2018 Women’s Leadership Summit provides opportunities and access

Women's Leadership Summit group photo

The third annual Foster Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS) wrapped up in July 2018, but the connections made and lessons learned will last a lifetime. With the biggest cohort yet, Foster Undergraduate Programs was thrilled to welcome 38 rising high school juniors and seniors to campus. Given the outstanding applications and competitive nature of the program, it came as no surprise that the 2018 cohort was an engaged and enthusiastic group of students.

WLS Provides these young women the opportunity to interact with current and former UW students, employers, staff, faculty, and community partners. It gives students the opportunity to see what the field of business looks like at many different levels, industries, and stages of life.

Introductions and setting intentions

I loved the Female Founder’s Alliance round table because it gave me insight on the women’s educational and professional journeys, their inspiration for creating their companies, and what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated position.

Day 1 was full of activities, reflections and opportunities for the students to begin getting to know each other and setting expectations for the week, as well as time to reflect on their goals for the program and what they hope to gain from this experience. With intentions to gain insight into the business field, grow their network, and push themselves out of their comfort zone, the students were ready to get started.

Through interaction with faculty, alumni, and employers in the areas of finance, operations and supply chain management, and information systems, WLS aims to introduce students to these fields of study and careers they can pursue. WLS specifically focuses on these areas within business due to lower representation of women in these more STEM leading fields, rather than marketing, for example.

Finance, supply chain management, and public speaking

Women's Leadership Summit studentsDay 2 kicked off with a welcome from Vikki Haag Day, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs, followed by a lecture from Associate Professor of Finance, Jennifer Koski. One student noted, “Mrs. Koski’s lecture was captivating and made me excited for college–I can’t wait to have professors like that in the future. Her ability to answer questions with clarity and precision, and her engagement with students made learning finance fun!” Following Koski’s lecture, students participated in a selling and investing simulation to see first-hand how the finance concepts Koski spoke about may show up in the real world.

The day continued with a Supply Chain Management workshop led by four alumnae of Foster’s Master of Supply Chain Management program. Through an introduction to what the field of supply chain management encompasses, an exploration of career paths, and personal stories from the presenters, students gained an expanded view of the field. To explain and illustrate the supply chain management concepts they were just introduced to, students participated in a production line simulation with push and pull runs.

Women's Leadership Summit studentsIn addition to introducing specific fields within business, WLS also acquaints students with notions of professionalism and what to expect in a college business setting. Day 2 presentations rounded out with a presentation skills workshop led by Melissa Uyesugi, Associate Director for Diversity & Inclusion, where students got a taste for presentations at the college level, including an activity where each student gave an impromptu speech.

WLS is the first taste of college for the majority of students in the program; to give them a glimpse into the college experience, two college-student Resident Assistants stay with the students in the Residence Hall and run evening programming throughout WLS. Day 2’s evening programing included a “real talk” session where students asked the RAs anything and everything about what the college experience is like.

Information systems, storytelling, and company visits

Women's Leadership Summit at AmazonDay 3 kicked off with a lecture on Information Systems from UW alumna Helen Habte. After an introduction to the field of IS and what pursuing that option at Foster entails, students applied the concepts through a data analysis activity. The next workshop focused on storytelling and was led by Rebecca Thornton, Educational Programs Manager at the Consulting and Business Development Center. During this workshop students took an inquisitive eye to their social identities and how they can use elements of storytelling to enhance their public speaking.

From there students boarded a coach bus and headed downtown for a day of company site visits. The first stop was ATLAS Workbase where students heard from Co-Founder, President and CEO Bill Sechter on industry coworking trends. They were then joined by Founder & CEO of the Female Founders Alliance, a private network of women startup founders and CEOs, Leslie Feinzaig. Five members of the Alliance joined students for round table discussions where they asked questions and learned more about owning a business and pursuing an entrepreneurial route.

The round tables were certainly a highlight of the week. One student shared, “I loved the Female Founder’s Alliance round table because it gave me insight on the women’s educational and professional journeys, their inspiration for creating their companies, and what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated position.”

After visiting ATLAS Workbase, students headed south to Amazon where they had the opportunity to hear from four employees regarding their role and path to Amazon. Following the panel, students explored Amazon’s campus, including a visit to The Spheres and AmazonGo.

Networking and final presentations

The last day of WLS started with a workshop led by Forté Foundation Associate Director Kelly Ogiba. Forté Foundation is a non-profit consortium of leading companies and top business schools working together to launch women into fulfilling, significant careers through access to business education, opportunities, and a community of successful women. Students also got to hear from three Forté members regarding their path to an MBA and what opportunities they took advantage of during their undergraduate career.

This week pushed me outside of my comfort zone numerous times, forcing me to learn and grow in ways that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to do. I better understand UW Foster’s programs and admissions, how to network, and the tools to break into the business world as a female.

Next, Senior Career Coach Lindsey Friessnig led a workshop on Networking and Informational Interviewing. One of the biggest takeaways many of the participants left WLS with was the importance of networking and gratitude that they had the opportunity to practice networking skills in a supportive environment with professionals there to offer tips and guidance.

Throughout the summit, students were working on a mini Ted Talk that they presented in the last session of WLS. With the prompt “share something you believe in and why,” students not only got to practice presentation and storytelling skills, but they also got to know their cohort in a deeper way, solidifying connections that had been growing throughout the week.

WLS ended with a celebration of all the students had accomplished throughout the week, along with promises to keep in touch and hopes to join the Foster Freshman Direct class in the future.

At the end of the event, one student reflected, “This week pushed me outside of my comfort zone numerous times, forcing me to learn and grow in ways that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to do. I better understand UW Foster’s programs and admissions, how to network, and the tools to break into the business world as a female.”

Learn more about the Women’s Leadership Summit.

Guest post by Andrea Pesola, Student Engagement Program Manager, Undergraduate Programs Office