Diversity in Business (DiBs) Club was formed to bring racial diversity to the forefront in the Foster community. From a career perspective, DiBs brings in companies to talk about DEI in the workplace. Within Foster, it creates spaces to support diverse communities and hosts three affinity groups, Black MBA @ Foster, LatinX MBA @ Foster, and Asian-Americans / Pacific Islanders (AAPI) MBA @ Foster. DiBs also seeks to have open conversations within the community that help build awareness on issues and topics related to DEI.
In this feature, outgoing co-president of DiBs Zharen Gonzales shared her leadership journey and key lessons from the past year,
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a first generation Filipino-American from Maryland. Prior to joining Foster, I did public accounting and then financial accounting. After graduating, I will be joining Microsoft as a Business Program Manager for Business Sales Operations. I love traveling and learning about different cultures, cooking or trying new foods, arts and crafts, and being with my pups, Rocko and Izzy.
DiBs 2023 Board Members
What unique role does your club play in promoting students’ goals at Foster?
It is becoming increasingly important for people to find workplaces whose values mirror their own. DiBs aims to give students opportunities to connect with alumni and companies so that they can find those spaces. The club hosted an Anti-Racism Learning Series during Black History Month, which ended with a fantastic conversation led by Tai Moultrie, Senior Business Programming Manager in Global Accounting and lead of DEI Employee Experience at Amazon. The series was an exceptional opportunity to examine how we can challenge our own biases and reactions individually and in the workplace.
How has DiBs influenced the continued evolution of the Foster MBA program?
DiBs has and always will continue to push the envelope when it comes to representation and education about DEI. In prior years, DiBs helped start the Mentoring Circles for MBAs of Color Program and FOSTERing MBA Access, which introduces members of underrepresented groups to the MBA experience at Foster.
Which DiBs events have been most popular or successful and why?
In the Spring, we host a Mocel Mezcal Tasting with its CEO and Co-Founder Rosalinda Mendoza, a Foster alumna and former VP of DiBs. The event allows students, alumni of color, and members of the Seattle community to come together and enjoy AMAZING mezcal and food. It’s always a pleasure having events with Rosalinda as she is an outstanding leader and trailblazer in the community.
Mocel Mezcal tasting
What have you learned about leadership while in this role?
This role has taught me a lot about service in leadership. In many situations, you have to put in the groundwork to get results. It’s not always gratifying, but if at least some students are able to benefit from a connection that the club made, or were just able to have a good time, then it’s all worth it!
I have also learned how leadership cannot be done without a solid team. For this reason, I’d like to recognize my stellar Co-President, Rocio Arellano. She has done wonders for DiBs and the Foster community as a whole. She is someone I can always lean on. My time with DiBs would not have been the same without her as my co-president! I’d also like to recognize Eugenia Yang (VP of Mentorship), Rebecca Ballweg (VP of Communications), and Warren Travers (VP of Programming), as well as our first-year representatives Krystal Sales, Harman Basra, and Habib N’Garnim. Their talents and commitments are the reason DiBs has been able to accomplish so much this year.
What were your expectations and intentions as you took on the role? Did your experience line up? What has been enjoyable? Challenging? Surprising?
I expected DiBs to be a huge lift, especially as the previous year’s leadership (led by co-presidents Christine Pham and Aarin Murray) was so successful. This is why I did not initially apply for president. When Rocio asked me to be her co-president, I felt much more comfortable with it as I knew she and I could work together effectively.
When I look back on the year, it has been challenging but rewarding. I did not anticipate how much groundwork we would have to do for events. But as I mentioned, seeing people enjoy themselves and make connections makes all the difference.
Do you have a favorite memory of your time with DiBs?
It’s very tough to pinpoint a singular memory. What comes to mind are the jokes and laughs that came with board meetings and events. Like I said, it can be a very time-consuming role, but spending it with people who you work well with and enjoy being around makes it more rewarding.
How have you worked with other clubs or UW Graduate Schools to provide networking opportunities?
DiBs aims to collaborate with several other clubs as it gives an opportunity for students to learn about and discuss diversity in different contexts. We hosted a “Women in Investment Finance” panel in the fall with The Finance Society, Women in Business, and Seattle Finance Collective. It was an opportunity for diverse women and those interested in finance to relate to one another.
Which students or why do/should students join DiBs? (those interested in…)
DiBs if for everyone! For students of color, it is a community that provides support and resources. For allies, it is a platform for advocacy and education. Today, DEI has become somewhat of a buzzword. Businesses tout how DEI is part of their conversations, but what does this actually look like in practice? Not to mention, the current political climate has become divided on DEI initiatives. DiBs stands to reinforce how important diversity, equity, and inclusion is for everyone.
What tips do you have for incoming MBA students thinking of joining DiBs leadership positions?
Use every opportunity you can to maintain spaces where diverse people can be heard. This may involve getting creative in the way you do things.
How is DIBS moving forward Foster’s purpose? Purpose statement:
We Foster Leaders
We Foster Insights
We Foster Progress
…To Better Humanity
Foster’s purpose statement goes hand in hand with DiBs’ purpose, but DiBs brings more accountability into the mix. We know that listening to diverse voices can lead to creative solutions that deliver value and impact for all, but how do we make sure that the leaders we bring in are well represented? Are insights free of bias? And is the progress equitable and inclusive? These are all critical questions to ask in order to better humanity for all.