In a world dominated by men, female students often find themselves pitted against one another. While men are expected to climb the corporate ladder or enter a science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM)-field job, women are called ambitious if they even mention shooting for a promotion or a job in a male-dominated field. Women continue to push boundaries in the workplace, but inequality still remains due to stereotypes, assumptions and more. This can scare and hold female students back, which is why The Women’s Network (TWN) was established to help create a community of women who encourage and support one another in their professional goals and career path. TWN is a national organization with chapters on 23 college campuses. TWN is expanding across the country, with Binghamton University being its newest addition.
TWN aims to help women find a place to grow professionally on campus with the support of other female students. The group hosts guest lectures, workshops for resume building, networking events and other activities which help women gain confidence about entering the professional world.
Oona Brennan, a sophomore majoring in economics, is the co-lead campus ambassador, sits on the professional development committee and is a mentor in the mentorship program. The mentorship program was just launched this semester, where TWN held a speed-dating event to match underclassmen with mentors.
“We’re establishing friendships along with networking connections and professional development skills,” Brennan said.
Solana McKee, a freshman majoring in integrative neuroscience, is a marketing coordinator for TWN. McKee reaches out to potential new members and manages and creates content for the club’s social media, which includes LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. On Instagram, TWN posts tips for how to manage virtual learning and promotes their events. TWN’s social media posts for a series called “Wise Women Wednesday,” which highlights a culturally significant woman every week. McKee discussed a recent event TWN held where everyone was able to discuss leadership.
“Lots of us talked about what difficulties we’ve had, especially in environments working with men or just in general trying to assert yourself and claim what you are capable of,” McKee said. “It is so comforting to hear from young women who are learning how to be successful and developing the necessary skills to be successful and talking about times they were strong and giving advice to others.”
TWN also works to debunk stereotypes and microaggressions against women and uplift them instead. According to McKee, one common microaggression directed at women is calling a woman “ambitious.” While it may seem like a harmless compliment, it is a word that is generally only used when referring to a woman. Men are expected to be academically and professionally successful, so their drive to achieve their career goals is often not deemed as ambitious — just normal. Ambitious women are viewed as less compassionate and bossy, while ambitious men are respected and admired.
TWN is aiming to change the conversation around calling a woman ambitious as they see it as a positive trait, McKee said.
“In academic and workplace spaces, it’s not so much that people are consciously opposed to women succeeding, but it’s not really expected of women in the same way it is for men,” McKee said. “I think if you tell someone ‘I want to go onto graduate school and wait to have kids,’ or ‘I want to be the CEO of this company,’ people don’t expect that as a natural inclination for women.”
Jenna Picciano, a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics and law, is a co-lead ambassador who oversees a team of five campus ambassadors. Picciano shared that TWN held a “Redefining Ambition: Young Women Using their Voices for Change,” event, where this idea of being an ambitious and collaborative female student was discussed. The members discussed what ambition meant to them and their past experiences of being called ambitious.
“If somebody calls you ambitious, there’s a bad connotation with it because when have you ever heard a man be called ambitious,” Picciano said. “Probably never. We hear that word a lot being exclusively used for women and the idea that they’re a try-hard. So, redefining ‘ambition’, what does that word mean to you? How are you going to redefine ambition?”
Brennan is planning to work in finance after graduation, a male-dominated field. She feels having a club dedicated to women being successful is important in order to meet like-minded women and many other reasons concerning the confidence and success of women in male-dominated industries.
“[TWN] as a whole was created to celebrate ambitious women that are often feared or spoken down to,” Brennan said. “Our founder talks frequently about how ambition was often used as a dirty word in any industry. [Jamie Vinick] founded [TWN] as a way to redefine ambition and reclaim it as a word of strength.”
Katelyn Cecere, a sophomore majoring in business administration, is the president of the TWN club at BU. Cecere oversees the E-Board along with the many committees within the club. She plans and runs events and works to foster a friendly community within the club by getting to know all of the members at BU and nationally.
Brennan and Cecere are currently working on guides for specific careers for students to follow and use as a helpful source on advice for how to get their dream job. Whether you’re currently studying premed, engineering, business or English, TWN will work to help you be successful.
“As president, I hope to establish a community of women from all majors and backgrounds where everyone can utilize the network’s professional resources in addition to finding amazing friends along the way,” Cecere wrote.
TWN has established chapters in many colleges across the country, allowing for an extensive list of possible connections. Also, TWN is similar to a sorority because there is a national organization that holds meetings and events as well. Members can form long-lasting friendships and connections through the club.
“My favorite memory was attending the [“National Confidence Workshop”] about a month ago,” Cecere wrote. “I was able to meet so many amazing women from across the country that turned into genuine friendships. It was a phenomenal example of just how supportive the community is and how eager everyone is to get to know each other.”
TWN holds meetings every Thursday at 6 p.m. and national meetings occur every other Wednesday at 8 p.m. where members from across the country attend. All TWN members are also able to attend events hosted by any TWN chapter, regardless of the college they attend.
Cecere, McKee, Brennan and Picciano are all excited for new members. Picciano discussed how helpful she believes TWN is.
“No one else is going to teach you about the professional development skills that TWN offers to teach you about,” Picciano said. “Whether that’s how to write a resume or how to write a cover letter, there’s always going to be a team of girls who will get back to you in 10 minutes with advice. It’s such a great resource that I don’t see existing anywhere else.”
McKee believes TWN’s goals are far-reaching and impact everyone.
“The whole thing about [TWN] is redefining ambition and I think it’s about redefining the idea of female ambition for men and the world in general because women know what they want,” McKee said. “It’s just a matter of clearing the path for them to do that.”