With hopes of creating a safe space for career questions, receiving professional advice and building bonds with peers, a new club at Texas State has embarked on a journey to empower women interested in business.
Alina Jaffer, an accounting graduate student and founder/president of the club, says the idea for the organization stemmed from both her experience growing up in a traditional household and the struggle she experienced her freshman year finding a club that fit her.
"I was raised to be very ladylike and oh, you know, like, don't be as aggressive or assertive...Talk softer and be polite...and those are all great things. But the thing is, I'm not like that," Jaffer says. "I wanted a place where women felt comfortable and they felt like, 'Okay, if you're a first-generation student, you know, maybe you can talk to people a little bit more or just things along the lines of that'."
Jaffer came up with the idea for the club two years ago. However, trouble finding a faculty adviser, upcoming graduation and getting into a graduate school were heavy on Jaffer's mind.
Despite her busy schedule, Jaffer decided it was finally time to bring her idea to life. She held the first information session for those interested in joining Women in Business over Zoom during the winter storm. Since then, the organization has gained a lot of interest and prospective members.
Women in Business is open to all majors and classifications. Meetings are held every Monday for members only. Every meeting is based around the organization's three pillars: Education, networking and community. The community pillar is especially important to Janna Beardsley, a marketing junior and Women in Business' director of marketing.
"It's so important for me that women build each other up. Because like, there's this stigma that we kind of tear each other down. We're so competitive, and that's because of men, right? We're just like, trying to, like, get there," Beardsley says.
The organization's board members were concerned about whether those in meetings would find a genuine interest in the organization or just view it as something to add to a resume.
"I think, like an internal struggle of mine is, if people you know, do sign up, do pay dues, we want them to show up," Jaffer says. "We don't just want this to be some like passive thing that they put on their resume. This means a lot to me. And I think it means a lot to the other board members as well."
Beardsley says she was surprised there was no organization like Women in Business at Texas State. She says it is important to create communities to support other women, especially in a male-dominated industry such as business.
"Sometimes we do need a little bit of extra community and extra support and extra knowledge about things in order to become more successful," Beardsley says. "I really like this club, because it's teaching women and giving [them] the tools that they need to just be successful and eventually work on their own, eventually even become entrepreneurs or anything that they want to do."
As of last year, only 167 women held leading positions in the U.S.' top 3,000 companies — only 5%. Women still have difficulties getting promoted into "C-suites," or the chief jobs at a company, which are still overwhelmingly dominated by men.
Jaffer says while it is important to acknowledge women still have a way to go to receive fair opportunities and respect in the business world, it is equally important to realize the progress women have already made.
"There's a certain aspect of business that, you know, women aren't welcomed into. Like, if a woman is assertive, suddenly we're aggressive versus [if it] were a man, that's not really an issue, right?" Jaffer says. "Now, the last thing we want is to make ourselves victims. That's not the case. But I do think that you know, as we give each other the tools to kind of be aware of what we have and, you know, take responsibility for who we are and like our profession and career, I think stuff like this is very important because you kind of realize how much you don't know."
Isabel Araiza, a marketing senior and the director of philanthropy for Women in Business, says she hopes the support system within the organization inspires members to tackle anything the industry may toss their way.
"[I hope members take away] confidence. Confidence in themselves and their abilities, their skill sets, their professionalism and everything of that sort so that they're able to confidently walk into an interview or any business meeting, any event, formal event, anything of that sort without being the slightest bit uncertain," Araiza says.
Jaffer has found solace in watching the club grow — getting it to a place where meetings are booked with guest speakers, workshops, roundtables and panels. She takes pride in leading an organization like Women in Business where she can provide women an opportunity to learn and grow in an area in desperate need of a strong female presence.
"We want this to be like a safe space. I try to say it at the beginning of every meeting. Like, there are no wrong answers," Jaffer says. "I know we all come from different backgrounds and have different situations. So just recognizing the diversity in this group and then also being open to helping each other, because I think that's what it's all about, right?"