Foster is serious about women MBAs. With women making up 43% of the Class of 2018 (well-above the national average), Foster understands the importance of equipping women to excel in business and providing resources for women MBAs to do just that. These resources include an elective course, “Women at the Top,” which brings in regional business leaders in a forum-style setting; the Foster MBA Mentor program, which includes a large number of women professionals that students can connect with; and the Women in Business (WiB) student club. WiB’s mission is to “nurture the personal and professional development of Foster women MBA students, with a specific focus on growing women into leadership positions and increasing visibility in the community.”
This year, WiB is led by President Alexis Perlmutter. Before attending Foster, Alexis specialized in digital strategy, communications, and strategic planning for two national nonprofits. At Funders Together to End Homelessness, she worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Raikes Foundation, and other national philanthropies to develop communications and public affairs programs to prevent and end homelessness. At the National Immigrant Justice Center, she directed national policy and digital advocacy efforts to reform America’s immigration system. This past summer, she was a product management intern at Amazon.
Her passion for facilitating a broad dialogue about the role of women in leadership positions and the role of unconscious bias in the workplace drew her to the critical work of WiB. We recently sat down with Alexis to hear more about the work WiB is doing in the Foster community.
What activities does WiB host every year?
WiB hosts interactive workshops once per quarter to help students address The Confidence Gap, become better negotiators, and effectively manage diverse teams. We host networking events to connect current students with women leaders in the greater Seattle community. WiB also believes in paying it forward, so we facilitate a mentor program with the Undergraduate Women in Business club to set up future business leaders for success.
What truly sets WiB apart, in my opinion, is that we also play a critical role in supporting the personal development of Foster students. We facilitate small discussion groups to talk about balancing work and life commitments and confronting unconscious bias. We host events for our active group of #He4She members, or male students who want to be better allies for women leaders. And we host informal social gatherings to help students unwind and reboot during the stressful times of business school.
Why is your club so important within Foster environment?
I’ll speak from my own experience: After many years in the nonprofit sector, I was coming to business school to change careers. I was used to working with and for women, and frankly, I took that built-in support system for granted. When I came to Foster, I realized that I was in the minority. I was suddenly working on teams with people who came from very different backgrounds, spoke different languages, and approached team assignments in different ways. I needed to find my voice and I found the most support in WiB. My story is just one of many here at Foster, and WiB actively seeks to empower these diverse voices.
What other resources exists at Foster for women MBAs?
WiB works closely with other diversity clubs at Foster, including Diversity in Business, Out in Business, Jewish Business Society, and Foster Veterans Association. Together, these clubs form the Council on Diversity and Inclusion, a group dedicated to promoting the value and individualization of diversity and to cultivate perspective-taking and respectful dialogue around issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, culture, religion, socioeconomic status, and physical abilities.
In addition, WiB is fortunate to share its mission with many organizations in Seattle and nationwide, including the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA) and Lean In Seattle. We are especially grateful to have been named a Forte Foundation partner school this year. Many women in the incoming full-time class have received scholarships to be at Foster, and one student even secured an internship before school started because of connections she made at the Forte Foundation’s annual conference! These partnerships help us put words into action.
To learn more about the work that WiB is doing in the Foster community, check out their website here.