Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship gives women a new space to grow

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Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship gives women a new space to grow

Aarti Amalean (left) and Rosie Meyer (right) are both involved with the leadership team at WISE. Amalean said she finds the club to be “very empowering.”

Aarti Amalean (left) and Rosie Meyer (right) are both involved with the leadership team at WISE. Amalean said she finds the club to be “very empowering.”

Deanna Schwartz

Aarti Amalean (left) and Rosie Meyer (right) are both involved with the leadership team at WISE. Amalean said she finds the club to be “very empowering.”

Deanna Schwartz

Deanna Schwartz

Aarti Amalean (left) and Rosie Meyer (right) are both involved with the leadership team at WISE. Amalean said she finds the club to be “very empowering.”

Deanna Schwartz, news staff

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At the first session for the Husky Startup Challenge last semester, only 12 of the 112 attendees were women. As the competition continued, this number dwindled down to only one woman out of 40 finalists.

For Mia Nguyen, the only female director of the program, this was “heartbreaking.” When Nguyen, a second-year business administration major, asked the other women why they dropped out, they said they were too intimidated and and felt it was too much of a “boy’s club.”

Nguyen and her fellow Entrepreneurs Club member Eliana Berger, a first-year combined business and psychology major, realized that there is a lack of female representation in the Northeastern business ecosystem. They decided to address the problem with the creation of Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship, or WISE, in January 2019.

WISE is a student organization “dedicated to increasing the confidence of young women and teaching them an entrepreneur mindset,” Nguyen said.

WISE’s programming consists of three types of events: WeLearn, WeBuild and WeSupport.

WeLearn is a series of interactive workshops across various disciplines, with leaders brought in to teach workshops on their area of expertise. So far, workshops have been held on negotiation, venture capital, blogging, social media and other topics. The first WeLearn workshop in January focused on experience and user design, and had a turnout of more than 60 women, Nguyen said.

WeBuild and WeSupport are not fully launched yet, but will be in the fall. WeBuild is a series of startup classes held by an upperclassman or alum that requires an application. WeSupport is a mentorship network that pairs underclassmen with upperclassmen, and upperclassmen with successful alumni.

This is neither Nguyen’s nor Berger’s first venture into starting a new organization — they both started businesses in high school. Nguyen started a portable phone charger company called CC Cords and Berger started a non-profit called Golden Heroes, which works to comfort children being treated for cancer. Their experiences dealing with gender discrimination through these ventures contributed to the birth of WISE.

Nguyen described struggling to maintain her femininity in the business world, and Berger said her authority was often doubted in favor of a male colleague.

“I noticed a lot of times when I’d walk into a room, it would be completely male-dominated,” Berger said.

Part of what makes WISE unique is that it is accessible to students of any major.

“We’re eliminating the notion that you have to be a business major to be entrepreneurial,” Berger said. WISE has members from across all of Northeastern’s colleges, and the executive and advisory board represents all but one college.

“WISE allows women from all different majors and backgrounds to explore different skills and find their strength,” said fifth-year psychology major Rosie Meyer, WISE’s vice president of community.

In addition to education, WISE places a large emphasis on creating a feeling of community for its members. Vice President of Design Aarti Amalean, a fifth-year interaction design and marketing combined major, said she finds the club to be “very empowering.”

“Women are using WISE to get to know each other and spend time together,” Nguyen said.

Those involved with WISE believe that it has the potential to make a tangible difference.

“We’re providing a community that is otherwise hard to find,” Berger said.

Esther Chewning, a co-op coordinator for entrepreneurship and management, concurred that WISE is filling a gap that was previously not present for women in entrepreneurship.

“[WISE] is a great opportunity for us to promote entrepreneurship and the benefits of it to our female students,” she said.

In March, WISE is taking 30 women to the Google headquarters in Boston for a tour and a workshop on imposter syndrome, which is when a person doubts their accomplishments and feels like a fraud in their workplace or academic setting.

Both Nguyen and Berger said they want to see WISE grow and flourish.

“It’s amazing and it’s just the beginning,” Nguyen said.