by Samantha Walla & Lauren Schuster, Production Manager & Social Media Editor
On Friday, Sept. 13, students, faculty and guests gathered together on campus to celebrate the accomplishments of the twenty women chosen to participate in the Women Inspiring Successful Enterprise (W.I.S.E.) program this past summer. The symposium included opening remarks from the program’s director, a speech by a distinguished alumnus, a poster session with the W.I.S.E. women and of course some delicious brunch.
Rachel Cirelli oversees the W.I.S.E. program. Cirelli opened the celebration by discussing what the program aims to accomplish for its participants. Cirelli cites that Manhattan College has more female students in leadership roles than males, after graduation
“If you look at other trends of what’s going to happen five, ten, 15 years out, it does tell a different story,” said Cirelli. “Women make up roughly 47% of the U.S. labor force and 49% of the college-educated workforce, but they still remain disproportionately low in areas of leadership.”
Even when women are found in high level administrative positions, national averages predict that they will make 80% of what their male counterparts might make. The W.I.S.E. program’s mission is to rectify this inequity through both internship placement and weekly professional development workshops.
The keynote speaker selected to speak on these injustices from a first-hand perspective was Bernadette Finch, the first female student body president at Manhattan College and current Executive Director at Morgan Stanley.
“Your core ethics and your principles are your defining guideposts,” said Finch. Over her years of varying leadership positions, Finch compiled a list of advice she delivered to the W.I.S.E. women; many pieces focused on the village of supporters that are necessary for individual success.
“Be choosy about the people you allow into your inner circle,” Finch said. “This should be a group of folks you trust, but who offer diversity of thoughts and perspectives that all share one trait: your well being.”
One of the twenty young women chosen to participate in the program is junior Ireland Twiggs. Twiggs interned at a nonprofit called VoteRunLead for the summer. Twiggs worked on both the nonprofit and the political side of the organization, and learned that she had an interest in both areas, which she did not anticipate at the start. She expressed excitement to share the impact the program had on her with others during the symposium.
“I think [the symposium] is so important because I feel like Manhattan is so small a lot of things get lost in the shuffle and I think it’s so important for the community here at Manhattan and around to know all the wonderful work we’re doing,” Twiggs said. “I feel like people interned at such a variety [of places] and did so many amazing things, it’s nice to bring sort of a ‘kudos’ to those who participated and also an increased awareness for what they were doing.”
Another participant in the program is senior Alice Russell. She interned at Chase Literary Agency for the summer. This internship allowed Russell to do more work in the business side of the literary agency world than her previous internship at a different literary agency did. This helped her discover a new area of interest in her field.
“I think [the symposium] is super important because I mean we have the great donor Jim Boyle, but he only agreed for three years so we need more people to get involved and see kind of what it’s been doing and how this program has helped so many women already and how it can go on to help more,” Russell said. “I think last year they had ten women in it, this year we have twenty, so maybe next year it’ll be thirty or more.”
The program’s donor, Jim Boyle, expressed great pride for the way that the program has grown and garnered support since he and Cirelli first discussed it two years ago.
“Now the support is coming in from all different directions, including something that we maybe didn’t anticipate, and that is the companies themselves where the interns spend the summer want to help too,” Boyle said.
Cirelli spoke about her perspective of the W.I.S.E. women as an administrator before opening the floor to the participants.
“We stay the same every year,” said Cirelli. “For me, it’s an honor to see how young people are changing. They have more knowledge, more insight. They’re doing things like yoga, meditating, professional development things, they’re volunteering, they’re getting great grades, they’re joining professional organizations. This is just the time where young people are kind of just blowing my mind.”