Could you tell us a little bit about why and when you first became involved in SWIB and what your experience has been like as a member?
I came into Cornell as a first semester freshman wanting to get into the business community. I joined SWIB that very semester; I loved the purpose joining together women who are in business but also the fact that it was an affinity group. I thought it was great that I could get experience in the business realm as a first semester freshman. I joined the general list serve and things of that nature, but I also applied to be a part of their Emerging Leaders Program, and as a part of that first semester I worked with other peers who were also freshmen. I had a sophomore associate, and by working under her guidance, we developed a presentation revolving around the mobile wallet business trend, which I think is really cool. I think that experience not only allowed me to gain exposure to other women in business, but also gave me an attachment to the club because it gave me such concrete things I could talk about later to help me go forward in the business world at Cornell.
How have your experiences within SWIB prepared you directly for the next steps you hope to take in your career?
So, definitely by participating in ELP my first semester freshman year, I learned how to think to do research, how to work in a team and how to put together a presentation which has helped me during other professional experiences. But ultimately I think that serving on the E-board as VP of Internal Development and now President has prepared me for my future career. Working alongside other awesome women on the E-board and managing the various activities of a 1500 person club has taught me how to thrive within a setting like that of a corporate business. So when I went to work this summer, I interned at Liberty Mutual Insurance in their Talent & Enterprise Services team, I think I was able to stand out and succeed because of SWIB.
How do you think that other pre-professional organizations on campus can work to empower their female members specifically?
I think that’s a great question. I think that ultimately as females in business a lot of times it’s hard to kind of break the glass ceiling in male-dominated industries, with some examples being finance, for instance, and some of the things we teach in SWIB is that it is important to give yourself the credit and the confidence to be competing with those of men, especially in information sessions and things like that. It is important for other professional organizations to invite women in and recognize that women may be intimidated or scared to some extent because of the gender barrier, so having members openly and actively reach out to female women in the community to join their club is really important to make them feel included. Also, I think it is important for members looking to join such professional organizations to have the necessary confidence to be willing to go out there and know that they are just as good as any male candidate. So I think that the responsibility falls on us as women and the pre-professional organizations.
What trends or topics relating to women in the workplace are at the forefront of discussion in your organization or on your mind in particular?
I think that something that has been on my mind recently and what we actually had a guest speaker talk about is the idea of being a mother and also being in the working world. And kind of by the nature of going to Cornell, a lot of people do not want to instantly get married. Instead we want a career and a family and neither to compromise the other. We had this organization come to speak to SWIB called Moms Running, which is a group that focuses on female empowerment and having female candidates run for positions in office. They were talking about how it’s important for women to know how to one, ask for help when needed and two, communicate to your boss when needed and sort out any non-negotiables that you wouldn’t be willing to give up. It’s important in the context of juggling both (work and family) to know that it is possible, but it comes from support from your community to help you. But when anyone challenges you into thinking you can’t do something, it is important to have a conversation with them and be able to explain why it is wrong. So if someone makes a comment in the workforce, such as “Oh, you can’t do that because you have to be a mother”, it is important to have a polite conversation with them and engage them in dialogue and to hopefully shift change their mindset. So I think that, overarchingly, is important to realize that as females we can have a successful career, we can have a family-- we can do both.
Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?
Ultimately, it is important for affinity groups on campus, such as the Society for Women in Business, to give the skills necessary to people who might not know how to navigate what to do in a business setting. I think that a lot of people take for granted their background or clubs that teach them professionalism, and not just for women but for a number of other groups as well. As students, we should all willing to give back the human capital we have to younger members. Everyone has something to bring to the table, and if someone is willing to help others, the others should be willing to give back as well... and that is a cycle that can push women forward.