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Spotlight on Student Life: Chicago Women in Business

Join our live chat with current students from the Chicago Booth Women in Business (CWiB) group in celebration of International Women's Day. The discussion will be about their Booth experience and how it has made an impact on their careers. Learn more about how the panelists navigate academics and recruiting, as well as the dynamic and supportive community at Booth.

Chat Transacripts 
 Guest: Hello, thank you for hosting this chat. What are the main activities at the CWiB group meetings/events? How the group helped you to navigate the educational/recruiting processes?

* Kerry Kraemer:  CWiB has a number of events and activities that have a recruiting, professional development, and/or social focus. On the recruiting front, I found our women only networking night to be incredibly helpful. We were able to meet with a wide variety of companies early on in the recruiting process to introduce ourselves and learn a bit about them. On the professional development front, we've had a number of events focused on things like negotiations and public speaking. Finally, we host social activities like happy hours, and CWiB circles, which are more intimate small group meetings where we discuss a wide variety of issues facing women in business and women more broadly.


Guest: Would you recommend joining the group to all women or to women in specific fields?

* Samantha Keefe: Great question! I'd recommend joining CWiB to all women. While CWiB offers many networking and career-focused events, the club is not industry-specific and offers many social events as well.


Guest: Good Afternoon. Thanks for hosting this chat. A quick question about campus visits...will full time visits (including class attendance) be available after March?

* Kimberly Ge: Happy International Women's Day! Thank you for joining us! We will have our full schedule (includes class visits, information session, lunch with students, tour of campus) starting back up in April. We start our abbreviated visits (information session & tour of campus) after March 10 due to finals and spring break.


Guest: What has been the most challenging part of your experience at Booth? What resources have you had access to and used to help you navigate those challenges?

* Olivia Rodriguez: Wonderful question. For me personally, the most challenging part of the Booth experience was adjusting to full-time school life and being in a brand new city.  I found myself homesick, and it was a bit difficult to jump right away into classes and recruiting from a 9-5 work schedule.  However, all that said, Booth has done an amazing job helping us adjust! I was assigned two second-year mentors right away, and the Booth groups allowed me to make friends very easily. Booth just a wonderful job fostering team work with group projects – and our really fun orientation at the start of the fall. What’s a bit different about Booth is that our orientation is a few weeks long before classes even start – so you get the chance to explore Chicago and spend the time getting to know classmates.


Guest: Hi Ladies! Happy International Women's Day and thank you so much for hosting this chat. Can you give examples of sample projects that the CWiB has worked on/ is working on?

* Olga Lepigina: We work on both small and large projects. We had a networking night, annual conference, negotiation workshop, Open House, drinks and discourse, various educational, recruiting, and social events


Guest: Do you partner with other organizations at Booth or outside of Booth? If so, which ones and how?

* Olga Lepigina: Yes we do. We partner with Common Chromosome which is organization that unites all women and men to join in the conversation about diversity and inclusion. We also partner with BWCC (Booth Women Connect) which works with alumni and the greater Chicago community. We also regularly partner with different organization on campus for events


Guest: What criteria have some of you looked for in potential employers to evaluate how supportive they are for women being able to thrive in their career?

* Samantha Keefe: Criteria I considered are internal initiatives at specific firms, external recognition such as being listed among Working Mothers' Best Companies, representation of women in senior leadership roles including the board, and conversations with women at specific firms about their experiences.


Guest:: Could you please give some stories of the events that you really enjoyed in CWiB? 

* Kerry Kraemer: I've really enjoyed CWiB circles because they were a great way to get to know other first year women and second year women. 


Guest: I have heard from others that business school is a lot of participation. Women tend to be more reserved in this regard, answering when they are sure that they have the right answer. Have you felt that the business school curriculum rewards certain types of personalities? How is this managed at Booth?

* Olivia Rodriguez: Fantastic question – and you are absolutely right! I definitely do not find that Booth rewards certain types of personalities. For me, each class has been different. There are some classes where everyone feels comfortable participating because the professor fosters that environment. I’ve also taken some more intense classes, where everyone (male and female) really needs to push him or herself to participate, as the professor holds us to a high standard. That said, in every class I’ve had the option to turn in extra assignments to make up for a participation grade. I’ve never found myself uncomfortable due to gender – and all my classmates have been really open to hearing other opinions/thoughts.


Guest: In what ways has your membership through CWiB impacted or enhanced your overall MBA experience and career growth?

* Kerry Kraemer: My CWiB membership has provided some exclusive access to amazing speakers and events. I've appreciated listening to female business leaders talk about their paths to success and the challenges they've faced. CWiB has also provided a safe space for me to talk with classmates about the challenges of being a woman in a series of male dominated industries. The group has provided a supportive and empowering community of amazing women.


