During a speaker event with a well-known female banking executive at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, Syracuse alum Jamie Vinick was disappointed to notice that attendees were not asking questions about the challenges women face in gaining leadership roles in the financial sector. Vinick went home and started drafting ideas for what would later become The Women’s Network — an organization founded in 2017 that focuses on the experiences of women in the workplace.
With The Women’s Network, Vinick aimed to create a nationwide, women-led networking community that would encourage ambition and connect members of the network to female professionals.
“What I realized was that the topic of gender in the workplace is incredibly taboo and even uncomfortable for a lot of people to discuss,” Vinick said. “I also saw (the speaker event) as a missed opportunity to inspire a lot of the women in the room. (The Women’s Network) exploded immediately after we launched on campus and, given the success we’ve had, I wanted women across the country to have the opportunity to experience something similar on their own campus as I did on mine.”
The Women’s Network has since expanded onto 42 campuses across the country, according to Vinick. New chapters are also in the works, including one at the University of Michigan, which is set to launch the third week of March.
Coming to Michigan
LSA sophomore Sophie Boock, incoming vice president of the U-M chapter, said the leadership team –– which was chosen from an outreach committee via Instagram ahead of the group’s official launch –– has been working together over the course of several months to get the chapter ready for its launch. Once the chapter is up and running, women on campus will be able to join by visiting the University’s chapter page on The Women’s Network website and filling out a membership form.
“We’re currently still in the process of finalizing a few details and making our final calendar,” Boock said. “(The membership form) is a very simple form so it is easy to join and is definitely very accessible. We’re working on spreading the word so that people can find (The Women’s Network) more easily.”
According to LSA junior Sydney Borens, co-vice president of marketing for the chapter, social media has played a large role in preparing for The Women’s Network’s launch on campus.
“We’re definitely planning on posting a lot of different things … to hype up The Women’s Network and get people excited about the launch, as well as just giving more information about The Women’s Network,” Borens said.
Chapter ambassadors, like Public Policy junior Bianca Shah, are in the process of reaching out to women across campus about the new chapter.
“It’s not an exclusive club,” Shah said. “You’ll be meeting all these people from not only your college, but a bunch of colleges across the country. It’s more that we want to build a community, so we want the community to be as large as it can be.”
To LSA sophomore Christine Park, co-vice president of marketing for The Women’s Network, a defining feature of the organization is bringing women together regardless of area of study or academic interest.
“I think other female empowerment clubs are more focused on something specific, and what’s interesting about The Women’s Network is that we have a bunch of speakers in different fields, so it draws in a bunch of different girls that are in completely different fields,” Park said.
Echoing Park, Boock said the network will build connections not only within the campus community, but also between chapters across the country.
“Something that differentiates The Women’s Network from other organizations is that we are national,” Boock said. “When we launch, we will have chapter events that are strictly for Michigan students, but then we will also have the opportunity to attend national chapter events and grow our network even farther. I think that’s what differentiates it and makes it all the more important to have on our campus.”
Vinick said the Women’s Network seeks to redefine the idea of networking by highlighting genuine and meaningful relationships among women nationwide.
“When I say networking as we know it, usually what comes to mind are very negative traits,” Vinick said. “It’s intimidating, it’s inorganic, it’s unnatural. We’re creating this opportunity for tens of thousands of women across the country to build authentic, meaningful relationships with one another … and building off of that as they continue to ascend in their career and then ultimately paying it forward.”
A focus on ambition
Vinick said she is excited about the opportunities provided by the Network so far.
“You get this sense of community that’s so much bigger than yourself … that’s what’s really exciting,” Vinick said. “We’ve placed over 30 people into internships this past summer. Some of them have led to job opportunities. People have found mentors and gained more confidence. People have gained exposure to different industries and changed their majors. If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that relationships matter.”
Like Vinick, Shah believes the addition of a new Women’s Network chapter on campus will be an important step in forging connections among female students and building skills that will be helpful for their future careers.
“It’s all about women’s empowerment and celebrating ambition and encouraging those professional development skills,” Shah said. “I think that those things are very often not included in organizations on campuses, especially with a women’s focus.”
The Women’s Network, according to Vinick, hopes to continue to expand onto other campuses. Until then, Vinick is excited for the future of the Network and emphasizes the overall importance of its vision.
“Everything we do relates back to our mission,” Vinick said. “Connecting collegiate and recently graduated women to each other, to leaders across many industries and to celebrate ambition. The vision of the network is to build out this powerhouse of a network where connections, advice, resources, and opportunities can be found in-house. This isn’t just any organization that a member of our Michigan chapter would join … this is something that they’re going to be a part of throughout their career and really, their life.”
Correction: A previous version of this article said The Women’s Network was founded in 2016 and has chapters on 18 campuses. It was actually founded in 2017 and is on 42 campuses.
Daily Staff Reporter Lara Janosz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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