After being inactive for nearly four years, SF State’s Women in Business Club is being restarted as Providing Opportunities for Women, which held its first meeting Oct. 26.
SF State business students Brenda Ibanescu, Jodi Chen and Abigail Pearse took on the unique challenge of resurrecting a dead organization at SF State.
“I sought out a women in business group here on campus, and there wasn’t one,” Ibanescu said. “I found out there was an inactive one that hadn’t been active for four years. When I started talking to people, they were like, ‘Why don’t you just start it? Stop being pissed about it, stop trying to analyze why it’s happening and do something about it.”
Ibanescu said she started the club in response to how underrepresented women are in corporate business. She said she was tired of hearing the negative statistics about women in business, so she created POW to help empower young business women.
“You know it just irks me,” Ibanescu said. “I think women are just as qualified as men to be there.”
Though Ibanescu said rebuilding POW has been a fun and rewarding experience, she said she and her team ran into a few challenges while trying to establish the club.
“It’s harder than starting an organization from scratch — the operational aspect of getting all the paperwork and meeting all the requirements is really nit-picky,” Ibanescu said. “The other thing is the marketing perspective: who are we trying to acquire in this club, and how are we going to get those people to come?”
As of 2014, women made up 47 percent of the United States’ total labor force and 52 percent of the corporate labor force, according to The American Center for Progress.
Though women have made some strides in breaking into the corporate business world, they still face significant adversity when trying to climb the corporate ladder, according to a report from the Pew Research Center. As of 2015, only 16.9 percent of board members of Fortune 500 companies were women — of those same companies, only 5.2 percent had female CEOs, the report said.
“I think a lot of women in the business world are hesitant to enter this world because they are afraid to achieve something they deserve,” said POW member Alex Gingerich. “(Women) can be the CEO or manager of one of the biggest companies. It’s a very male–dominated world — there hasn’t been a kind experience towards women, and I think it’s important that (women) get together now and motivate each other.”
Along with the lack of representation in leadership roles, women are still battling to reduce the significant gender wage gap, according to an analysis from the Pew Research Center. The analysis showed that women 16 and older earn only 84 percent of what men do on an hourly basis.
“Sexism still exists; we’re trying to change it, but it still exists,” said SF State accounting professor Tina Caratan. “I don’t think business takes (the wage gap) seriously. I don’t think (companies) recognize that they have to change the way they are operating.”
As an organization, POW’s main goal is to connect aspiring businesswomen with some of the most successful female leaders in the corporate world today, said POW Vice President Jodi Chen. By establishing those connections, POW aims to give its members the knowledge and confidence to seek out leadership opportunities as they advance in their career, Ibanescu said.
“I hope this will encourage women to take more leadership positions in college or whatever they do and take that experience with them when they graduate,” Chen said.
Monday was the club’s first meeting to gauge interest and speak directly to new members to find out what they want out of a club for women in business, Chen said.
“We want to see if what we’re offering is actually beneficial to students on campus,” Chen said. “We think that we are going to add value to all the students we’re reaching out to, but we want to get feedback to know that we are adding value to their experience.”
Graph by Moby Howeidy