With an increasing number of women breaking into the tech industry, the demand for female-focused resources and support is growing in America’s universities. Boston College’s Women Innovators Network (WIN) hopes to stand in the gap of female leadership and unite women in technology, entrepreneurship, and social innovation under one comprehensive network within the BC community.
The very beginnings of WIN can be traced back to the Faculty Dining Hall, where John Gallaugher—an associate professor in the information systems department and a founding faculty member of the BC TechTrek programs—brought together Erin Cullen, CSOM ’15, Ayako Mikami, A&S ’16, Julie Bacon, A&S ’15, and Annie Weber, CSOM ’15, to discuss the lack of women present and active in the tech communities at BC.
After noticing the need for more female participation and leadership in this community, Cullen, Mikami, Bacon, and Weber—all active participants and leaders in BC’s tech scene—went on to co-found WIN as a resource and space for women in a male-centric field. Under the guidance of Gallaugher, the four decided to join together across majors and organizational leadership experience in an effort to create an umbrella network that encompasses technology, entrepreneurship, and social innovation.
Arev Doursounian, A&S ’17, was also brought on as a co-founder of the organization.
Cullen said that Gallaugher has been instrumental in giving the group the initiative, tools, and connections to make the founding of this organization possible. She also noted that Gallaugher recognized his position as a male in this space—and subsequently, the lack of women in this space—and brought the four of them together to identify solutions for this problem, which for them, came through the creation of this network.
WIN is set to be a space where women in the BC community can have career support, mentorship, and networking opportunities. The co-founders stressed that the network is not only aimed toward upperclassmen, but they hope for it to be a resource to underclassmen, by encouraging freshman and sophomore women to consider information systems, computer science, and other related industries early on in their BC career. Mikami noted that the events hosted by WIN are not intended to be women-only but are open to all, and that the organization hopes to be a resource to men as well.
“We see it as a powerful tool for continuing to support each other and to allow more women to discover this field who maybe haven’t shown an interest yet, because they don’t know that these opportunities are out there,” Cullen said.
The co-founders come from diverse organizational and major backgrounds, and they hope to bring together the resources and connections they have accumulated throughout their leadership experiences to form a deeply woven support network. Cullen has served on the Women in Business executive board for three years, and is also chair of the Council for Women of BC student advisory board, the all-female alumni network. Weber serves as President of the Carroll School of Management (CSOM) Honors program, and is a co-chair of the BC Venture Competition (BCVC), which she has been involved with for the past four years.
Mikami is set to be the co-president of the Information Systems Academy. Doursounian is the student ambassador for Google, and Bacon oversees Women in Computer Science (WICS). With such diverse organizational backgrounds, the network has the potential to unite women across various groups on campus under one umbrella community, Weber said.
“I think all of us represent these different groups, and we see these people who show up and these people who are passionate, but when we’re looking back on our time here—most of us are juniors and seniors—it was not something that women were extremely or predominantly featured in,” Cullen said. “Even if they were there, we think that there’s just more opportunities for women to be at the forefront, in leadership positions.”
WIN is not yet a registered student organization, and the co-founders are currently undergoing the registration process, with hopes of establishing the organization by next year. Though they are still establishing and finalizing registration and funding, the group currently functions under the support and sponsorship of the information systems department, and the guidance of Gallaugher. With three of the five current co-founders graduating this year, the organization will be run under the leadership of Mikami and Doursounian next fall.
WIN hosted their first kickoff event this past Tuesday, featuring a talk by Emily Raleigh, the founder of the Smart Girls Group. Raleigh, a student entrepreneur and junior at Fordham University, initially founded the digital platform as a monthly digital magazine, but it has since grown into a multi-platform brand that seeks to empower young women by providing a variety of products, support, and resources to a community of women across 40 countries. The event was funded through BCVC.
“I think just working with these four women has shown how much potential women at BC have, and I think that just gives us—even as graduating seniors—so much promise for what this University is continuing to bring, and the kind of women it’s attracting.” Cullen said.
Featured Image courtesy of Daniele DeGroot