Guest: Hi thanks for answering our questions! Was there anything that you did to prepare for school - academic, personal or otherwise - that you'd really recommend to us?

* Samantha Keefe: I personally spent time considering my goals for my Booth experience before arriving on campus. There can be a lot to pursue here, so solidifying my goals before attending helped me focus on what meant the most to me once here. I'd also heartily recommend Random Walk. Many of my best friends are fellow Mystery Trippers (Mystery Trip is one of the ~30 Random Walks to choose from)!


Guest: What kind of professional and social events do you have planned for this Spring, or what kind of things have you done in the past?

* Olga Lepigina: This spring will be the Open House, which is a series of events about what are the benefits of inclusion, why diversity is important, how to advocate for yourself, how to advocate for others, which is in line with a lot of events that we have done in the past. We have also done a lot of similar events in the past, as well as a conference, recruiting events and an annual spring dinner


Guest: Hi all, there seems to be a trend in the workplace and in the papers which encourages more involvement from men in women's initiatives. Has there been any participation from men in CWiB activities? If so, would appreciate examples. Thank you.

* Olga Lepigina: Absolutely. A lot of our events are open to men. We host a series of events in Spring that are geared around discussing why inclusion is important, and both genders can participate in this discussion. Common Chromosome is also a separate student group that was originally launched by CWiB where both men and women talk about gender issues


Guest: Hi, could you give an overview of the career-focused events organized by the group?

* Olga Lepigina: Sure there is an annual networking night/conference in the fall as well as a number of companies having chats presentation for CWiB members throughout the year. We also have a resume book of CWiB members that we release to recruiters


Guest: Does CWiB provide any sort of mentorship pairing for first and second years?

* Samantha Keefe: CWiB hosts CWiB circles as one way for first years and second years to meet and develop mentorship relationships. Each CWiB circle event has two second years lead a small group discussion, and these are events that many CWiB members credit for developing relationships with members of both classes.


Guest: Can you please elaborate on the varying degrees to which women are involved in CWiB? Are there leadership opportunities in addition to the co-chairs?

* Kerry Kraemer: Right now, the only formal leadership positions within CWiB are co-chair positions. However, there are a series of other opportunities to assume a leadership role in the group. For example, as a second year, you could volunteer to lead a CWiB circle or as a first or second year, you could help with our conference. As we think through CWiB's objectives for the coming year, we'll definitely be looking for ways to elevate CWiB members and draw upon their expertise, talents, and passions.


Guest: What is the difference between CWiB and BWCC?

* Joanna Zisis: Chicago Women in Business (CWiB) is a Chicago Booth student organization working to advance professional opportunities and cultivate a supportive community for women. BWCC is an annual Booth conference. You can learn more here: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/bwcc


Guest: Hi! What are your major programs or initiatives throughout the year?

* Kerry Kraemer:  CWiB hosts a fall conference, a fall networking/recruiting night, a series of socials throughout the year, and our spring open house. We of course also have a variety of smaller activities and events throughout the year as well.


Guest: Thanks so much for hosting us today on International Women's Day. What kind of initiatives do you feel have made the most impact? How do you envision CWIB will evolve in the future?

* Olivia Rodriguez: Thanks for joining! CWiB has had a TON of great initiatives this year. It’s hard to pick one! One of my favorite events was led by a higher-up at Bain, who came in to give us a talk on gender in the workplace – and some tips and tricks for dealing with sexism. It was extremely valuable and practical knowledge – and really wonderful to have this discussion with peers. Another great initiative just spun off of CWiB – called Common Chromosome. CWiB felt that this group should be its own entity, as it’s led by men and women, and focuses on gender equality awareness. This is one of the ways CWiB has evolved – creating groups like this that pull men into the conversation. Going forward, I think CWiB will evolve with the needs of women at Booth and around the country. We are seeing a lot more initiative and desire for these discussions around gender equality than perhaps in the past, and CWiB is definitely prepared to keep fostering our community of future business leaders and prepping them to be involved.


Guest: Happy International Women's Day! In what ways has being part of CWiB helped you navigate Booth in terms of academics, community, networking, career assistance, etc?

* Samantha Keefe: Being a member of CWiB has offered a great support network that I know is always there for me when I need it. On a networking/career front, some of my favorite events have been CWiB's networking socials. On a community front, I've loved social events including winter formal, spring formal (last year's was at the Lincoln Park Zoo), and even Second City shows. Academically, CWiB has hosted a number of interesting lectures on gender issues.


Guest: Happy International Women's Day! Would you be able to speak to the Booth academic experience as a woman, and how women are able to thrive in it? For example, in case-based classes, do you find that women speak up as often and as freely as their male counterparts, and are received well?

* Samantha Keefe: I love this question! Booth has been different than my past experiences as I attended an all-women's college and then worked in predominantly male environments. Especially coming from the finance indusry, Booth feels incredibly balanced. In my experience, yes, women do speak up as frequently as their male counterparts and are well received. I personally have never hesitated to speak up.


