This opportunity and program has done CRAZY things for my confidence… I cannot thank you guys enough for allowing me to stay at a school I love, learning about my interests and meeting some of the best girls in the world.
In July 2019, Foster Undergraduate Programs welcomed 40 rising high school juniors and seniors to UW campus for the fourth annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS). The outstanding students – who were selected from a highly-competitive application pool – were excited to live in the residence halls and participate in four days of fast-paced networking, lectures, company tours, and on-campus activities.
WLS provides the opportunity for young women to interact with current and former UW students, employers, staff, faculty, and community partners. It gives students the chance to see what the field of business looks like at many different levels, industries, and stages of life. WLS focuses on the areas of finance, operations and supply chain management, and information systems in particular, as these are areas within business where we tend to see a lower representation of women. The program activities also help students to improve soft skills that are invaluable in both life and the workplace – teamwork, communication, leadership, decision-making, time management, public speaking, and more.
Day 1 – Welcome and setting expectations
After checking into Madrona Hall, the students started getting to know each other and setting goals for the week. The girls shared what they hoped to get out of the WLS experience (such as networking with female professionals and business insight to decide their college majors) and their apprehensions (the majority worried about social anxiety and public speaking). Each student committed to accomplishing at least one task outside of their comfort zone (their WLS “risk commitment”), met their roommate and “accountability buddy,” and that evening they worked in groups to brainstorm topics for their “mini TED Talks” at the program finale.
I felt fully supported by the staff and the students. The environment was extremely welcoming and encouraged my growth.
Despite the competitive application process, the WLS environment was anything but “survival of the fittest.” The girls were frequently placed in collaborative teams and strongly encouraged to support their peers throughout the program. On the first day, they learned about “Shine Theory,” a term coined by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow which can be summarized as “I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” (This can be further explained as “a commitment to collaborating with rather than against other people – especially other women.”)
Day 2 – Finance and fun on campus
The second day of WLS began bright and early with a welcome from Vikki Haag Day, Assistant Dean for Foster Undergraduate Programs, followed by a lecture from Associate Professor of Finance, Jennifer Koski. “I always thought that finance was simple and boring,” one student expressed, “however, I was able to learn that it is so much more… I think it was also very fun because Ms. Koski was very passionate about her work.”
Immediately after Koski’s lecture, the students applied what they learned during a fast-paced game in which their team had to “buy” supplies, work together to design a contraption to protect an egg dropped from the third floor of PACCAR Hall, pitch and “sell” their product to their cohort, and “invest” in the products they thought would work. Shortly after, they formed new teams with staff from Foster Undergraduate Programs and Foster Career Services and raced to find UW landmarks in a campus-wide scavenger hunt. After lunch, the students attended a Supply Chain Management workshop led by Nicole Wedvik, Senior Financial Analyst at Amazon, and Antara Khastgir, Senior Instock Manager at Coupang.
This camp has made me realize how much I want to go into the business industry and how the UW [and] Foster would allow me to grow as a rising businesswoman.
Besides exploration into areas of business, WLS also introduces students to college life and skills for success in the workplace. In the afternoon, students attended a presentation skills workshop led by Laura Edwards, Foster’s Associate Director of Student Engagement, Leadership and Learning, where students learned about presentations at the college level and each student gave an impromptu speech. In the evening, the girls engaged in a “real talk” session with their two college-student Resident Advisors (RAs) where they could ask anything and everything about what the college experience is really like. The RAs stay with the students in the residence hall, support the students throughout the program, and run evening activities and work sessions.
Day 3 – Networking and company visits
The third day of WLS kicked off with a lecture on Information Systems by Uttara Ananthakrishnan, Assistant Professor of Information Systems, which included an intro to the field of IS and what pursuing that option at Foster involves. Next, Lindsey Friessnig, Senior Career Coach at Foster Career Services, led a session on Networking 101 and taught the students how to put themselves out there and make professional connections.
Such a cool place to get to know some successful business women and ask them any questions! Great place to practice our networking skills!
Next up, the students hopped on a coach bus and headed downtown for a day of company site visits and putting their new networking skills to use. They first stopped at ATLAS Workbase, where students met Co-Founder, President and CEO, Bill Sechter, to hear about his career path and upcoming trends in coworking spaces. During lunch, the WLS girls were joined by eight members from the Network of Executive Women – Pacific Northwest for round table discussions in which they learned about their jobs and asked questions about being a female leader in the workplace.
The students then headed to South Lake Union to visit Amazon, where they heard from a panel of four female employees regarding the evolution of their roles at Amazon. “Knowing that what you originally go into won’t always be where you end up was very nice to hear,” one student mentioned, “Honestly [it] eased my stress about making decisions.” After the panel, the students explored Amazon’s campus and visited The Spheres and Amazon Go store.
Day 4 – Last sessions and final presentations
After the students checked out of the dorms, their last day began with a session on the importance of investing with Maya Lis Tussing, Principal, Institutional investment Advisor at Alesco Advisors LLC, who flew up from California especially for WLS. After a short break, Tussing also led a session on “The Art of the Ask” – how to ask for a raise or promotion. (Men are four times more likely to ask for a raise than women, and they typically ask for a larger pay raise than woman do.)
During lunch, the girls learned about Foster admissions with Kat Eli, Foster Academic Advisor, followed by a Q&A session about admissions to the University of Washington with Sylvie Shiosaki, UW Admissions Counselor.
Over the course of four days, each student was working on a “mini TED Talk” to present in front of their entire cohort at the program finale. With the prompt “What do you stand for?”, the girls were asked to share something that they strongly believe in. Students were not only able to practice the presentation and storytelling skills they had been building throughout the week, but their heartfelt stories also helped them to connect with their WLS cohort on a deeper level. One student said, “I felt very included and encouraged. I had and still have a fear of public speaking, but I felt supported by my peers and by the staff.” Another student noted, “The TED talk was definitely scary at first, but ended up being SO rewarding.”
WLS ended on a bittersweet note, with newfound confidence, connections to last a lifetime, promises to keep in touch, and hopes to join the Foster Freshman Direct class in the future.
The WLS program exceeded my expectations. Within 4 days, all of us had found new friends to support us and push us out of our comfort zones. Additionally, the connections we built with women in the workforce and UW Foster was extremely enriching. I’m excited to introduce more girls at my school to this program as I know how worthwhile it’ll be for them to apply.