, engage with, and be empowered by.
The Women in Business Association was founded with the purpose of creating a driven, supportive community of women that would act as a key resource for each of its members. What was initially thought to be an intimate network of students grew dramatically in just the first year and has begun serving its over 300 members.
Another school year is underway, and WIB could not be more excited for all the new faces, events, and opportunities ahead. After a highly successful first year at Cal Poly, both the momentum of growth within WIB and its impact on the community are powerful and inspiring. It is crucial, now more than ever, to build on our first year in order to continue developing and progressing as an organization.
The Women in Business Association was also founded on the principles of building, supporting and empowering young women to optimize their success in college, the workplace, and life beyond graduation. These ideals are reflected both in a wide portfolio of programing and an overall community that WIB fosters, and we hope that these values resonate with young female leaders on campus for years to come.
An organization is only as strong as its members; we build ours in several ways. Through professional workshops and the Women’s Business Leadership Academy, members are not only given tools to be successful professionally, but their personal and leadership skills are also strengthened, as well. In order for our members to be able to use what they’ve learned, there needs to be an organization foundationally built on trust and engagement. WIB also fosters a community that supports one another as friends, students, women, and leaders. Social and community service events – and major programs like the Entry Engagement Program for incoming freshmen – create a genuine bond amongst our members and allow for mentorship and support, both personally and professionally. A key component to the success of WIB and our members is the ability of every young woman to gain a sense of empowerment. Through numerous aspects of the organization, including our Women in the Workforce Speaker Series and the Defining Her Future Leadership Conference, we aim to inspire and motivate the near 500 undergraduate students engaged in our association.
As we continue this school year, we are excited to launch our latest program: The WIB Wire. It intends to highlight the perspectives of up-and-coming women in the professional world and address not only the adversity women face, but also celebrate those who are making strides to close the gender gap. The WIB Wire is entirely member-driven and aims to provide members the opportunity to think critically about their own experiences, look up to established women in industry, and provoke thoughtful conversations. It is also our hope that it makes our organization more accessible to greater student and professional networks and encourages those interested to connect with us. The WIB Wire aims to share facts and experiences about what it means to be young and professional in the modern world, and how those experiences may be different for each and every one of us.