Guest: Happy International Women's day everyone!  At my workplace, I have experienced that all gender parity initiatives have participation from women only. How do you encourage men to participate in events like common chromosome? How supportive are men at Booth for these causes?

* Kerry Kraemer: I believe it is critical to have men involved in gender parity issues and also to maintain a separate space for women to connect. I love the dynamic at Booth where we have CWiB and Common Chromosome. These two groups work very closely together and support one another throughout the year. Common Chromosome is still relatively new at Booth but there is a growing group of men who are involved and vocal at events. When Common Chromosome started it was mostly women who attended but now, due to the recruiting efforts of mostly the men in the group, we're seeing about a 50/50 split! I can't wait to see who in the Class of 2019 will step up and carry on this tradition!


Guest: Hi everyone, Happy International Women’s Day! I have one follow-up to the question about the BWCC annual conference. Is the conference open to prospective students as well?

* Kimberly Ge: It absolutely is!


Guest: Hello, thank you for hosting this chat. Did you find Chicago an intimidating city when you first got there? Do you ever feel unsafe and what measures do you take to fully enjoy the city and the experience at the University of Chicago without ever feeling unsafe?

* Olivia Rodriguez: Thanks for your question!  This may be different for everyone, but I came from Boston – a particularly small city – but found Chicago really manageable!  All the Booth students live in very close proximity to each other … and the train to get down to campus is very close, and safe (always many, many Booth students on it!). I think it’s similar to any city – if you are traveling late at night, it may be best to get a cab or Uber. Chicago has a lot to do, and is big, but feels manageable to me!  The best part is – most students are new – so you have a lot of friends to travel and explore with. ☺


Guest: Can anyone speak to the community and support for students with partners and families?

* Samantha Keefe: Booth has an active Partners Club, and a group for those with little ones too (named POLO - Parents of Little Ones). My partner is not a member due to a limited schedule, but partners are welcome at Booth events and he regularly attends what he can. I've loved getting know many of my classmates' significant others and children, and I look forward to LPFs every Friday as many students bring their families! https://www.chicagobooth.edu/programs/full-time/student-experience/beyond-classroom/groups/booth-partners,


Guest: Does CWiB host any events where students can meet and connect with alumni?

* Olivia Rodriguez: Thanks for your question! YES! CWiB hosts a ton of events that involve alumni and recruiters. In the fall, it’s mostly centered on these types of events during the busy recruiting time. In the spring, we see some more social events, as recruiting dies down, but often times alumni in Chicago will be involved in a few of these.


Guest: Other than this chat, do you have any special events to commemorate International Women's Day today?

* Olga Lepigina: Yes we do. We have a Common Chromosome event tonight - thoughts on tap, which is a general discussion around gender issues


Guest: Like most business schools', Booth's lists of "notable alumni" tend to skew heavily male. Can you speak to the interactions you've had with Booth alumnae, either formally or informally?

* Samantha Keefe: I've had a chance to meet with an impressive number of both male and female alumni. Some of my favorite alumnae that I've had a chance to meet have been Beth Bronner '74 (MD of Mistral Capital and former director of both Jamba and Hain Celestial), Judy Brown '98 (Former CFO of Perrigo), and Mary Louise Gorno, '76 (Former Global Account Director at Leo Burnett). I've been impressed with the number of female speakers on campus. And as a recent example, this week students are attending small roundtables with CFOs and 3 of the 7 CFOs are female.


Guest: I attended Power and Influence class and noticed that the absolute majority of students were women. Are there a lot of classes that tend to attract mostly women or mostly men? Why?

* Olga Lepigina: I'm honestly not sure why that particular session was a majority of women, as from my experience most of the classes at Booth are pretty equally split.


Guest: can non-members attend CWiB events?

* Kerry Kraemer: Some CWiB events are for members only while others are open to the entire Booth community.

Guest:  Last question - What would you describe as your defining Booth moment? Especially as a woman.

* Samantha Keefe: Well, I hope that my defining Booth moment is still to come. :) But a particularly exciting moment was having many of my male friends come march with me at the Chicago Women's March. I suspect they might not have attended something similar before Booth, but I know our friendships and frank discussions have helped put gender issues top of mind for them as they prepare to head back to the workplace.


Guest:: How engaged are women in the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Booth? Do you feel there is a gender balance and if not, does CWiB play a role in having joint initiatives with entrepreneurial clubs etc?

* Kerry Kraemer: There are a number of opportunities for women to get involved in entrepreneurship -- through the Polsky Center, NVC and SNVC, and classes like New Venture Strategy. While I don't have a specific number to give you, I haven't noticed a gender imbalance in Booth's entrepreneurial opportunities. As we plan our programming for the next year, we're very excited about co-hosting events with groups like our Tech Club and would love your input on how we could better support women entrepreneurs!


