Women are traditionally underrepresented in business degrees and careers, and UNSW Business School strives to identify and address the inequities and challenges facing women in business.
To ensure gender equity and inclusion across all of our programs, we are taking the initiative to change the status quo by supporting female students like Yvonne Lin, Bachelor of Laws (LLB)/ Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) student, and Audrey Truong, Bachelor of Social Science student, to overcome these barriers.
Yvonne and Audrey are passionate about female students fulfilling their ambitions for a promising career. They say their roles within Capital W, UNSW’s Business Society for Women, have positioned them for success in future leadership positions after they graduate.
Capital W is a grassroots organisation founded in 2007 by UNSW and Co-op students seeking to bridge the gap between students and the corporate world. The organisation’s vision is to develop, inspire and empower women to become the business leaders of tomorrow, by hosting a range of events throughout the year.
Yvonne and Audrey shared their UNSW educational journeys with the UNSW Business School EDI Team, touching upon their personal commitment to gender diversity, roles within Capital W and their leadership aspirations.
Their stories highlight the strides UNSW Business School has taken to contribute to gender diversity and support the uplift of female participation in the Business School’s undergraduate disciplines. It also reveals there’s still more work to be done for a more diverse and sustainable future. The UNSW Business School EDI Committee recognises this need also plays a fundamental role in realising the transformational goals of a healthier, more sustainable and equitable society.
Audrey: Yes, this is still the case. However, we’re seeing a trend where more women are going into these industries and spaces. On a micro level, I’ve noticed more women than expected in my Law classes at UNSW – more than 50% – which is a positive sign. I’m hoping to see more women entering the workforce in areas like social research.
Yvonne: As time goes on, we’re seeing more female participation across the board, but it is still slow. Last term, in one of my classes of 40 students, around 5 were male. But I also remember attending a UNSW Diversity in Finance event hosted by Capital W and UNIT UNSW where there weren’t many female students in attendance – I was the only female student at a table with 5 or 6 other students.
The good news is universities like UNSW are creating initiatives and building opportunities such as Women in Business Camps and Women in Consulting Societies to encourage female students to participate in and learn more about the corporate world.
Yvonne: I believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to promote gender diversity. It’s especially important for universities, as they’re the bridge between high school and the workforce. It’s where we grow and discover who we are and what we want to do with our lives. UNSW is such a diverse university that provides opportunities that cater to all students. This allows us to explore what we want to do in the future, without feeling limited.
Audrey: I agree. Universities need to provide a space for diversity. We see such a big disparity between women and men in the workforce and universities are tackling this earlier on. While universities do focus on creating more opportunities for women, there’s also an increasing focus on gender-diverse individuals and non-binary people.
Q: Do you think the UNSW Business School is being proactive in its response and helping make positive and long-lasting change?
Audrey: The Business School is heading in the right direction by creating inclusive classrooms and providing equitable opportunities for students to succeed regardless of gender. I think there’s also an opportunity to work collaboratively across faculties with gender-diverse students and figure out the support they need.
Yvonne: Yes, that’s true. Audrey and I have met a lot of people from diverse backgrounds with different skills and perspectives, and we’ve gained a lot of insight from these interactions. It makes for more effective collaboration, fostering innovation and creativity for bigger and better solutions.
For example, as part of the first-year integrated courses for commerce, I enrolled in a class on Collaboration and Innovation in Business (COMM1120) where our main assessment was a group task to develop a solution for food waste in Australia. I ended up working with a student who studied commerce and design/art who designed a functioning app to demonstrate our group's solution to food waste, which helped others to visualise our response more clearly.
As a law/commerce student, I have no idea how to work with coding or develop apps, so I was extremely fortunate to be able to work with students of different degrees who have different skill sets than me!
Audrey: Capital W puts on a lot of events to provide female-identifying students with valuable opportunities to help them enter the corporate world. This includes the Beyond Mentoring Program which connects students with mentors from sponsor companies. I was personally involved in the program and had a mentor from PwC. It gave me insight into the company and professional considerations such as how to craft a better resume and interview skills. These are things you don’t necessarily learn from the degree itself but are valuable to better equip us to enter the workforce in the future.
Yvonne: Through the program, students can also connect with mentors outside of our organised events, such as over coffee or a Zoom meeting. It allows these students the opportunity to connect with big industry companies in a way they may not otherwise get to when only focusing on our core classwork.
Yvonne: One of the main ways the degree has helped me make a positive impact is through my presence in classes. Before, I would hesitate to speak up in class, especially when it was full of male students who did a lot of the talking. I’m now less intimidated to contribute my thoughts and perspectives. Also, after such a positive first year in Capital W and sharing this experience, a lot of my friends are now joining. This helps us empower each other and boost our confidence as we study in areas where women are traditionally underrepresented.
Audrey: There have been a couple of initiatives so far that have allowed me to make an impact. Providing opportunities for female-identifying students through Capital W is one. The other is the volunteer work I’ve been involved in for the National Justice Project where solicitors around the country work together on big social justice issues.
Audrey: I ensure Capital W members are having a positive experience and progressing in a good direction. That includes getting feedback on how the society is run. I also get to plan social events for members as bonding opportunities to facilitate networks and connections. It can be daunting to navigate university alone, and we help people go on the journey together.
Yvonne: I work with a co-director, and we’re primarily in charge of our two flagship events each year. The first is the International Women’s Day breakfast, hosted by Capital W in collaboration with other Women in Business societies from universities such as the University of Sydney, UTS and Macquarie University.
The second flagship event is an annual dinner. In addition to networking with corporate representatives, students get to hear from a keynote speaker about their experience in the corporate world.
Audrey: Learning how to connect with others is powerful not just in a business environment but also in the community. Capital W has provided many opportunities to network and has given me space to learn and practice so I can lead in the future.
As Capital W directors, Yvonne and I have learned how to guide others, delegate and communicate expectations. I’ve also developed recruitment skills such as identifying candidates, organising interviews, preparing interview briefing packs and other logistical aspects.
Yvonne: Networking is also one of the main skills I’ve developed through Capital W. We get practical, hands-on experiences and I believe you learn so much more by experiencing it. Also, organising events has helped me learn how to communicate with different stakeholders to make things happen. I’m grateful for the opportunities the UNSW Business School provides through various societies, supporting female students and providing a pathway to successful careers.
Yvonne: Capital W and other events have given me insight into the workforce and what I could do with business and law in the future. In terms of positive impact, I’d be interested in becoming a mentor to a student a few years into my career.
Audrey: I’m not sure what I want to do, but the UNSW Business School’s initiatives and societies allow me to experience the business world without having to do a business degree. Overall, UNSW provides countless options for students to explore and choose from – there’s a strong emphasis on equipping us for a bright future in business.
UNSW Business School is committed to gender diversity and growing female representation and participation in business-related subjects. This includes reducing systematic barriers to opportunities in the university and society and supporting students like Yvonne and Audrey to be the best they can be and contribute to building a better, more sustainable future.
Learn more about UNSW Business School, here.