Georgetown University Women in Leadership founders Alana Snyder (COL ’16) and Ava Arroyo (SFS ’16) are stepping down as GUWIL president and vice president following the end of the current semester after forming the organization in 2013. A new executive board will replace their roles, led by Lauren Casale (COL ’17) as president and Lauren Stricker (SFS ’18) as vice president.
Founded in 2013, GUWIL serves as a network devoted to female professional development. With a group email list of 1500 students and a core membership of 200, GUWIL encourages growth and learning experiences through programs designed to bridge undergraduate and post-graduate life for female students. Such initiatives include a mentorship program for its members along with resume workshops, networking events and lectures from guest speakers.
The inception of GUWIL began in Dec. 2012 when Snyder and Arroyo, freshmen at the time, met for coffee to discuss what they viewed as a problem on Georgetown’s campus: the absence of an organization devoted to female professional development.
“My freshman year, I started going to GW Women in Business events and other organizations’ events that have a women’s leadership focus,” Arroyo said. “A lot of peer institutions have [women’s leadership organizations] and I was wondering: why doesn’t Georgetown have anything like this?”
After further discussion and planning, Snyder and Arroyo created GUWIL and utilized personal funds to facilitate the organization’s first events. Despite having initial trouble attracting corporate sponsorship, GUWIL quickly grew in popularity among the student body. During the fall of 2013, Snyder and Arroyo submitted to become part of the new club development process.
Associate Director of Student Engagement Amanda Carlton said that the founding and arrival of GUWIL as a formal club provided a significant space for the female student body to engage with and be inspired by one another.
“GUWIL came in at a pertinent time where across campus there’s been a larger conversation about women within the Georgetown community,” Carlton said. “So what they’ve really been able to do is provide an overarching space for conversation and a space for exploration to empower women in a lot of different realms.”
One program that GUWIL leaders regard as the key to bridging relationships between all classes of the student body is the mentorship program. The program pairs together older students with experience and younger students seeking ways to further their professional development. Mentors help mentees with important processes such as resume-writing, internship searches and other professional tasks.
Former GUWIL Vice President Nishaat Shaik (SFS ’16) noted that the relationships established through the mentorship programs have created a sense of inclusiveness within GUWIL.
“[The mentorship program] has been incredibly important,” Shaik said. “Since it was brought into GUWIL, it has pushed a community feel.”
As the current GUWIL executive board transitions out of its founding leadership, Casale and Stricker are looking to continue improving all aspects of GUWIL. Specific efforts include diversifying corporate sponsorship along with encouraging involvement from men on campus.
Currently, GUWIL maintains sponsorships from companies including Goldman Sachs and Loft, but the group hopes to further diversify its corporate sponsorship outside of companies in the financial service industry. As part of this effort, GUWIL has made forays into the retail industry and partnered up with local Georgetown businesses such as Mai Thai.
One of GUWIL’s most popular events has been its Bring Your Own Boy event, the most recent of which took place Feb. 2. The goal of BYOB is for women in GUWIL to bring a male friend to a discussion on women’s issues in order to expand the impact of GUWIL’s mission and events.
“One thing that we’re really working on is trying to involve men into our program,” Stricker said. “The idea is to engage men and women in this discussion about female empowerment and gender inequality so that men know they can help support women in their search for equality.”
Aside from its BYOB event, GUWIL continues to promote male involvement in the organization through other means. In the past, the organization promoted the idea of “manbassadors,” a name for male allies of female empowerment efforts, through the distribution of laptop stickers.
Though the transition in leadership means GUWIL will be without a pair of leaders who have guided the organization since its inception, the old executive board members remain optimistic about GUWIL’s future.
“It’s sad to be leaving just because I’ve been involved in GUWIL for so long, and I’ve seen it grow,” Shaik said. “But each new board member seems really, really passionate about their new position, and they all have identified amazing goals that we’ve been trying to achieve for so long.”