Guest: Happy International Women's Day and thank you so much for putting this chat together! Could you share what helped you decide that Booth was where you ultimately wanted to earn your MBA?

* Olivia Rodriguez: Thanks so much for your question – and Happy International Women’s Day to you!  That’s a great question.  My selling point was actually coming to the Booth First Day weekend!  I was deciding between a few places, and actually coming on campus and meeting students was the best way for me to evaluate my choice.  Not only did I have a great experience, but I really saw Booth’s ‘pay it forward’ culture in action. The first years at the time (now our second year class), were incredibly involved, helpful, and genuine. I’ve seen this in action during recruiting and in classes – I’ve had so many second years help me with my job search, interview prep, and overall business school goals. That really sold me, alongside the obvious reputation for academic rigor that I felt would carry me far after graduation. My best advice would be to come on campus – and see if it ‘feels right’! It may sound corny, but that is the best way to determine if it’s right for you.


Guest: Are there any classes or teachers you recommend for female MBA candidates? For example, a particularly good class in contract negotiations

* Olga Lepigina: The Negotiations class at Booth is really good. There is one taught by a famous female professor Linda Ginzel, but honestly all of the negotiation classes are really good.


Guest: Also, to reply to the teachers question - Waverly Deutsch is amazing. Highly recommend her! (Entrepreneurship)

* Kimberly Ge: She is amazing! Chicago Booth is lucky to have her and other top faculty members across all disciplines. Check out our full faculty directory here: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/faculty/directory


Guest: How would you rank the importance of academics, recruiting, and socializing/networking in the Booth experience, and do you have any advice on navigating these three aspects?

* Samantha Keefe: I would say that everyone here ranks these differently; each person you ask could have a totally different answer. And there is no wrong answer. However, I think you can have a rich experience that includes all three. While I spent a lot of time on recruiting in the fall of my first year, I haven't had to worry about it since, and have been focused on other things (including personal interests outside of Booth).


Guest: Does CWiB have events, initiatives, etc., for women looking to enter more nontraditional careers, such as social impact?

* Olivia Rodriguez: In the past we’ve seen the CWiB events in the fall are a bit more focused on recruiting that happens early (consulting, banking, etc.), but that being said, the spring focuses a little more on the entrepreneurship/social impact, etc.  Yet, a few of the incoming co-chairs are heavily involved in social impact – and would be more than happy to chat with you!  Also, likely given our background, we will look to do a little more in this space next year. Regardless, SEI (social enterprise initiative) is fantastic and has a ton of good resources. (https://research.chicagobooth.edu/sei/)


Guest: Yes re the flexible curriculum! Has this been pivotal to your concentrations and recruitment process?

* Samantha Keefe: The flexible curriculum has been great! In regards to recruitment, it let me take a less intensive schedule when I really wanted to allocate my time to travelling for internship interviews. It also let me take classes that would give me confidence in approaching my internship while still in my first year. In regards to concentrations, I just took the classes I cared the most about and let the concentrations shake out. I already have concentrations in General Management and Accounting, and I will finish Finance and Entrepreneurship concentrations next quarter.


Guest: Good afternoon. What are your responsibilities as co-chairs of CWiB?

* Olga Lepigina: The co-chairs are split into three categories: capstone, who is responsible for the really large events, like fall conference, open house, and spring dinner. Community and development co-chairs are responsible for smaller events throughout the year. Sponsorship co-chairs are responsible for interacting with all of the companies that are sponsoring CWiB


Guest: What has been one of your fondest moments at Booth?

* Kerry Kraemer:  This is a tough question to answer because I've enjoyed so many moments at Booth. In the fall, we had a field day where all of our cohorts competed against one another in a variety of activities like batting cages, basketball, and dodgeball. That was a blast because it was an opportunity to hang out with my classmates in a very non-academic setting. I also loved working with my (all female) Business Solutions Group team. We spent about 3 months working on a consulting project for a food bank at the University of Chicago. It was an amazing experience I had an incredible team.


Guest: Do some students participate in internships during the school year in addition to the summer internship?

* Olivia Rodriguez Yes, absolutely! It's totally by choice, but there are lots of students who like to get involved with projects in Chicago or potentially work with start-ups. I also know of students who are working in venture capital and private equity internships at this time as well.


Guest: One thing I'm really excited about is building lasting friendships in b-school. This is more a general question, but what % typically stay in the Chicago area post school vs. move to other cities like NYC, SF, or elsewhere?

* Samantha Keefe: You can see a full breakdown on where students are headed after graduation on the employment report - https://www.chicagobooth.edu/employmentreport/. To get a quick look at the report by location, you can look here https://www.chicagobooth.edu/employmentreport/location.aspx.