AU Club Feature: Undergraduate Women in Business fosters connections and promotes inclusivity
The club implements initiatives to help new members and encourage development in all capacities
Upon overcoming the challenge of getting students to log onto another Zoom meeting during the fall semester, American University’s chapter of Undergraduate Women in Business (UWIB) experienced an influx of new members.
The organization, founded in 2017 by Kogod School of Business alumnae Isabella Echeverry and Katrena Njiki, is dedicated to promoting women in business and incorporates workshops, speakers, discussions, networking opportunities and professional development for all women at AU. Now led by President Sledja Ishmakej, the group has implemented new initiatives and ideas.
“They just saw that women did not have enough representation; there were not enough resources on campus to help women become successful professionals,” said Ishmakej, a junior finance major and accounting minor.
Ishmakej joined the club during the fall of her freshman year and was on the executive board.
“I saw how, even though I was sitting in the same room with upperclassmen, my opinion on different issues, different events that we were doing, was always valued,” Ishmakej said. “I might’ve not known as much about the club as everyone else, but I always felt appreciated and supported by the other women.”
After the club received immense interest from underclassmen looking for a sense of community, the organization responded by creating small groups that meet on a biweekly basis. These smaller groups are separated by themes based on interest. Each small group can decide on both professional and social activities to do with each other, ultimately adding a more personal component to the club’s online events.
“Creating these smaller groups where it’s easier to connect to one another has been really successful, and we’re very excited to see this help freshmen and sophomores find friends and find other women in their community,” Ishmakej said.
In addition to this new initiative, the organization has sought opportunities for guest speakers and special events due to the online shift. Last semester, founders Echeverry and Njiki returned for a lecture, and Kogod alumna Sara Lachapelle, a creative consultant, came to discuss personal branding, something she said is useful both online and in person.
“That actually turned into one of the benefits for switching online,” Ishmakej said. “We were able to have a lot of alums and other speakers that live all around the U.S., it was easy now for them to give back since before we had tried to bring a lot of speakers, a lot of women, but just traveling and being far away was challenging.”
The club is also hosting tea talks as an opportunity for women to come together and discuss pressing issues and challenges, as well as how diversity impacts the workplace and everyday life. In the next few months, the organization is focused on discussing various aspects of mental health in hopes of putting more of an emphasis on this conversation.
To give back to the community, UWIB is running a clothing drive with business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi from March 28 through April 3 for Suited for Change; the D.C.-based nonprofit provides professional attire, skills training and coaching to women in need who are seeking employment.
“I think one of the best things that I’ve personally gotten out of this experience is just seeing women do amazing things, seeing the e-board and other members be so passionate and very involved and having so many ideas,” Ishmakej said. “That honestly serves as an inspiration for me.”