March 7, 2018 Student launches empowerment network to address gender inequality

Sonal Gupta - Spotlight

A Fisher College of Business student has created an email network to ignite an important social discussion among men and women.

Sonal Gupta, a finance major who graduates in May, was inspired to launch her creation after experiencing gender inequality during her summer 2017 internship. She was one of only two women on a team of 30 people. And her only female counterpart worked out of a different location.

“When I attended a Women in Technology breakfast that was led by one of my senior colleagues, I was surprised by the underrepresentation of women,” she said. “In addition, with my team specifically, I was dealing with almost all men that were senior to me, so I got frustrated not having anyone to relate to.

 “I would talk to my friends about it, the challenges I was facing with it and my frustrations on how to handle that.”

Those conversations kindled the idea of launching an email group, which became a digital space for women to share their thoughts and empower each other in the workplace.

“People share personal anecdotes,” she said of the platform. “I’ve shared a couple of my own, and it’s a lot of videos and TED Talks, news articles, and basically anything that women and men would find useful to combat these challenges we’re facing as a large community.”

Gupta, who also serves as president of the Buckeye Undergraduate Consulting Club, gave her network a name: Women with Will. But the designation may not stick.

“Throughout this journey of starting Women with Will, I had a lot of people talk about where it would fit in with the rest of the women’s networks that are already out there,” she said. “And one thing I really started to find out was that a gap exists between women’s networks and women’s networks that include men and are actively participated in by both genders.”

By including men, Gupta isn’t sure if “Women with Will” remains an accurate reflection of the network.

Sign up for Gupta’s network

“We really wanted to have the conversation between women and men, so they can work together to combat the challenges,” she said. “I think part of the reason that I was encouraged and reassured about opening it up to any gender was that the “Me Too” movement — and especially “Time’s Up” — have pushed for men to get more involved in these initiatives as well.”

And the male response she’s had so far has been very positive. She described her experience talking to men in Fisher’s Honors Cohort program.

“When they heard I was starting it, they thought it was awesome, but they were like, ‘OK, wait. I would love to be in that. I would love to learn from women and other men about how they face these challenges and how they deal with what’s going on in the workplace as far as gender inequality,’ ” she said. “When they come across a network like this that is not only inclusive, but encourages and demands inclusivity and diversity of thought, I think that’s when people are really attracted to what we’re doing.”

Gupta, who is also earning a minor in Spanish, is considering a new name before launching a stronger web presence such as a website or Facebook group.

“My goal is for it to become a nonprofit, file a 501(c)(3) and then possibly have annual conferences or retreats for these conversations to happen live,” she said.

She hopes these events will help people working in business, regardless of gender and level, to come together to discuss and combat gender inequality issues.

“The possibilities are endless, and I am excited to keep working towards it in the future,” she said.

The network’s target audience is college students and recent graduates, but anyone is welcome to join. She chose those particular demographics for two reasons: First, it lined up with her immediate network when she kicked off Women with Will. Second, she thinks a grassroots movement from the youngest employees up can be powerful.

“Years down the line, our audience age range will be wider, but the hope is that as my class graduates, as the following classes graduate, they will have a broader mindset and a bigger understanding of what’s going on with women in the workplace and a larger network within which they can expand the conversation,” she said.