The Foster MBA’s Women in Business club (WiB) is an open community for students who are passionate about creating more and better opportunities for women in business. In the past few years, the club has focused on creating more accessible programming focused on creating community, skill-building, and diversity & inclusion. Some of their recurring events include a pay negotiation workshop, Wibsgiving, a self-defense class, and the Spring Gala. More recently, WiB has started a Women-Who-Dine series which invites alums to host intimate dinners with students to share food and experiences.
Please tell us a bit about yourselves.
Sharyn: I’m originally from Phoenix so I can’t get enough of the mountains, lakes, and cooler climes. I’m also obsessed with my adopted Samoyed Mix – Bento. I can’t wait to show her all my favorite camp spots once we graduate!
Jillian: I was born and raised in California’s Bay Area. Prior to the MBA, I worked in HR for a cleantech company and I am going into consulting at Deloitte after graduation. My hope is to one day return to the start up space as a People function leader setting up positive work culture and functional org design. I am passionate about DEI and Sustainability. In my free time, I enjoy making full use of my Peloton, Netflix and HBO Max subscriptions.
What unique role does your club play in promoting students’ goals at Foster?
Sharyn: One of the greatest benefits WiB offers Foster is its deep alumni and mentor community. We host our own mentorship program where students can receive mentors and mentees from the MBA, undergraduate WiB, or UW alumni. We also tend to lead within the MBAA at Foster. We created new board positions to enhance Evening MBA student representation and diverse speakers. We also created another opportunity for us to expand our partnership portfolio with Lululemon. This partnership opened the door for an intimate company visit, conversations with the CTO, and a new speaker for our Spring Gala – Stacia Jones.
Jillian: We aim to foster community between the women at Foster and their allies as well so that we all have an additional support system during the MBA and beyond. As part of the community building, we host a mix of events- some more centered around skill building and networking and others that are more laid back and casual. Women in Business members are able to sign up to be matched with mentors from our alumni and more senior club members. This was super helpful to me in my first year because my mentor made it so that I could always count on her as a friendly face at events. My favorite mentorship program though is actually one where members get to see how far they’ve come in their own journeys and give back by being mentors. Women in Business has an undergraduate level club on campus as well which we partner with for a mentorship program. Prashant, WiB’s ‘22-’23 VP of Allyship, became very close with his mentee and helped her prepare for her product management interviews and negotiate her offer.
How has WiB influenced the continued evolution of the Foster MBA program?
Sharyn & Jillian: One of WiB’s core values for a long time has been accessibility and enhancing representation of different interest groups at Foster. This has allowed for more cross pollination of ideas and friendships between Evening MBA and Full-time MBA students for example. I think other clubs have noticed our successes and are trying to emulate certain practices we have as standard such as offering events at varied times that work for everyone. In addition, through our pay negotiations and allyship workshops, we are cultivating a community that has the tool kit to support each other through things like pay transparency and speaking up for each other.
What have you learned about leadership while in this role?
Sharyn & Jillian: It takes a lot of courage to have thorough conversations about divisive issues. You have to decide what you stand for, what you do not, and then be consistent. However, it’s also important to remain open enough to change your mind for the right reasons, not because it’s easier, but because it’s the right thing.
It becomes easier to distill your vision when you’ve done your homework on what the organization needs next. After the member survey from last year, we spoke to outgoing and incoming VPs, we identified where we wanted to improve, and what strengths we’d like to continue to invest in – those became our top 5 focus areas. Then we spent the next year empowering our VPs to design programming and processes to serve those focus areas. Those focus areas were Community, Accessibility, Allyship, Diversity, and Skill-building. These focus areas helped us pick which events to prioritize, or where we might partner instead with other clubs. These also helped us to take stands on issues that mattered to our members.
What were your expectations and intentions as you took on the role? Did your experience line up? What has been enjoyable? Challenging? Surprising?
Jillian: My expectation was to give back to the Foster community. Yes, that happened, but what I got out of it has been tenfold. As a leader of Wib, It has been an absolute joy to share space with and get to know so many inspiring women and allies in this club.
Do you have a favorite memory of your time with WiB?
Jillian: WiBsgiving! A bunch of us met up at Monika, our VP of Communications’, home for a Thanksgiving potluck. It was super fun hanging out off campus, trying each other’s dishes, and going around the table saying what we are thankful for. I do feel slightly guilty though for making Monika’s life harder when we realized just how much caffeine was in the matcha cookies I brought AFTER her son had already had a few handfuls of them. Oops!
How have you worked with other clubs or UW Graduate Schools to provide networking opportunities?
Sharyn and Jillian: WiB partners with almost every club in the MBA – Out in Business, Foster Veterans Association, The Consulting Society, and Global Business Association just to name a few. We have also partnered with the Seattle Finance Collective by hosting them for panels featuring women in finance, and we had the opportunity to send delegates from WiB to their networking events around the city. We also partner with the undergraduate WiB club often to provide mentorship and networking opportunities.
What problems and solutions is WiB working on? Are there examples of progress or impact in these areas?
Sharyn & Jillian: While there has been progress, women are still dramatically underrepresented in business. Our goals are to foster community, unpack gender dynamics, and provide networking and skill building opportunities for our members so that more women can achieve more in the business world.
To give a few examples of events we have had on the skill building side, we hosted the authors of “Good Guys: How Men Can Be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace” who did a training on allyship, we partnered with Foster’s Wellness VPs to send a bunch of our members to self-defense training, and we had an outside expert conduct a training on running better meetings. The meetings training in particular has been instantly extremely helpful since we’re all in meetings constantly.
Which students or why do/should students join WiB?
Sharyn and Jillian: Anyone who is a woman and/or wants to explore how to be a better ally to the women in their lives should join WiB!
What tips do you have for incoming MBA students thinking of joining WiB leadership positions?
Sharyn and Jillian: Come out and get to know us! WiB is planning to host a couple of events over the summer, follow our instagram @wibfoster and stay posted for details.